If you live in an area where the soil doesn't freeze, you might want to give chayote a try. This squash plant, native to Mesoamerica, is unique amongst cucurbits in that it produces fruit in winter. The plant is propagated by allowing the harvested fruits to begin sprouting. They should be collected in December or January and left on the counter. If by March the squash doesn't sprout, you've got a dud and will need to start again next year. Chayotes should be grown in pairs for best production. Make sure you select a good site for their size. They can be grown in sun or shade, as they are light seekers, but will grow 10 to 15 feet in the first season so they will need plenty of room. A trellis or fence is a good idea for support.
The chayote is a popular plant in San Francisco. I've been meaning to plant some the last couple years, but kept missing the time window. The other day I saw that a neighbor had a huge canopy of vines that looked like a grape variety of some sort, but on closer inspection, I saw that it was a chayote con espinas. Ouch. I made a special effort to walk the dog past this house everyday, hoping to catch the owner at home to ask if they could spare a couple. I want to join the chayote club too! No luck. So I hopped down to 24th street in the Mission and picked up both the smooth skinned and the prickly types, two of each. Because dammit, I will have chayote by next year!
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