Chilacayote, botanically known as Cucurbita Ficifolia is a type of gourd is grown for its fruit, seeds, and its leaves. It grows on climbing vines having the capability of growing up to a length of 15 meters. The vine has big green leaves( similar to those of fig plants) and a strong root system. The fruit is usually oblong in shape and looks like a spotted watermelon. Chilacayote is also used in jams and jellies.

It is vastly grown in Latin American countries but it is also famous in some countries of Europe and Asia.

Chilacayote has many popular names some of which are: fig leaf melon(because of its leaves resemblance to fig plants), Malabar gourd, shark fin melon(as it is used in shark fin soup as a substitute), seven-year melon(as it can be safely stored for a long time), black seed squash(like the color of seeds is black), siam pumpkin, etc.  

See  Winter Melon, Crenshaw Melon, and Korean Melon.

Chilacayote on the ground

Physical Appearance

The color of the skin of chilacayote may vary from dark green to light or cream color. It looks like a pumpkin or watermelon. As discussed above, the shape of the fruit is oblong, having a diameter of around 20 centimeters and 2 to 6 kilograms weight. One fruit can hold 500 seeds and one vine can produce up to 50 fruits.

The skin of chilacayote is hard and tough which increases the span of their storage. The fibrous and spongy flesh of Chilacayotes is bright white having a wet texture. The entire fruit is edible including flesh, seeds, and skin. However, the spotted rind of mature fruit can not be eaten.

The color of seeds is mostly black but some varieties have large pale-colored seeds.

Taste and Aroma

The smell of chilacayote is like that of melons, maybe because they are cousins to each other.

Talking about the taste of raw chilacayote, it’s sweet in the matured stage while the taste of cooked chilacayote is mild and neutral and it absorbs the taste of other ingredients quickly.

The immature fruit is eaten by cooking it while mature chilacayote is used raw as well as in soups, desserts, jams, and jellies. Its use is also famous in beverages.

  • Chilacayotes are rich in calcOrigin and Seasons
  • Chilacayotes are thought to be native to Latin America and Central Mexico but their exact center of origin is unknown. It was spread in the far-off areas by travelers and now it is found growing in Europe, the United States, South America, Asia, and Australia.
  • Chilacayotes are available in the spring and late winter.
  • The chilacayotes are planted in temperate regions usually at 2000 meters above sea level. They can be easily grown by seeds. They can not resist frost so they are mostly planted after frost but the older plants can overcome it. The chilacayote plants need full exposure to the sun.

●   Uses

  • Chilacayotes are used in a number of ways. Usually, they are taken as a vegetable rather than a fruit. Their flesh is eaten raw, stuffed, in beverages, jams, jellies, soups, in boiled form, and cooked in a number of ways according to the choice of person’s taste.
  • Chilacayotes candies are also very popular in some countries of South America, Asia, and Europe.
  • Their leaves are cooked as leafy green vegetables or raw in salads.
  • The seeds of chilacayotes are rich in proteins and fatty acids. They have a nutty flavor like peanuts and sunflower seeds when roasted. They are enjoyed as snacks like peanuts and are very popular with people of all ages.
  • In some areas, they were cultivated as fodder for animals.
  • In recent times the chilacayotes were taken by sailors on voyages because of their great capabilities of storage.
  • The chilacayote plants are also used for ornamental purposes.

●   Storage

When storing chilacayotes, it is important to keep them in a cool, dry place. Here are some tips on how to store fresh chilacayotes:

  • Choose chilacayotes that are firm and free of blemishes. Avoid those with soft spots or brown discoloration.
  • Store chilacayotes in a cool, dry place, such as the refrigerator or a cool pantry.
  • Chilacayotes can be stored at room temperature for up to a week. After that, they should be refrigerated in order to keep them fresh for longer.
  • Wrap each squash individually in plastic wrap or place them in a plastic bag before storing. This will help to prevent them from drying out.
  • Chilacayotes can be stored for up to 2-3 weeks when refrigerated. Of course, you can store them for longer if you need to, but the flavor may start to decline after a few weeks.
  • When you’re ready to use a chilacayote, simply wash it under cold water and cut off the ends. 

Nutrition and Health Benefits

1. They offer antidiabetic benefits

Diabetes is a long-term metabolic disorder that affects the way your body uses sugar. The buildup of sugar in your body can lead to serious health issues such as heart disease and kidney failure. Eating foods rich in fiber can help you beat this illness and maintain a healthy diet. Chilacayotes have been shown to offer antidiabetic benefits because they are rich in dietary fiber.

The gourd is also full of antioxidants and other compounds that have been shown to be beneficial for people with diabetes. Besides lowering blood sugar, studies have also shown that chilacayote can help improve insulin sensitivity and reduce the risk of complications from diabetes.

 2. They are anti-inflammatory

Inflammation is a response by the body to injury or infection. It can cause pain, swelling, and redness. Chronic inflammation can lead to diseases such as heart disease, arthritis, and diabetes. Chilacayotes contain compounds that help to reduce inflammation. These include quercetin, kaempferol, and vitamins C and E. Chilacayotes are also a good source of fiber, which can help to reduce inflammation by binding to toxins and removing them from the body.

