Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Growing and eating chokos (chayotes)

Cooking chokos (not be confused with another post about cooking chooks) has been the subject of a few questions on my blog lately, so here's some more information for you.

 A choko on the vine
Chokos - also known as Chayote, christophene or christophine, cho-cho, mirliton or merleton, chuchu, Cidra, Guatila, Centinarja, Pipinola, pear squash, vegetable pear, chouchoute, güisquil, Labu Siam, Ishkus or Chowchow, Pataste, Tayota, Sayote - is a vine belonging to the Cucurbitaceae family, along with pumpkins, squash and melons, with the botanical name Sechium edule.

The choko vine growing over the garden fence
Leaving chokos out to sprout
Here's one that started sprouting in the kitchen,
the others have been outside, but starting to sprout slowly
This is how I plant them, I don't know if its right, but it works.

The choko contains a large seed, like a mango, but if you pick them small enough it is soft enough to eat.  If you leave the choko for long enough it will sprout from one end and start to grow a vine.  To grow the choko, just plant the sprouted choko and give the vine a structure to climb over.  In summer, the vine will produce tiny flowers that will eventually swell into choko fruit.  The vine doesn't like hot dry weather.  And it doesn't like frost either.  Its a little fussy, but when the conditions are right, it will produce copious amounts, so you probably only need one vine unless you really like chokos.

Choko flowers
Double choko!
Actually we don't particularly like chokos.  They don't really have much of a taste and just a mushy texture.  They are ok mixed into casserole or curry, or steamed with other vegetables, or cooked in butter and garlic (I don't peel chokos before I cook them, I just slice them thinly.).  We eat them when they appear in the garden, but we don't love them.  Cheryl the dog does love them and the cattle and chickens eat them too.  We grow them because we value diversity in the garden, and plants that produce a large amount of food for us and animals in a small space.  Chokos have their place in our garden, but I'm glad we don't have to survive on them!

chopped choko - I don't peel them and the seed is soft, so doesn't
have to be removed either - now just steam or sautee
Do you eat and/or grow chokos?  Do you love them?


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16 comments:

  1. This is one of our favourite entrees. Picked small as you said which saves having to peel or remove the seed then lightly steamed so they are cooked through but don't go mushy. Then lashings of Butter or Olive Oil and coarsely ground Pepper and a sprinkle of salt. Love them, can't get enough.

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  2. Choko in white cheese sauce with cauliflower - a taste sensation!

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  3. mmm memories of every backyard fence covered in a choko vine, not a big fan unless used as a filler in an apple pie. i do like the idea as a stock feed.

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  4. We use ours as a desert filler and its really nice. Choko is very bland, but it carries other flavours well. Here's a link to Annette McFarlane's recipe section and check out the Choko section:

    http://www.annettemcfarlane.com/Recipes.htm

    We've made Choko Pears and it was beautiful. Another time I made the same recipe, only added some coco powder and we had Chocolate Choko Pears. Yummy eaten with a serving of custard too.

    I also like to make sweet choko chutney, which is really nice to make curry with or used to flavour meats in a sandwich or just on top of a hot chop. I have memories of our choko vine as a kid and mum making her annual choko chutney, which I loved having on my sandwiches for school. So I keep the tradition going, even if we waste more choko than we eat.

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  5. Jerry Colby Williams called chokos the Sydney airport for lady beetles so I'm keen to grow one to see how many lady beetles I can attract.

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  6. What a funny post.... You are growing them but don't really like them. Chooks were around when we were kids but not something I see on menu's in 2014 on a kids plate. The only time I have bought chooks was to make a Thai curry out of the "Simply Too Good To Br True" cookbook by Annette symme (? Last name spelling). (That's "be" not Br in the title). Like you say I put it in because it was a vegetable but didn't add to the taste or flavour of the dish. Regards Kathy A, Brisbane

