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Mirliton squash vines from Louisiana

 
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I can not find any place reasonable in price to purchase the
Mirliton squash or vines. I've read you CAN NOT grow from seed, you have to let squash start to sprout and then plant the entire squash. But i have found seeds to buy. HELP....
CAN YOU GROW FROM DRIED SEEDS OR NOT?
WHERE CAN I BUY THE MIRLITON SQUASH OR PLANTS ONLINE
I LIVE IN FLORIDA.
 
garden master
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Location: Officially Zone 7b, according to personal obsevations I live in 7a, SW Tennessee
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Welcome to Permies!

I do not know where to find your squash online. However, this article says that your squash is also known as Chayote Squash. Perhaps with the new name, you can find some at one of the international food grocery stores near you.

Good luck!
 
gardener
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Might be worth checking the mercados near where you live. Good chance they will have some in the produce section.
 
gardener & bricolagier
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I agree, if you are in Florida, hit the grocery stores that cater to Hispanics, chayote is a normal thing for them to carry. You might call the grocery stores in your area and ask if they carry chayote, they will know it by that name, not by Mirliton squash. I have never heard of them being hard to grow from seed, {edit: Bryant Redhawk is wiser than me!}  I do know they make awesome vines!
:D
Staff note (Pearl Sutton):

Lance Hill, who posts below, says the type of chayote we are saying to get will not work in the US. Keep reading if you want to grow them, this turns out to be a more complex question than we all expected.

 
gardener
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Chayote seeds can’t be dried and saved for planting: It germinates only inside the fruit, and will often do so while still on the vine, so the seed must be planted with its fleshy “shell” intact.
The "vegetable pear" grower’s first step is to locate a market (try an area with a large Spanish-speaking population) where chayote is sold in late fall.
(It doesn’t matter if the fruit has been in cold storage and plastic-wrapped.) Buy several and put them in a dark, cool (not frosty) place and wait.
The seed sprout will emerge and lengthen in the darkness.
By February it should be approximately six inches long.

Then, if your area, like most parts of North America, isn’t yet frost-free, put the sprouted chayote in a pot with the tip of the new growth just peeping out of the soil.
Set it in a sunny window, keep it watered, and plant it outdoors once the weather is warm enough.
 
Alice Knutson
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Thanks everyone for suggestions.
 
pollinator
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Great project - be sure to come back and let us know how it does for you!
 
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You are right: imported mirlitons will not grow in our climate and can potentially compromise our own heirloom varieties.  But good news: go to www.mirliton.org for the nation's only free online market for locally-grown Louisiana heirloom mirlitons.  It also has all the information you need for preserving this endangered Louisiana variety.
 
pollinator
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It's not anywhere near endangered in Hawaii, although the exact variety that grows in Louisiana may or may not be prevalent here. I have four varieties growing on my farm....a green smooth roundish one, a green smooth pear shaped one, a semi prickly green one that is a little fluted and pear shaped,  and a white smooth one shaped exactly like the last. I started out with an all prickly one but eliminated it once I discovered the safer ones to handle.

Around here they are called pipinola. Most folks don't eat them because they have acquired the stigma of being pig food. I find that they are fine added to soups, stews, and stir fries. And they make an excellent mock apple pie. Apples are horrendously expensive here, so all my apple pies are made using pipinola. They are also good for making refrigerator pickles. Since I grow close to a hundred vines, perhaps more, their main use on my farm is as livestock feed.

By the way, the tender last 6 inches of the vines are also used as food here. They are a nice green. I prefer them with a tomato onion sauce or make a fish tomato stew with them.

Because of my long growing season, this veggie works well in a food forest situation. I let them grow vertically up a large tree. I'll grow my livestock ones this way, harvesting the fruits as they fall. My personal food ones I grow on the ground or on a fence so that I can harvest the tender immature fruits and vine tips..
 
