At Home With Nature

Chayotes and Contemplating the Nature of the Self

I could say the past year has been an interesting one for me on an existential level, if I were to put things in a positive light.

I keep having major life changes that seem to tell me, “Oh, you think that’s part of your personality, do you? Well what if we take it away? What’s left?”

First it was my love of fermenting. Having to switch from a gluten free diet to a GF, low histamine diet because of histamine intolerance (HIT) put an end to my fermentation hobby. Although fermentation is so fabulous for your gut, I simply couldn’t handle the excess histamine in this type of food and had to say, “see you later,” to this culinary pastime.

Probably what I looked like when I realized I had to stop fermenting – sour.

Shortly after this, in a quest to understand why I was histamine intolerant, I was diagnosed with SIBO. And my diet needed yet another adjustment.

I didn’t have much time to adapt to this new controlled-portion manner of eating before I discovered yet another problem –  I was having issues breaking down oxalates and needed to refine my diet yet again. This time I had to say sayonara to my love of foraging and eating wild plants.

It hurt to have to shelve this interest, but again, I reoriented myself, and did a last minute tweak of my garden plan to grow a low oxalate garden.

These changes helped and though I had a few lingering symptoms I couldn’t figure out, I was adjusting to my annoyingly controlled manner of eating – calculating portions both for FODMAPS and for oxalates.

And not that long ago I even published a recipe for cranberry muffins here, saying essentially, at least I can still eat cranberries! Well, no more cranberries, at least for now.

A pile of homegrown cucumbers sitting in my home currently, a food high in salicylate that I can no longer tolerate.

Within the past month, yet another food chemical intolerance has threatened to ruin my food growing hobby once and for all. Sensitivity to salicylates (a natural food chemical in both cukes and cranberries, as well as most other fruits and veggies) has been making me sick, and I suspect this has been an on again, off again issue for many, many years.

And so I’m currently left with only a handful of fruits and veggies that are safe to eat in any quantity. I honestly don’t know whether to laugh or cry – most times I want to do both at the same time.

My “safe” fruits and veggies – well, if eaten in the allotted quantities – bok choy, napa cabbage, pumpkin, and pear.

Perhaps even more disheartening than losing additional food options, I feel that this latest development is threatening to take away my passion for growing food. Sure I can still garden for the pollinators, but – hey! – I want to garden for me too!

There’s something giving me hope though, and my food loving soul is praying for it to be a sort of gustatory and gardening savior. I’m talking about chayote.

Behold the glorious gourd!

Chayotes are low to medium oxalate (depending on serving size), low in salicylates, and – are they low in histamine? That I don’t know yet. (Luckily, addressing my other food chemical intolerances has improved my histamine tolerance, so I don’t have to worry about that so much anymore.) Apparently, chayotes are low FODMAP at a serving size of one half cup or less, making them safe for SIBO.

Chayote – I’m putting all my hope into you! Do you want to be the star of my garden next summer? Please say you do.

Meanwhile, I have never tasted this vegetable and have no idea whether I’ll enjoy it or not… but beggars can’t be choosers, and at this point, yes, I’m begging!

That’s why I bought a big box of chayotes, am going to cook some of them up, and if all goes well, will save some for turning into garden plants next summer. An article published in Mother Earth News is my guide for getting started on this venture.

My high desert climate is not highly conducive to growing chayotes. Our growing season is short – by the time it’s officially fall, I’m usually ensconced in warm layers of wool. That means that these gourds will be getting an early start indoors.

But I am perhaps getting ahead of myself – first, the taste test.

It turns out – chayotes are delicious!

Meanwhile, my existential journey into the meaning of self continues.

Does my experience show me there is some core at the center of my being that has nothing to do with my preferences or passions?

If my sense of self is tangled up in these impermanent things, how do I get to my deeper self? (Yes, I hear, you, it’s mediation, right? Or – there is no self???)

Perhaps I can find the answers at the center of a chayote pit.

Need more help with salicylate sensitivities? Here’s my list of resources.

4 thoughts on “Chayotes and Contemplating the Nature of the Self”

  1. This resonates so much. I couldn’t figure out all the “food issues” for years ! Especially with fruits and veggies!!
    Now histamine,gluten,oxalates, salicylates are big NO, NO’S
    Safe food list is tiny. Just planted my first chayote plant to see if it’s an option.

    1. Naomi, thanks for your comment. I’m giving chayotes my first try this year too. They looked great growing in the house but are not looking as happy outdoors. Meanwhile, everything else I planted from seed is thriving. It’s a learning experience! Please let me know how your chayotes do! And good luck nourishing yourself on this difficult diet.

  2. Omg, you just described my journey. Having to constantly release and realign. From gf to histamine and letting go of fermenting to letting go of foraging and herbals with oxalates to the newest salicylates. Everything I thought was good and healthy has been poisoning me.

    1. Hi Shana,
      Thanks for leaving your comment here – I’m sorry you are having to deal with these issues too. The reason I write about this here is because I know I’m not alone and there are others suffering with these same strange constellation of issues as well. At least we can offer each other support and share experiences. The psychological and emotional part of dealing with these issues is so incredibly hard! But having already gotten some improvement in my histamine issues, I’m determined to think that at least some of this will be temporary! I hope you’ll check back in here – I will be writing more about these issues and sharing what does and doesn’t work for me. Best of luck!

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