Known botanically as Sechium edule, this native of the tropical Americas belongs to the same family as squash and resembles a squash vine, but its flowers are inconspicuous. Grown for edible fruit: 38 in. long, green or yellow green, irregularly oval, grooved, with a large edible seed sur- rounded by solid flesh. Flavor like that of summer squash. Eat young fruit raw or cooked; boil or bake mature fruit. Large, fleshy tuberous roots can also be eatenthough you cannot, of course, grow the plant as a perennial and consume its roots as well. Also known as mirliton or christophine.
Needs rich soil. Climbs by tendrils. Provide fence or trellis. In areas where fruit is sold in stores, buy in fall and allow to sprout in cupboard; then plant whole fruit edgewise and slanted, with sprouted end at lowest point, narrow end exposed. If shoot is long, cut it back to 12 in. Plant two or more vines to ensure pollination. In the Coastal and Tropical South, plant sprouted fruit in ground in late winter; in colder areas, pot in a 5-gallon container and store in a dark, cool spot until frost danger is past. Plant can produce a 20- to 30-ft. vine in first year, reach 4050 ft. in second. Top dies down in frost. Bloom starts with shorter days in fall; fruit is ripe within a month. A plant can bear 200 or more fruits.