Lance Hill
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I am sorry, the endangered variety of mirliton is the only one that grows in North America: the Louisiana heirloom variety which has been grown here for 150 years. The imported "Chayote", which are sold at stores and mercados, are primarily grown in Costa Rica at nearly 5,000 feet.  I envy your climate with 2300 feet altitude and only 60 inches of rainfall, but to grow at a few feet above sea level and with nearly 100 inches of rainfall annually, it takes specialization.  In Australia, the Philippines, and other areas, Chayote is virtually an invasive species.  This is covered in the free grower's guides at www.mirliton.org.
Lance
Mirliton.Org
 
Pearl Sutton
gardener & bricolagier
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Lance Hill wrote:I am sorry, the endangered variety of mirliton is the only one that grows in North America: the Louisiana heirloom variety which has been grown here for 150 years. The imported "Chayote", which are sold at stores and mercados, are primarily grown in Costa Rica at nearly 5,000 feet.  I envy your climate with 2300 feet altitude and only 60 inches of rainfall, but to grow at a few feet above sea level and with nearly 100 inches of rainfall annually, it takes specialization.  In Australia, the Philippines, and other areas, Chayote is virtually an invasive species.  This is covered in the free grower's guides at www.mirliton.org.
Lance
Mirliton.Org



Interesting!!
I'm in zone 6, wonder how far north they will grow?
Reading through your site.
Thank you!!
 
Su Ba
pollinator
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Lance, thanks for the info! I've been perusing your website and am fascinated with the photos of the varieties. Many look like, or visually similar to, varieties I have on my farm. Very interesting. I was surprised by the diversity.

In my area I see this vegetable growing at 900' elevation, 40" annual rainfall. I don't know if irrigation is used since I only drive by the house where the garden is in the front yard. But considering how precious water is here, people seldom have irrigation unless it's laundry or shower greywater.

I got the impression that growing mirlitons in your area is a bit difficult, requiring attention. Where I'm located, the plants need very little care. It's one of my beginner gardener veggies that I encourage my students to try. We don't "plant" the "seed" in any fashion. We simply set it onto the prepared soil, pucker side down. Burying it in any fashion often results in rot around here. If the soil is naturally moist, I don't recommend watering. But if the student lives in a dryer zone, then I suggest watering the soil then applying a temporary carpet mulch in order to retain even soil moisture until the plant is established. In locations with burning sun, I suggest a temporary sunshade to keep the seed from burning until it us well sprouted.

I'm glad to hear that you're working to establish mirlitons in your area. It would make me sad to hear that they disappeared.
 
Lance Hill
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Thanks for the comments and questions. With the proper landrace, chayotes can grow with very little work.  It's the ultimate lazy-persons vegetable.  Just drop it on the ground and park a chair under the vine and wait for the fruit to drop on your head.  No weeding, pruning.  But in challenging climates, it take a lot of preparation and constant monitoring for soil moisture, diseases, and pests.  We use the "worse case scenario" method of gardening: expect the worse and hope for the best.  Every problem has a pro-active prevention.  It's all in our "growing guides".  A fall frost can kill the flowers prematurely, so most growing occurs in areas where you don't get a frost until November, although high tunnels and overhead sprinklers can give you some room. A horticulturalist is Missouri grew one in a greenhouse and we have instructions on early-forcing of flowers that worker in Virginia.  It is a beautiful vine and was used here in New Orleans as an ornamental in the nineteenth century--and as one reader pointed out, elsewhere in the word they eat the tubers, tendrils, and leafs (taste like lawn clippings to me, but I just read they eat stink-bugs in Laos so "stink" is an ethnocentric term).  Try growing them everywhere--they have miraculous health qualities and you can nibble on the greens if you get frozen out.  Just don't use imported varieties'
 
