Four-day festival starts today for the lowly and ubiquitous chayote

A chayote is like good scotch. Someone either likes it or they do not. Unlike scotch, which should only be drunk one way, straight, by adults, the chayote, a member of the gourd family, has many manifestations in Costa Rican cooking.

Expats do not have to like the mild-flavored chayote to enjoy the Feria Nacional del Chayote 2014 that begins today at the Ruinas de Ujarrás in the Province of Cartago. The event, which is sponsored in part by the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo, runs through Sunday with activities for adults and children.

The chayote (Sechium edule) will be made known with contests such as the fastest packer and the heaviest example. There even is a contest today at 2 p.m. for the creating of floral arrangements with the use, in part of chayote vegetation.

The softball-sized chayote originated in México and has now found its way into many Latin and non-Latin menus. The chayote is rather bland, and provides good filler in a number of dishes in which the flavor is dominated by something else.

Chayote also can be blended skin, pit and all to become a soup with the addition of some corn starch, milk and chicken broth. It sometimes is confused with the ayote squash, which also makes a popular soup.fiesta070314

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