Sayote Health Benefits

Sayote is a vegetable commonly served as a cooked dish with other vegetables or with meat. Sayote in English is Chayote. Sayote scientific name is Sechium edule.  It is a perennial vine vegetable belonging to the Cucurbitaceae family, which squash also belongs. Considered a highland vegetable, sayote thrives best in cool areas with elevations ranging from 1000 to 1,500 meters above sea level. Hence, in the Philippines the major producer of sayote is Benguet province which has the largest production area of 892 hectares. It had 45,123 metric ton total production and an estimated production yield of 50 tons/hectare.

The edible parts of the plant is the shots and the fruits. The fruits looks elongated and green in color. It may also come in various shapes from pear-shaped to long elongated, and some are with ridges and spines, and few small spikes.

Nutrient and Chemical Content
Water Content 94.26-95.41 %
Total Soluble Solid (TSS) 4.57-5.82 oBrix
Carbohydrates (%) 3.76-4.96 %
Crude Protein 0.38-0.50 %
Iron 0.23-12.78 %
Ash 0.22-0.28 %
Crude Fat 0.01-0.19 %
Calcium zero-0.12 %

Sayote is a rich source of dietary fiber and antioxidants. Iron, manganese, zinc, phosphorus, copper, vitamins B1, B2, B6, C, and potassium are also present in sayote. The health benefit of sayote is also shown by having no cholesterol and unhealthy fats, which is good for diet and weight control.

Sayote Production Guide

Based on Bureau of Plant Industry -Philippines study, sayote production starts with identifying climatic and soil requirements, culture and management.

Climatic and Soil Requirements

Sayote is a perennial plant. Identifying properly the qualities of good soil will be important in farming sayote.

1. Climatic Requirement. Ideal temperature ranges from 10 to 25 degrees C enhances foliage and fruit development and longer growing period for 5 to 8 years due to delayed virus disease symptoms. Sayote is best farmed at elevations of 1Km above sea level and above to obtain bigger and quality fruits. Higher than recommended temperatures leads to less fruits.

2. Soil Requirement. The crop needs silty clay loam, loam soil, or loam clay. Soil pH ranging from 5.5 to 6.5 is desired. Soil should be well drained to prevent soaking of the roots and stems. Organic fertilizer can be applied for good moisture holding capacity since the crop cannot withstand drought or the plant will wilt.

Planting and Maintenance

A. Planting Material. Sprouting of sayote plant material is done by selecting good fruits from a sick-free plant and letting it spout under a cool shaded place.
B.  Planting and Land Preparation. Clear the area from weeds. Make very shallow holes for the planting about 1 square foot width in a distance of 3 meters in between hills and rows. Apply organic fertilizer by mixing to loosen soil. Plant 3 fruit seeds (sprouted or not) per hill leaving 1/3 of the seeds exposed. Planting can be done in May and June while rain is plenty for growing the sayote sprouts.

C. Fertilizer Application and Hilling Up. Apply organic fertilizer either chicken manure or compost before or at planting time (basal fertilization) and during side dressing every 2 months at the rate of 3 to 5 tons/ha or 300 to 500 grams/hill. Triple 14 or triple 16 at 50 g/hill or 2 sacks/ha can be applied alternately with organic fertilizer as side dress to promote growth and development of the crop. During side dressing, soil is raised to cover and support the base of the plant as well as the applied fertilizer.
D. Staking/Wiring/Trellising. Install GI wire using # 14 or 16 horizontally at a height of 6 feet with either wood, bamboo or tree stumps as posts. The GI wire is usually repaired/changed after 5 to 8 years while posts are changed after 3 years depending on the material used.
E. Irrigation. Irrigation is carried out either through water hose, sprinklers, watering cans or their combinations, once a week.
F. Weeding. Weeds are removed in order not to compete with the absorption of nutrients and sunlight. Likewise, they attract rodents that would damage the crop and serve as alternate hosts of some insect pests and diseases.
G. Mulching using weeds. Mulching provides moisture retention and fertilizer to the plant and can be done by using dry decomposing uprooted weeds.
H. Removal of Excess Leaf. Remove dried and old leaves every 3 months to give way to young and active leaves for light reception and food production. Remove plants which are severely infected with virus disease.
I. Crop Protection. Spraying of pesticides is not necessary, however, severe pruning leaving 1 foot vine from the base or changing the plants is recommended when there is severe virus disease.
J. Insect Pests and Diseases and Their Control
1. Plant Bug. Plant bugs puncture and suck the sap of fruit and leaving the fruit oozing with sap, and further leading to the hardening of the fruit which is not fitted for consumption. The insect is usually observed during the months of February to June.
2. Spider Mites. Spider mites are tiny insects that are found on the undersides of the leaves and suck the juice of the plants. Infested leaves are discolored and sometimes covered with spider mites webs. Also, infested fruits are malformed as a result of feeding. The insect abound during summer because it is favored by warm weather.
3. White Flies. White flies are also suck juice of the plants. It can be seen on the undersides of the leaves, and when leaves wiggle, the insect flies around. Infested leaves are also discolored.
Management of Plant Bug, Spider Mites and White Flies
a. Use sprinkler irrigation to wet the plants
b. Remove fruits that are damaged by plant bugs
c. Cut infested leaves with white flies
d. Sanitation and weeding
4. Virus disease. Virus diseases are the most important problem in chayote production. It is caused by squash leaf curl virus (SLCV) and chayote mosaic tymovirus (CMTV). The symptoms are: yellowing of leaves, leaf curling, reduced leaves and malformed fruits.
Management of Virus Disease
a. Use disease free planting materials
b. Grow tolerant strains of sayote
c. Remove infected plants
d. Sanitation and weeding
K. Harvesting and Packing. Every once per week is the ideal harvet schedule to obtain the right weight and maturity of the fruits characterized by soft skin and not fibrous. Sometimes there are fruits which are twins or triplets which are joined together but can still be consumed. Harvested fruits are packed in transparent 25 kg capacity polyethylene plastic to avoid fruit injury and also for easing transportation of the fruit from farm to market.

By Kyle

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