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Location: Southeast Arizona, Latitude 31, Zone 8A, Cold Semi-Arid, USGS Ecoregion 79a
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I'm learning with great interest about Sechium edule. I remembered vaguely having read about them but had never tried them, so when I saw a few chayote wrapped in plastic at the local Mexican grocery, I grabbed one. Then, not knowing how to eat it and repeatedly forgetting to look it up, I left it in the veggie bin in our cooler and forgot about it. As I've mentioned elsewhere, our cooler isn't a traditional fridge, and it doesn't get to normal fridge temperatures, but usually more like the 50's. So when I finally decided to eat the thing today and went to get it, I was tickled to find that it had sprouted within the fruit! I mixed up some potting soil and stuck the whole thing in a pot outside to see what happens and started to read more about it. [ETA photo of the sprout.]

Lance, is what you said about finding an appropriate local variety true for over here in Arizona as well, do you know? We're closer to the Aztecs' heartland (the plant's origin, right?) and at a not-dissimilar elevation (4,340' or so) to the 5,000' you mention as its growing elevation in Costa Rica. Of course, we're not quite tropical here, but we usually have decently long growing seasons. I figure, if this one starts to grow wildly, I'll transplant it out into the garden, wait for fruit, and keep some of them to sprout for next year. If it grows slowly and seems like it will get killed by frost before it fruits, I'll leave it in the container and bring it inside to protect it. Does that sound like a decent plan, despite how late it is in the season? Everything else is horribly delayed around here anyway this year, so we're hoping against hope that the first frost will be late, too. (ETA: Our average first frost date is Nov. 1 - 10.)

Does anyone know if chayote/mirliton is likely to cross with our native cucurbitaceae, Cucurbita foetidissima, Cucurbita digitata, and Apodanthera undulata? That would be quite unfortunate for the flavor of the resulting fruits... (We do seed Cucurbita foetidissima -- Buffalo gourd -- in our monsoon floodwater-fed growing area for its edible seeds, so between that and the surrounding native population, there would almost certainly be some exposure.)
fullsizeoutput_f6b.jpeg
[Thumbnail for fullsizeoutput_f6b.jpeg]
Freshly sprouted Sechium edule July 2019
 
Lance Hill
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Beth,

Your altitude is too high for Louisana mirlitons.  Actually, if the imported chayote  from Guatemala may work.  Chayote is usually grown in mountain valleys so there is a constant cloudy overcast which filters out UV.  Plant them in full sun and they burn.  I would try the imported ones and maybe a partial shade cloth on some to test sun sensitvity.  Also plant them sprouting ends down. No, they wont cross-breed with other cucurbits but some cucurbits can re anthacnose  resistant and be sporelators for rest of the garden.

Lance
 
Lance Hill
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Beth,
Chayote need 110-120 days from planting to fruiting, so it is too late this year.  Buy some seed in the fall, plant in a container for the winter so you can bring it inside for freeze, transplant in April one the frost is over and then expect flowering and fruiting in October.  See all you need to know at www.mirliton.org
Lance
 
Beth Wilder
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Thank you so much for the great information, Lance, I really appreciate it! I'll do that. I did plant it upside down, I think, and also the soil I put in the pot apparently didn't drain well, so this first attempt didn't work for multiple reasons. Now I'm starting to see chayote/mirliton even in the big corporate chain grocery store that rarely has anything interesting, so hopefully I'll be able to find some good specimens in the fall. Thanks again!
 
Su Ba
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Beth, when I start mine, I don't bury the chayote at all. I simply set in atop the soil, pucker side down. Keep the ground moist but not wet.
 
pollinator
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Lance, I really would love to attempt these. I'm a couple hundred feet of altitude, and I have rows of trees planted with strips of grass pasture in between. I would be trellising them on trees. I know there is a chance we get cold early and miss out, but I think with the space I have to plant, I might be able to develop a workable strain. We generally plant squash around Easter, but these may need to be planted a little later since the soil at depth won't be warm. We generally get 6 months frost free, but should have 150 days of hot weather. I mulch heavily and things like dahlias come back perenially, so I think once established these might overwinter.

