What’s a mirliton? Two things I’d never encountered before moving to Louisiana were armadillos–which looked a small dinosaur crossing the road–and mirlitons.
Mirlitons go by several terms, including vegetable pears and chayote squash. Mirlitons are native to Mexico and Central American and were introduced to Louisiana in early colonial days. They are very bland in flavor, with crisp and pale pulp. Perhaps somewhat similar to a summer squash, but not really. They grow on vines, up a trellis and are found in markets in the fall around Thanksgiving. I have never seem them outside of Louisiana.
Being curious, I couldn’t pass up the chance to prepare a recipe with them. So, I boiled them, hollowed out the shell and stuffed them with vegetables and sauteed shrimp. Now, you can’t miss with that combination. They really were quite good. The bland flavor complemented the sauteed shrimp and vegetables.
Mirliton’s and Hurricane Katrina
When I was looking up information on mirliton’s, I came across an interesting WEB site about mirliton’s in New Orleans after Katrina. http://www.crescentcityfarmersmarket.org/uploads/file/A_Guide_to_Growing_Mirlitons.pdf) Hurricane Katrina flooded much of the city. In addition to people and homes, the hurricane devastated the plants and landscape. In fact for several years, if you drove through the most affected areas of town, it really did appear barren and surreal.
This WEB author talks about the effect of the hurricanes, Katrina and Gustov, on mirlitons growing in New Orleans. According to the author, Katrina wiped out much of the mirliton crop. He gives an interesting account of his efforts to get the vegetable re-established.
I found the mirlitons pictured here at a local grocery supermarket. They were individually wrapped and unblemished. The cashier didn’t know how to ring them up. I’ve also seem them at local farmer’s markets. So now is the time to take advantage of this interesting vegetable.