Growing Vegetable Pears
The vegetable pear, which belongs to the cucumber family and also goes by the names mirliton, chayote, and mango squash, is a fruiting plant that bears delectable fruit with a single seed in the autumn. This vining plant resembles cucumbers, but it grows considerably more quickly and produces far more fruits than cucumbers do. The fruit has a taste that is comparable to that of squash, and it is used in cooking similarly to how squash is.
Any region of the state is suitable for the cultivation of the vegetable pear. It is a perennial plant, which means that if its roots are allowed to remain unfrozen, it will continue to develop from those roots year after year. It is necessary to have a soil that is rich in organic matter, has good drainage, and is very productive. Under optimal growth circumstances, a single vine planted in the yard or garden will be able to produce more fruit than is required to satisfy the requirements of the typical household. In order for the plants to begin flowering and producing fruit, the amount of daylight hours each day must be at least 12 before the process may begin. The fruiting season often starts in September and lasts all the way up to the first frost. On occasion, a few fruits may set throughout the spring, and a late spring harvest will emerge as a result, provided that the plant produces sufficient vegetative development by the month of May. The harvest season often begins in the autumn.
Each plant, much like all other members of the cucurbit family, develops its own set of male and female flowers, which are kept separate from one another (squash, cucumbers, melons, etc.). The “miniature fruit” that is connected to the bottom of the flower is what differentiates the female flower from the male bloom. Male flowers do not have this “miniature fruit” attachment (Figure 1).
Insects are responsible for transporting the pollen that is produced by the male flower to the female bloom. The fruit develops at a quick rate after the process of pollination. 25–30 days after the pollination, the fruit will have grown to its maximum size. A single vine may yield up to one hundred fruit, with each one weighing an average of one pound.
When trying to encourage fruit to set, it is not required to plant two different fruits or to have two different plants. Each plant produces both male and female flowers, and the male flower has the ability to pollinate the female flower that is located on the same plant as the male flower.
There is a great diversity in the forms that vegetable pears may take. They are distinguishable from one another in terms of color, size, surface, shape, and the quality of their meat. They may be dark green or ivory-white in color, weigh anywhere from a few ounces to more than two pounds, have a smooth surface or one that is severely wrinkled, have prickly skin or none at all, and vary in form from round to pear-shaped when flattened out. The size, shape, and appearance of each individual fruit on a single plant is identical.
Pears that are suitable for use as vegetables lack fiber and have a thin seed coat, if any at all, that surrounds the solitary, flat seed. The pear-shaped varieties that are green or white in color are the ones that are most typically cultivated in Louisiana (Figure 2).
The seed coats of certain varieties are severely wrinkled and fibrous, which causes the flesh to become more fibrous and less attractive to eat (Figure 3).
Soil Preparation and Planting
The vegetable pear may be grown in almost any decent garden soil, but it does best in a soil that is high in organic matter, has good drainage, and is rich in nutrients.
Planting time for the vegetable pear often takes place in the spring, when the threat of frost has passed. Put some work into the soil. Plant a whole fruit, spacing them one to a hill. Position it so that it is lying on its side, with the larger end facing slightly downward and the end that is closer to the stem jutting out somewhat (Figure 4). If the seed has a lengthy sprout, trim it so that it is no longer more than an inch or two away from the fruit.
Due to the fact that vegetable pears have thin roots, all essential cultivation should take place at a very shallow depth. Applying a layer of mulch, such as compost, straw, leaves, or any substance of a similar kind, may help prevent weed growth and retain moisture.
Irrigation is very necessary during the dry times to maintain the plant’s growth throughout the summer, to assist the plant in keeping its fruit on the plant, and to enhance the size of the fruit that is forming. The use of mulch will assist in maintaining the soil’s moisture level around the shallow root system.
Give the Vines Support
To be able to climb, vegetable pears need some kind of support. A trellis, a tree (provided that it does not provide an excessive amount of shadow), or a fence may serve as an adequate support. Trellises in the shape of a huge “T” are used by commercial producers because they provide sufficient area for the vines to flourish. An appropriate support would be provided by a thick fence wire with a mesh size of 4 inches ran over the trellises.
Keep the Vines Growing
Vegetable pears have a rapid growth rate and need a lot of food to thrive. Excellent outcomes may be achieved with well-rotted, stable, matured material. Use commercial fertilizer also. It is suggested that 1.5 to 2 teaspoons of an 8-24-24 fertilizer be applied to each hill or plant. Before you plant, make sure this is well combined. A surplus of nitrogen should be avoided since it might lead to excessive plant growth and even prevent the formation of fruit in certain cases. Because the vegetable pear plant has a lengthy growing season, you should fertilize it every two months or whenever the plant seems to be in need of plant food. During the time when the plants are actively developing, apply one teaspoon of ammonium nitrate (or the equivalent) to each hill or plant.
There is a risk that the plants will get infected with the anthracnose disease and other squash plant pests. Numerous circular dead spots are left on the plant’s foliage by anthracnose, and the plant may lose the majority of its leaves as a result. Get in touch with the county agent in your area for up-to-date information on control methods.
Mulch for Winter Protection
The fruiting tree known as the veggie pear is a perennial. That is to say, the frost will destroy the growth at the top of the plant, but if you protect the roots from freezing temperatures, it will start to develop again in the spring. You may do this by applying a winter mulch consisting of hay, leaves, or some similar material that is dense but not tightly packed.
It is best to leave the fruit on the vine until it has reached full maturity if you wish to store it over the winter in order to plant it in the spring. The pear’s flesh will be firm and resistant to being readily punctured at this point in its development. Gather the produce before the shoots appear. When harvesting pears, be sure to handle them with care. Wrap each one individually in a sheet of thin, porous paper like tissue paper, and then place them in a box or crate to transport. Excelsior or some comparable material should be used between layers to allow for air circulation. If you keep the seed veggie pears at a room temperature that does not drop below 45 degrees or climb over 60 degrees Fahrenheit, you will have the most success growing them. The ideal storage tempera- ture is between 50-55 degrees F.
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