From Bicol during a recent trip, we passed through Lucban to buy some pasalubong. Top on my list was pancit habhab. My mom and I love eating it and it is easy to cook. Just sauté garlic, onion, and julienned sayote or pechay, season with salt and pepper and voila! you have a delicious and nutritious and filling snacks or viand.
So for our topic, we will discuss how to plant sayote and pechay (to be discussed in our next column) in containers or raised beds in your garden or yard or garage or anywhere in your urban habitat.
Buy sayote or chayote from the market or green grocer near your home. Nowadays, they cost Php15/kilo, with 4 to 5 pieces in Metro Manila. In Baguio and Benguet, it might cost just Php1 or Php2 per kilo. Pick the mature fruits, they are hairy and hard to the touch. You would be lucky to find a chayote already with a sprout at the crack end (the other end is where the stem used to be). It has started to germinate.
Otherwise, moisten them, put in a ziplock bag and store in a cool, dark place like your kitchen drawer or under your staircase. Be sure your favorite house mouse can’t eat them. After 2 to 3 days, you will see a sprout at the crack end. If the sayote fruits are rotting without a sprout, throw them away.
Plant the sayote in a pot of garden soil or mixed soil and rice hull or cocopeat. FB friend Maunlad Na Agrikultura suggests planting it with the crack end (and sprout) buried halfway into the soil while Dr. Ted buries the stem end and the crack end with the sprout on top. (See pictures here) When in doubt, let the sayote lie on its side on top of the soil.
When the sprout is about one foot tall, transplant the seedling into a hole in the ground. Use sandy loam soil for good drainage because sayote plant hates being waterlogged. If you planted it in a big pot, let it stay there and stand near your wall or fence. Sayote vine is a low maintenance—just remove weeds and water it every now and then. Watch out for aphids, though. Aphids are ants that construct cotton like things in your plant eventually destroying your plant. Just remove them with your fingers and, if you have time and patience, spray the plant with a mix of soap, water and small amount of chilli (a big amount will burn the leaves). Better yet, get rid of the ants in your garden and house.
Use a plant stake or a trellis (about 3 to 4 inches from the seedling) for the sayote vine to climb. Sayote fruits are heavy so be sure that your trellis could support them. Or transplant the seedling right beside a big tree so it could use the tree as a natural trellis or beside a fence. If you intend to have more than one sayote plant, keep them about three feet apart to give them space to grow.
During this time, the original sayote fruit will rot because the new sayote plant might have used up its stored nutrients. As a seedling, the sayote vine gets its nourishment from the sayote fruit. As it grows older, it gets its nutrients from the soil and water and air. Once a month renew the soil by adding vermicast or any organic fertilizer on top of the soil.
It will grow to about 30 feet in length (maybe from the ground to the third floor of your house).
Starting in about 150 days, you can harvest so many of sayote weekly. You will eat pancit habhab, ginisang sayote, sayote omelet every day. You may also add sayote to your sinigang, dinuguan, tinola, pinakbet, and practically to any dish. Sayote tops, like camote and kangkong tops, is an excellent green leafy vegetable.
Did I refer to sayote as fruit? Yes, my FB friend Dennis Kintanar Lainez confirmed it is a fruit. So you can also eat it raw. Or julienne it and add to your salad. Sayote juice, anyone?
Sayote is a perennial plant, ergo, it will give you fruits again and again. Sometimes, you think it is already dead because you don’t see the vine anymore. Well, look at the ground and you might find a new sprout. Lucky you. Another round of pancit habhab, sautéed sayote, etc. The best is to share some fruits with your neighbors and friends.
Sayote is ideal for urban farming because it grows both male and female flowers so you may plant only one vine.
You’ll not find sayote, perhaps, in 5-star hotel menu, but you are better off eating one because it packs a huge lot of nutrients according to experts: dietary fiber, vitamin K, C, B6, folate, zinc, copper, manganese, panthothenic acid, magnesium and potassium. A breakfast of sautéed sayote or sayote omelet can give you energy for the rest of your day.
FB citizen Juan Reynaldo Ramos shared this website http://s3.amazonaws.com/
In different languages sayote is also called chayote, pipinola, choco, chocho and merliton. It is grown worldwide even in wintry countries. Everybody loves sayote, especially if it’s cooked with pancit habhab. Try it.
The final word goes to an outsider. Joe Strachan is a wealthy U.S. former sales director who decided to settle in Tod with his Scottish wife, after many years in California. He is 61 but looks 41. He became active with Incredible Edible six months ago, and couldn’t be any happier digging, sowing and juicing fruit. I find myself next to him, sheltering from the driving rain. Why, I ask, would someone forsake the sunshine of California for all this? His answer sums up what the people around here have achieved.
“There’s a nobility to growing food and allowing people to share it. There’s a feeling we’re doing something significant rather than just moaning that the state can’t take care of us. Maybe we all need to learn to take care of ourselves.”
What veggie or fruit do you want to plant in and around your urban dwelling, please tell us and we’ll write about it.
Note: the advice and information contained herein is based upon our experience and study. As with any advice, please apply at your own discretion.