Vegetable Memories-Mirliton or Vegetable Pear or Chayote Squash

Mirliton with vines emerging

When my father (89 in 2013) was here for Christmas, we talked about food memories from his New Orleans’ childhood.  One of many we discussed was stuffed mirlitons. He says that every year at the end of the growing season someone would put aside several mature squash in a closet.  In February, the squash would begin sending out a vine (like mine illustrated here) as it waited to be planted.  The seeds actually germinate inside the fruit. In January, one of my Louisiana cousins sent me a care package, including a few mirliton. Since they are tropical, we will be planting them at the end of May here in Chicagoland.  They require 120-150 days of warm weather (between hard frosts) so we should have just enough days to harvest some mature fruits.  Mirliton are in the cucurbitaceae family (same as pumpkins and cucumbers). They are prolific growers, covering many yards of fence in one season, and may have up to 150 fruit on one vine.  It will be interesting to see if the deer eat them!
The recipe my cousin sent me (my father remembers having this growing up) is the following:
Stuffed Mirliton

  • 4 mirlitons
  • 1 cup soft bread crumbs
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3 tbsps. butter
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • black pepper
  • 1 egg, well beaten
  • 1 tsp chopped parsley
  • 1 sprig thyme
  • 1/2 pound cooked shrimp (or crab), coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup buttered bread crumbs

Simmer mirlitons in salted water till tender. Cut each in half, remove seeds and spoon out pulp (without making a hole in the skin). Reserve shells. Chop pulp; add bread crumbs. Saute onion and garlic in butter over medium heat till tender (about 5 mins.) Stir in pulp, salt and pepper; continue cooking for 5 mins, stirring frequently. Cool. Add egg, parsley, thyme and shrimp; mix thoroughly. Fill shells and cover with buttered crumbs. Bake in a 375 degree F. oven for 25 minutes.  There are some photos on the internet of Emeril and Martha Stewart’s finished products, so I won’t put mine here.

By the way, if you don’t want to wait for them to grow, you can buy them at the local grocery stores. I have seen them in several.  They are called Chayote Squash in my neighborhood.

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