The mirliton, or chayote, is also commonly called vegetable pear in its Louisiana homeland. But it’s not terribly fussy about where it lives, as long as you can provide for its very basic requirements. Mirliton loves sunshine and warm weather, and must have a growing season of 150 days in between frosts. Purchase a mature mirliton fruit from a vegetable retailer in October or November. This oddity produces a single almond-sized seed that must be germinated within the fruit itself.
Store the mirliton in a cool, dark, dry location to germinate. The sprout will emerge in about four weeks. When the new shoot is 5 to 6 inches long, it can be planted if weather permits. If you’re still expecting frost in your area, keep the sprouted seed stored until the weather warms up a bit. Trim the sprout to 3 to 4 inches long.
Choose a sunny spot with exceptionally good drainage next to a fence or trellis after all danger of frost has passed. Mirlitons require a sturdy structure to support vigorous vining growth. Sandy loam soil is best, and a pH range of 6.0 to 6.8 is preferred.
Cultivate a bed about 12 feet long and 3 to 4 feet wide to a depth of about 12 inches. Amend with organic compost, if desired. Dig a 3-foot wide pit in the middle of the bed, about 6 inches deep. Mix 2 tbsp. of 8-24-24 fertilizer into the backfill soil.
Position the sprouted mirliton at a 45-degree angle with the sprout pointing downward in the center of the pit. Plant it so that the top ½ inch of the fruit remains exposed. The sprout will find its way to the surface.
Mulch the entire planting bed with pine straw or leaves, but leave the top of the mirliton exposed. This will help retain moisture and discourage weed growth. Roots of a mature mirliton plant will spread about 6 feet all the way around.
Water the soil surrounding the planted mirliton thoroughly. It should be uniformly moist, but not soggy or wet.