As of October 2018, there are 250m monthly users of the social network Pinterest, with the company claiming that close to 176bn ideas (photos or videos) have been saved (pinned) to nearly 3bn boards in the eight years since the network began.
Every year, the company releases its Pinterest 100, which predicts trends for the upcoming year based on the activity of its users. If there’s a marked increase in the number of searches for an idea and that number continues to grow over six months, Pinterest registers it as a trend.
Food is one of the 10 categories these trends are broken down into, with Pinterest revealing that searches for mushroom recipes, for example, have increased by 64%, while searches for oat milk have gone up by 186%.
Ginger water, baking bread, peganism, grazing tables, foil pack dinners, oxtail recipes and homemade jam are also in the top ten for food. But arguably the most curious item rounding out the list is chayote recipes (up 76%).
On the surface the mirliton squash, as it is also known, offers no particularly unique attributes. So why have searches soared?
The chayote fruit is a pear-shaped vegetable most common in Latin American cuisine. It’s often used when cooked as it has many similarities to the squash, but chayote can also be used raw in salads and salsas where it is frequently marinated in lemon or lime juice.
The stems, tubers, seeds, leaves and roots of the chayote plant are also edible but not as popular. In terms of taste, it’s, well, subtle, to put it kindly, with a texture between potato and cucumber.
Its unspectacular flavour and texture, however, may be its strength, as it allows the chayote to mix well with a number of cuisines – perhaps partially explaining the number of searches on Pinterest.
It is also known to be a good source of vitamin C as well as high in fibre, and is aided by a reputation for being low in fat (around 0.1g per fruit).
On the more fringe side of its nutritional properties, scientists in Mexico even bred a hybrid chayote in an ongoing research project into new ways to combat various strains of cancer.
Chayote recipes rather than the fruit itself is where the spike in searches are and the chayote can be used for pretty much every meal of the day. High in fibre and vitamins, it slots easily into breakfast smoothies or porridge.
For lunch, it’s a sure thing for salads, and due to the similarities it has with the squash, chayotes can be used in pretty much the same way: stuffed or roasted, as part of a wrap or even sauteed as a potato replacement.
In the UK, Foodservice giant Bidfood has said that, in 2019, consumers will start to seek playful and creative food with bright colours and experimental flavours. Chayote could possibly fit into this category, and interestingly Asda already stocks it.
Chayote might not be the new jackfruit, but considering that a number of Pinterest’s top 10 food trends for next year – including oat milk, peganism and mushrooms – are already starting to become decidedly trendy in the UK, this unlikely candidate may as well throw its hat into the ring for novel veg of the year.