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Ask a Master Gardener: Mirliton – A Gulf Coast Legacy Plant

By Carol Dorsey, Mobile County Master Gardener,

Whether you call it chayote, vegetable pear, cho-cho, or mirliton (MEH’-le-tawn), the Gulf Coast has embraced this squash with a multitude of recipes for generations. Notable among these recipes are Shrimp and Mirliton Casserole, gratins, and even a pie. But did you know that after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast and delivered such a strong storm surge, mirlitons were feared lost due to the incursion of salt water? One New Orleans resident, Lance Hill, PhD, set about finding and propagating surviving mirlitons. See his story at

Mirliton fruits contain one large seed. When left uncut most mirlitons will sprout during the winter. Placing the sprouting fruit sprout side down at a 45-degree angle in a soil filled pot will allow the vine to grow up and roots to grow down. Developing a strong root ball is important to success. After danger of frost has passed, vines can be planted in the ground near a fence or a trellis. Growing mirlitons is easy with fertile, well-drained soil, full sun, and fairly regular water. Vines can produce for up to seven years if the roots are protected from winter cold with a thick layer of mulch. While not for the dwarf veggie lover, these vines like to grow laterally with support and can reach lengths of 30 feet or so. Fruit production increases each year. Mirlitons bloom late in the season and set fruit in October. Harvest is usually in November and into December if we don’t get a hard freeze. Mirlitons will keep best in a controlled cool environment not lower than 45 degrees or higher than 60 degrees. Sprouted squash can be found in spring and are often seen at the Old Dauphin Way Association plant swap.

Cooking with mirlitons is easy since the mild flavor lends itself to a multitude of seasonings like Creole, Italian, Cajun, and Vietnamese. The squash can be parboiled or steamed, the seed removed, and flesh scooped out of the skin. The intact skin can be stuffed with a bread or cornbread dressing made with mirliton flesh and add seafood, beef, or pork. The squash has a latex like substance that is sticky so if you are peeling it, do it under running water.

Roasted Mirliton with Herbs from

1 Chayote squash

1 tsp Garlic powder

1/2 Onion, small

1 tsp Rosemary, fresh

1 tsp Thyme, fresh

Oils & Vinegars

1 1/2 tbsp Olive oil

· Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

· Cut chayote squash into about one-inch pieces. No need to peel or remove seeds. You can eat the entire fruit.

· Place squash on baking sheet with the onions and the herbs. Season with a little salt and pepper. Drizzle olive oil over the mixture and toss gently to coat everything.

· Roast in oven for about 40-45 minutes or until tender.

Mirliton Pie

3 medium size mirlitons, (boiled to fork-tender, peeled, seed removed, and mashed)

1 stick butter, softened

3/4 cup sugar

1 cup Bisquick

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup pecan pieces

With shortening, grease a 9-inch glass pie pan. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. With cheesecloth, a ricer or a fine strainer, strain about 7 ounces of liquid from the mirliton pulp. Beat together softened butter and sugar until light and creamy. By hand, mix in Bisquick, mirliton pulp and eggs. Then add cinnamon, vanilla and pecan pieces. Pour into prepared pie pan (glass is fine) and bake for 50-55 minutes, until the pie is a dark golden brown on top and bottom. The pie is ready when a knife inserted into the center comes out relatively clean. Serve hot or cold.

Young mirliton by Carol Dorsey

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