Thursday, August 3, 2017

Planting Pipinola

Pipinolas (known as chayote on the mainland USA) are a good crop for my location. Except for during drought years, I get enough rain for them to grow without the need to irrigate. Yes, a good crop......not only because I eat it myself, but it's good food for the livestock too. I find pips to be rather bland when eaten by themselves, but they are great additions to soups, stews, and stir fries because they absorb the flavor of what they are cooked with. My favorite use for them is as mock apple pie. Hubby loves this better than when made with real apples, and that's saying something! 

I'm slowly planting more pipinola in my semi-shade areas. While it will grow in full sun, it also does well in part shade. Actually, I'm finding that this plant is really happy with moist, shaded roots and a sunny environment for the vines to climb into. 

This week I'm expanding my pipinola patches. Here's what I'm doing: 

Take one large pipinola. It doesn't need to be sprouting yet. As long as the skin has toughened up, it's mature enough to sprout. I will next prepare a spot for planting by turning in a generous amount of compost. Then I'll take the pipinola and push it gently into the surface soil, pucker side down. I don't bury it at all. I just have the pucker make soil contact. 

These pipinolas are being planted where the full sun sometimes shines. So I wish to protect the pips from sun burning. The easiest thing I've tried so far is a piece of old sheet suspended from a stick teepee. I use guava sticks simply because they are readily available and don't break easily. 

I weigh down the edges with either rocks, soil, or grass clippings. I use whatever is on hand. The sheet is enough to block the worst of the sun, help retain moisture, keep the drying wind off. 

Below is a photo of the teepee before I drape a sheet over it. Since I don't need the teepee long, I use a piece of duck tape to hold the sticks together. I used to use wire, then later tried string, but they were more complicated to use. I next tried duct tape and was happier. It's not "sustainably friendly" as homemade twine, but a roll of the stuff could last me years and years. In this photo, the pipinola has started to sprout and it's time to remove the sheet covering. 

I once tried a quad (4 sticks) but discovered that the three stick teepee was simpler and did the job. It's that old KISS principle...keep it simple. This pipinola is doing great and producing two vibes already. 


  1. Always a pleasure to read your posts. Your experiences with Island gardening/living are always fascinating and insightful. And your frequent updates mean I'm learning something new practically every day!

    While I've never tasted Chayote, it sounds like a fun project. I'll have to hunt one down and give it a taste test; might even try it apple pie style, as you suggest. If you're willing to part with your recipe secret, that is ;)

    I'm not sure how the plant itself would fare in my arid southern california climate, so more research clearly required on my end. Thanks for the inspiration!

  2. I don't have a set recipe for the apple pie, but I mix 2 tablespoons of apple juice concentrate in with the slices of pipinola before they go into the pie shell. I use all the usual/favorite ingredients of a standard apple pie.

    Pipinola grows well in Mexico, but I don't know which region. Here in Hawaii, it doesn't like the dry areas with poor soil. But it takes the heat well as long as the roots are moist.