A large supplier in a garden in Costa Rica:

If there was one word to describe tropical squash, that word would be abundance. If you wish to have an abundance of food from the garden, then I suggest you grow these giants.

Known as Ayote in Spanish, Curcubita Maxima, is the pumpkin squash native to the tropical Americas. Cultivated by native tribes for centuries before the arrival of Europeans, these hardy plants are still one of the region’s most important staple crops.

Ayotes also provide an abundance of nutrients with every meal, and each half cup of cooked squash contains up to:

  • 4000 units of vitamin A
  • 0.04 milligrams of vitamin B1
  • 0.05 milligrams of B2
  • 3 milligrams of vitamin C
  • 18 milligrams of calcium
  • 15 milligrams of phosphorus
  • 3 milligrams of iron

These hardy native plants are also resistant to insect attack and plant disease, making them easy to grow in the home garden.

Many gardeners, myself included, have had bad luck growing zucchini, yellow zucchini, and other varieties of northern squash here in the tropics.

These varieties are genetically adapted to northern conditions, which seems to make them vulnerable to tropical insects and diseases. We’ve also found that young succulent native tropical squashes taste just as good as northern varieties.

Here are some tips for growing your own Ayotes at home:

First, start with good soil fertility when planting ayotes. We usually start by preparing a hole about 1 meter in diameter and 30 to 40 cm deep.

Into this hole we apply a wheelbarrow load of rich, aged compost which is enriched with two shovels full of ash.

Then we plant 3 Ayote seeds in the center about 5 cm deep and 30 cm apart.

Areas where brush and leaves have been burned are ideal places to plant Ayotes. Keep the young plants weed free and when the Ayote plants start to cover the area, start pruning the main tips of the vines.

By the way, locals taught us how to use these tender tendrils for a spinach-like vegetable dish known as “quelites deayote.”

Pruning your Ayote plant helps keep it compact and, in fact, stimulates flowering and squash production. As the plant begins to produce its pretty, bright yellow flowers, keep a close eye on the production of the tender young squash.

Start harvesting young squash when they reach the size of about a cantaloupe.

At this stage, they are as delicious as zucchini. Let the others grow to full size for seed production and use them as mature gourds.

You will find that an Ayote plant can produce for several months, providing an abundance of delicious meals for the family.

3 recipes for preparing native tropical squash.

1. Quelites of Ayote

  • Fry a diced onion with two tablespoons of olive oil in a pan.
  • Add a large handful of diced Ayote tips.
  • Add oregano and thyme, cook briefly and serve.

2. Stir-fried squash with heart of palm

  • Fry a diced onion with two tablespoons of olive oil in a pan.
  • Add a cup of diced tender squash and a cup of sliced ​​pejibaye heart of palm.
  • Add oregano, cumin and thyme
  • Stir-fry the mixture until the vegetables are tender but crisp.

3. Vegetable and squash pie

Prepare a pie crust as you would any pie.

  • Bake for a few minutes in the oven until the pastry is golden brown.
  • Meanwhile, cook two cups of diced ripe squash until tender, then puree.
  • Sauté a selection of vegetables, such as onions, carrots, broccoli and celery with oregano, cumin and thyme.
  • Add the squash puree to the vegetables and pour into the pie pan.
  • Bake 15 minutes at 300°F.
  • Serve the pie still warm as a main dish.

You can get seeds to plant by shopping at your local market. Ask for varieties with edible soft skin

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