At last - Chokoes!

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It is a funny thing but it was only last week that I realised that even though the choko is the mascot for this site, I didn’t have an article on them. So I decided to correct that situation immediately, and here is the result –

From this year's harvest

The Choko (Sechium Edule) is also known as the chayote or alligator pear overseas, but here is the beloved choko, a vigorous but frost tender vine that is traditionally grown over that icon of a bygone Australia, the outhouse or dunny. Once upon a time many families grew choko vines but they seem to have lost favour with the younger generation, perhaps due to their bland flavour or slimy texture when peeled.

To grow your own choko vine either buy a choko fruit or get hold of one from a friend and keep it inside in a well lit area until a sprout emerges from the wide end of the fruit. Bury the fruit on its side with the sprout poking out next to a plant or structure that the vine can grow up and over. If you are short of outhouses then you can use a tree as we do or grow it up over a fence, garage or shed. Be careful when training the vine over a metal shed  or garage roof, the hot summer sun can heat up the underlying metal and fry the vine before you even get a choko from it.

a choko showing the vine starting to emerge

The choko vine will swarm up over just about anything and it will fruit in late summer to autumn very prolifically so unless your want to corner the market in chokoes or perhaps turn them into choko wine, one vine will feed the biggest family. The vine is frost tender and will die off during the winter in areas that are not frost free, but will sprout again from the root next spring. The plant does produce a thick juicy white fleshed root that I have read is also edible, although I have not tried it myself.

They do not require much care, some well rotted manure or compost worked in around the roots each spring will be enough to guarantee a good harvest. I have not seen any pests or diseases that are so presumptuous as to attack the mighty choko, so it is a feed that requires very little effort to produce.

Chokoes can be baked, boiled or steamed; added to soups, casseroles or stews and although I have never tried them mashed you can do almost anything with them that you do with a potato. Chokoes are best when green and about 5 to 7 centimetres long because they tend to lose what flavour they have over that size. They also need to be peeled before cooking or the skin becomes quite tough and unappetising. The exception to this rule is if you pick them when they are less than five centimetres long and stir fry them whole, they have a delightfully nutty taste and wonderful texture. It is impossible to buy them commercially at this size so that should be reason enough to have your own vine. Chokoes can also be used to replace some of the apples in apple pies because they do tend to take on the flavour of other ingredients that they are cooked with.

All in all the choko is a worthwhile plant if you want the fruit or the shade that the vine provides, they are easy to grow and produce prolifically, so get hold of one and give growing them a go – and think of our website every time you eat a choko!

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