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  7. Not seen any lady beetles (ladybirds?) on mine, yet.
    Now Choko when picked around half-size (a couple of inches long) is so sweet is it astonishing. Could this be the same fruit which when picked big and prickly is so bland as to be inedible? Yep!
    The growing tips are delicious too - pick up to the first pair of leaves, chop and stir-fry or include with other steamed veges. That pruning reduces the amount of fruit, too.
    I usually cut the fruit into two or 4 slices and just lightly fry - Okra is scrumptious this way too - they are fine baked as well. *But they must be small to get that sweet flavour*!
    I only wash mine, never peel. The seed even when bigger is nutty and sweet, never waste the seed!
    Your'e right Liz, they don't dig the cold or dry but add some water now and then and fertilise with excess stems (self-fertilising, I do that with Asparagus too) add a handful of compost or organic fertiliser and you've got a very efficient vine. Mine grows on the western side and is subject to cold dry winds at times but it is a tough hombre. We cut it down a month ago, it has several thick stems and is re-shooting already. I think it is sub-tropical (I am coastal SE Qld) and my Dad grew it in Sydney.

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  8. We love choko, and cannot grow the things successfully. We eat them steamed with butter and a good sprinkle of pepper.

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  9. Oh man, I am having flashbacks of being back in Puerto Rico where I grew up. We eat chayotes a lot, although our are white. The best way we like them is stuffed (as you would stuff an acorn squash). Delicious!

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  10. Hello! I have been reading your blog for a while, but never commented. I was recently given some chokos, and had never used them before, remembered you had written about them. We tried them in butter and have similar feelings about them as you. Was wondering about using them as chook food tho. Do you just give them to them whole? Thanks. Frankie.

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    1. Hi Frankie! I find you have to cut them at least in half to get the chickens interested. After a few chokos they might take the initiative and peck at whole chokos, but they seem to be slow to try new things. For cows you have to cut them smaller so they don't choke (on the chokos). I hope that helps!

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  11. i love chokos but they don't seem to want to grow here, i grew up on them as a kid & remember the vine/s sprawling over the fences
    i have another one started so will keep trying to get them to grow
    good post
    thanx for sharing

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  12. My choko grows many tiny chokos about the size of almond in Melbourne. But they all dried out and none of them swell to bigger fruit. Do I need to trim the vine or the plant is not mature enough to bear fruit? The plant is about 4 months old now and vines already cover 3 meter fences

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    1. @Alwin Chen Chokos need root system to develop same like pumpkin and squash before they can deliver nutrients to the fruit.If your soil is clay or any arid soil you need to rise it in mound above ground to avoid water log and put lot of cow manure or decomposed sea weed compost also.Remember clay soil is full of concentrated nutrients ,but when clay dries it shrinks and break the roots,also it water logs no drainage causing root rot during heavy rain.By all means dry clay soil then pulverize it and use it as fertilizer mixed with ag lime dolomite and gypsum.You will have chokos that you wont know what to do with them.Note that clay is also good in emergency when people get lost in wilderness no food,dig deep find clean clay and eat it,full of minerals and trace elements.After all Adam was made from clay.I let my chokos to grow free but you have to feed them every few weeks to support all this fruit and regular watering.In restricted area you can prune them.

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  13. Mine grow the vine first and take over the place then on the first day of autumn they seem to remember what they are there for and hundreds of little flowers to make the bees happy, and then the fruit, ready for picking within the month. [Mar] Which is fine unless my area has an early frost and its all one big gooey mess to look at. I just shake in a bag with some salt/pepper and a dash of oil and allow the extra fluid to drain as a marinade after slicing thinly, then quick fry as a soggy chip, a bland yummy I guess.

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  14. Ive just started using chokos because I found a smooth skinned one growing wild. Surprising how sweet and delicious they are on their own or with a little butter and salt. They absorb other flavors well andsuch as cheese galic or soy sauce. I just lightly fry mine because I like them a bit crunchy. Good to know the seeds, leaf tips and tendrils can be eaten as well.

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Thanks, I appreciate all your comments, suggestions and questions, if you need me to reply personally to a question, please leave your email address in the comment or in your profile, or email me directly on eight.acres.liz at gmail.com

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