3. Boost bone health

Chilacayotes are an excellent source of calcium, providing over a third of the daily recommended amount in just one cup. Calcium is an essential mineral for bone health, so including chilacayotes in your diet can help promote strong bones. This can help prevent various bone conditions, including osteoporosis, which is common in old age.

4. Treats intestinal infections

Chilacayotes have been used for centuries by the indigenous people of these regions to treat intestinal infections. The plant contains a substance called saponin, which has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Saponin is thought to work by binding to the bacteria and preventing them from attaching to the walls of the intestine. This prevents the bacteria from causing an infection. Chilacayotes are effective against a variety of bacteria, including E. coli, Salmonella, and Shigella. The plant has also been used as a treatment for stomachaches, diarrhea, and constipation

5. Antidepressant benefits

Depression is a serious mental illness that can be difficult to cope with. Sometimes medication or therapy alone just isn’t enough to bring a person back from the dark place they might find themselves in. That’s why natural approaches, especially from food, may help improve the symptoms.

Chilacayotes have been used for centuries in traditional Mexican medicine to treat a variety of ailments, including depression. In recent years, science has begun to unlock the secrets of this humble fruit and its potential health benefits.

One study published in the journal Ethnopharmacology found that chilacayote extract was effective in reducing symptoms of depression in rats. The study’s authors believe that the fruit’s high levels of antioxidants and vitamins may be responsible for its mood-boosting effects.

If you’re struggling with depression, you may want to give chilacayotes a try. While more research is needed to confirm its antidepressant effects in humans, this natural remedy is safe to consume and has a long history of traditional use.

6. Good for liver health

Chilacayote contains a component called cucurbitacin, which has been shown to have liver-protective properties. Cucurbitacin helps to protect the liver from damage and also helps to regenerate liver cells. This makes the chilacayote a great food for people with liver problems or who want to protect their liver from damage.

7. A strong immune booster

Chilacayotes are rich in vitamins A, C, and E, as well as beta-carotene and fiber. All of these nutrients are important for maintaining a healthy immune system. Beta-carotene helps protect cells from damage, while vitamin C fights off infection. Vitamin E is an antioxidant that helps reduce inflammation. Fiber, on the other hand, helps keep the digestive system healthy, which is also important for a strong immune system.

8. Promotes digestive health

 One of the unfortunate truths about modern life is that many of us don’t get nearly enough fiber in our diets.  This results in a number of health problems, including sluggish bowels, constipation, and irritable bowel syndrome.

If you’re looking to improve your digestive health, you may want to consider adding chilacayotes to your diet. These nutrient-rich vegetables are a good source of fiber, which is important for keeping your digestive system functioning properly. Fiber helps to bulk up stool and keeps things moving through your intestines at a healthy pace. It can also help to prevent constipation and other digestive problems.

In addition to being a good source of fiber, chilacayotes are also packed with vitamins and minerals. They’re a good source of vitamins A, C, and E, as well as potassium and magnesium. All of these nutrients are important for maintaining a healthy digestive system.

9. Relieves bronchitis and other respiratory problems

Chilacayote is a traditional remedy for bronchitis and other respiratory problems. The squash is boiled and the pulp is used to make a syrup. This syrup is taken orally to relieve bronchitis and other respiratory problems.

Chilacayotes are helpful in relieving bronchitis and other respiratory problems because of their antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Read More.

There is some scientific evidence to support the use of chilacayote for respiratory problems. A study found that chilacayote pulp extract can be effective in reducing inflammation of the airways. This suggests that it could be helpful in treating bronchitis and other respiratory problems.

10. Weight loss enhancement

Chilacayotes are high in fiber, which can help promote weight loss. Fiber helps to keep you feeling full, so you are less likely to overeat. Fiber also slows down the digestion of food, which can help regulate blood sugar levels.

Chilacayotes are also a good source of vitamins and minerals. They contain vitamins A, C, and B6. They also contain potassium and magnesium. These nutrients are important for maintaining a healthy weight. Overall, chilacayotes are a healthy food that can help promote weight loss.

Besides, chilacayote contains some protein and is low in calories which can help you overcome obesity and thus heart attack and strokes. Read More.

Any Side Effects?

You should not use chilacayotes if you have some sort of allergies as they can cause rashes or if you should, ask a doctor to suggest the right amount of fruit that you can eat.

The antidiabetic properties of chilacayotes may interfere with the prescription of a doctor for diabetic conditions so in this case, you should also not eat them. Read More.

There are also some reports of the toxic effects of chilacayote seeds so you should remove them before eating the fruit.

There are no significant reports of side effects of chilacayote to pregnant women but as prevention is better than cure, you should avoid them to keep yourself from the negative effects of the fruit.

That being said, chilacayotes are generally safe for most people. They are rich in minerals, vitamins, antioxidants, and fiber, all of which work together to boost your immune system and promote general health and wellbeing.

So don’t be afraid to enjoy it in your daily meals.

Other Types Of Squash

  1. Types Of Pumpkins
  2. Types Of Watermelons
  3. Golden Honeydew
  4. Cerasee
  5. Long Squash
  6. Black Chayote
  7. Susumba


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