What do you think the best starting genetics would be for this project?  
 
Lance Hill
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Tj
I would order one of our North American landraces from our "mirliton classifieds" in the fall and plant as early as possible in the spring according to instructions on the FAQ section.  These are varieties that are proved producers in our climate, grown by local growers  Mirltons  will climb trees but a nylon net or wire trellis is best since they like 1/16 th inch trellising. Sprinklers will protect from early frost  See our most recent blog post photo on all frost issues. Their is a separate blog post on trellising. Our photo section shows many examples of trellising.

For a plant site, dig a hole 24" x 24" X 18" and fill with an equal mix on manure, compost, and potting soil. Mound into a hill to ensure drainage.

Lance
 
Tj Jefferson
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Lance, your information has been very helpful. The mirliton website is blocked at work as gambling(!) so I am reading it on my phone which is silly and slower, but there seems like a lot of good info. I'm interested in a permaculture concept with vines being one of the layers of the system. As such I am sure they would grow better on a trellis but it isn't my plant to have nylon nets, and I want to know earlier rather than later if they will work in this system. I don't even own a sprinkler (virtue signal applause sign)! I already grow cucuzza in the trees and grapes are on the way as well.  They should naturally climb based on the tendrils I see in the pictures. Interestingly, melons don't seem to work, but several squash have done fine. Yams didn't work, its all experimentation. So many variables of soil and moisture and sun and temperature sometimes you just have to wing it.

If I get some results from this I will be happy to document and of course would allow the images to be used however the organization would see as beneficial. I will look for the plantable fruits this fall and am very excited. If I can get a subset that does well, I would be happy to extend them to others. I'm in NAFEX and believe this kind of effort is very important. Plus they look delicious.
 
Lance Hill
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I have seen many people grow mirlitons as a ground creeper, flat and on a hill, so it can be done. One guy grew them on a river bank until his goats ate them.  Chickens love the leaves. It is often used as fodder.  Being close to the ground means they are more suceptible to spash-up of soilborne fungi like anthracnose.  That's why traditional growers use trellises. Also cuts down on fruit contamination from animal waste.

But that said, grow them where ever you want.  I know many growers who use bamboo trellises. You can direct them into bushes, trees, sheds, et, See the science of trellising here:

https://www.mirliton.org/2011/08/15/proper-trellis-material-is-key-to-mirliton-growth/



Ground and bush creeper:
https://www.mirliton.org/photo/boudreaux-boutte-botanical-garden-and-abandoned-site-2012/#gallery[photonic-google-album-1]/ADDtLbcPfJyIUmz9oTQEJNYgpgzmJWfVX3dYcz13zZBbSwHLKu3HFth9y4Fh52MKbUkkO1gdhVzd7SYIxKJms6dWO6MJzZpDaw/

Also can you tell me what system your workplace uses that blocked out site? Many years ago there was a French gambling .com site and although it has been closed for years, I wonder if we got stuck on list.
Thanks.
 
Tj Jefferson
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Lance I will try to find out what the website filter is, I don’t think it tells you, just denies. I will snoop because that is unfortunate and maybe they can be contacted actually there may be a way to dispute the classification. I did look greedily at the pictures on my phone. Yum!

We have an advantage in low nematode souls. I have not heard anyone having anthracnose locally in my circle. Our biggest issue is probably downy mildew and so far so good, I’m doing a compost tea this weekend.

I’m interested because just before you popped up, there was a thread about chayote (or similar) in France in a similar climate, vining everywhere like crazy.

https://permies.com/t/120542/Edible-Vines-Partial-Full-Shade

 
Tj Jefferson
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Lance—-
B8964A3B-D950-44F6-BF93-1E2A1CCA2735.jpeg
[Thumbnail for B8964A3B-D950-44F6-BF93-1E2A1CCA2735.jpeg]
 
Tj Jefferson
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Which is a step up from gambling! Tried two browsers... same error.
 
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