The chayote is another native Mexican plant and is a member of the squash family. It
is also referred to as a "vegetable pear" or chcocho. In France the chayote is called a
christophene. The flesh is quite crisp something like a water chestnut.
History and Lore
Chayote (Sechium edule) was actually domesticated in Mexico and seen in South
American until after the Spanish conquest. (Sophie Coe, America's First Cuisines).
The starchy squash was a staple of the Aztecs. The name chayote is derived from the
Nahuatl world chayotli.
The Mayans added chayote shoots (as a green) to beans and also ate the fruit and the
Medicinal uses of the chayote included a tea made of the leaves is reported to dissolve
kidney stones as well as a treatment for arteriosclerosis and hypertension.
The chayote can be eaten raw in salads, or stuffed and baked. Other preparations
include mashing, pickling, frying or boiling. The plain squash tends to be bland and
benefits from "aggressive" seasoning.
Jicama is a crispy, sweet, edible root that resembles a turnip in physical appearance,
although the plants are not related. Jicama has been cultivated in South America for
centuries, and the vegetable is quite popular in Mexican cuisine. Jicama has a unique
flavor that lends itself well to salads, salsas, and vegetable platters.
The roots can sometimes grow to be quite large, although when they exceed the size
of two fists, they begin to convert the sugars that give jicama its sweet flavor into
starches, making Jicama is excellent raw and is sometimes eaten plain. It can also be
used as a substitute for water chestnut in Chinese dishes, in which case it should be
thrown in right before serving. Jicama also appears in stews, juiced drinks, stuffings,
and a variety of other recipes. In addition to having a unique flavor and texture, jicama
takes flavor well, making it well suited to culinary experimentation. Jicama is a great
source of vitamin c and is fat free-making it a superb on-the-go snack. the root
somewhat woody to the taste.
The Cambray Onion
The Cambray onion, also known as Mexican Spring Onions are very tender, juicy baby
onions with the tops still attached.
Their distinguished mild flavor makes them perfect for salads, sandwiches or just plain
salt and pepper on the grill.
Key limes are small, somewhat larger than a walnut, oval in shape with a thin yellowish
rind which are prone to splotchy brown spots. They are aromatic and very juicy, with a
stronger and more complex acidic flavor than Persian limes. The evergreen tttrees are
7 to 8 feet tall, shrubby, crooked and thorny, with shiny green leaves. Both Persian and
Key Limes have a higher sugar and citric acid content than lemons, and Key limes are
more acidic than Persian.
Key limes (like Persian limes) are more susceptible to frost than other citrus fruits. The
peak season is during the summer, June through August, but they are available
year-round from Mexico and Central America. Unless you live in the Florida Keys or
are otherwise a Key Lime pie aficionado, in which case only limes grown in the Keys
are acceptable as 'Key Limes'. Most (more than 90%) of the Key Limes increasingly
found in supermarkets are grown in Mexico and Central America; they are also grown
in Texas and California, where they are known as Mexican limes. Juice content is high,
well over 40%.
What is it?
The plant is the genus Opuntia from the Cactaceae family, or what is commonly known as the Prickly Pear
Cactus. Nopal means cactus in Spanish and Nopales is term for "cactus stem". The term Nopalitos refers to the
pads once they are cut up and prepared for eating. There are two food crops derived from the prickly pear
cactus. One is the "nopalitos" which are the cactus pads and the other crop is the prickly "pear" or fruit of the
The cactus is most likely a native to Mexico. It is has been noted that the Nopales was grown and eaten as a
vegetable in Central Mexico, since before the Spanish arrived. The Spanish explorers took the plant back to
Spain and the plant spread throughout North Africa with the Moors. The plant is currently grown throughout
Mexico as well as parts of the United States and in many areas of the Mediterranean.
"The nopal has been used as a medicinal plant and is a hallmark vegetable in the Latin American diet. Various
studies have demonstrated Opuntia's ability to affect blood glucose and hypercholesterolemia. The intake of
prickly pear pectin decreases plasma LDL levels, increases expression of apolipoprotein receptor expression,
increases hepatic LDL turnover, and affects cholesterol homeostasis in guinea pigs. Prickly pear pectin,
however does not affect absorption of cholesterol in guinea pigs. The prickly pear cactus demonstrates the
ability to decrease blood glucose levels as well the hyperglycemic peak during glucose tolerance testing. In
addition, Opuntia has demonstrated the ability to control experimentally induced diabetes. Similar studies, along
with domestic surveys have prompted international evaluation of the prickly pear cactus to determine its ability
to regulate glucose utilization. Currently, homeopathic industries have begun to incorporate opuntia into
supplements intended to help regulate plasma glucose levels."
: huajes, hauxya, guaje seeds
Guajes or huajes are the flat, green (or brown) pods of the Leucaena spp. The pods
are sometimes light green or deep red in color -- both taste the same.
Guaje seeds are small and turn brown as they age. The seeds are eaten raw with
guacamole, sometimes cooked and made into a sauce. They can also be made into
fritters. The ground seeds are used to impart a slightly garlicy flavor to a mole (sauce)
called guaxmole (huaxmole). The dried seeds may be toasted and salted and eaten as
a snack referred to as "cacalas".