Thursday, July 7, 2016

Choko virtuoso

The humble choko, otherwise known as the Chayote, shares the same family as cucumbers, squash and melons. Choko tends to be loved by some people, hated by others, but mostly, ignored by the masses. That's because it's not a very exciting vegetable, despite its many benefits.

Sprouting choko for growing, not eating

It's major downside, is that it's quite bland in flavour. Plus it has a gummy resin, which dries on your skin, when peeling. Using kitchen gloves, avoids this problem, and the resin is harmless. Its just a nuisance to get off.

The upside of choko, outweighs these minor issues in comparison. As a crop, they're incredibly easy to grow. They tolerate drought, once established and will survive frost. They will die back, but regrow with the warm weather again. What's more, they are prolific producers.

Choko vine - 2014

It's an old tradition in Australia, to grow a choko vine, over the chicken coop. I've personally done this in the past, and regret having to remove the vine, when I renovated the chicken coop, back in 2015. They really help to cool the temperature down, for your chickens during summer. Plus its reminiscent of the jungle environment, where chickens originated from. So you will have some content chickens.

The very best asset of owning a choko vine however, is they're great at bulking up meals, for very little effort and cost.

Choko & fruit tart - 2012

I have made Choko & fruit tart before, and you couldn't tell it had choko in it. Because the beauty of having such a bland vegetable as choko, is how it will take the flavours of the dish, without imposing its own flavour. So it tastes, just like the sweetened apple and cinnamon, of the original recipe. The choko just makes your flavourful ingredients, stretch a little further. Very economical.

I've also made Choko Chutney (all choko) and Fruit chutney (substituting choko for other fruit). This relatively cheap condiment, substitutes tomato and barbeque sauce, on my meat dishes and fried eggs. It's spicier than barbecue sauce and you won't ever miss bland, tomato sauce again.

 A small selection of the single batch

Because your choko vines will bless you with so many fruit, you can make chutney quantities in bulk too. I regularly use it to flavour my curry and casserole dishes, without having to worry about what a 500ml bottle cost. Plus, I keep reusing the jars, by making preserves - so less waste to deal with.

The humble choko, deserves a revival in everyone's back yard. Just learn to appreciate its many qualities, rather than focusing on the minor downsides. If you want to learn how to stretch your pennies in meal planning, you simply have to grow a choko vine in your back yard.

Recently I made a curry, with choko. Remember the couple I told you about, a few days ago? This used some choko from their vines, which they kindly gifted.

Dinner recently

Can you see the choko, amongst the other vegetables? You won't taste it either, because it takes on the flavour of spicy curry. If you would like to know, how I made this curry, with a bunch of leftovers and some bad fruit, read on.


We always have leftover meat and vegetables from roast dinner. We like to make other meals with the leftovers - curry being my absolute favourite. Because you can get away with throwing almost anything in it, and still have it taste delicious. This is leftover lamb, pumpkin, sweet potato and carrot.

It's best if you can use the smaller, younger, chokos for cooking. As they have less sticky substances on them (you will need a rubber glove when peeling), and they're more tender. The ones we were gifted recently, were perfect.

Diced choko and onion

The larger your choko, try boiling the diced pieces in water for 20 minutes, before starting any cooking process with it. Because they are much tougher. I peeled my three small to medium sized chokos. They were diced slightly larger than the onion. Both went into the frying pan at the same time.

Frying choko and onion

Once the onion was brown, the choko had become a little more translucent. But its nowhere near cooked yet. Choko holds its form, extremely well and takes a great deal of overcooking to make it break up. I have yet to see that happen, I might add, and I've made a lot of chutney.

Next, chop the meat and leftover vegetables up, tossing them in the frying pan for a little bit. Add the curry powder (a heaped tablespoon and a bit - or whatever strength you like), some garlic and a can of coconut cream. You can use regular cream, if its all you have. I also use about a cup (250ml) of my home made, choko chutney. You can use whatever sauce/condiment preferences you have in the pantry. Leftover roasting juice and fat, can also be used instead, if you saved it from the night before.

My favourite curry though, are sweet curries. Which is why I always throw in some extra fruit. Even if it isn't particularly good fruit...

Funny fruit

This pear was starting to rot at the top. Once peeled and cut back however, it was mostly okay. I also put a banana or two in, plus a few handfuls of sultanas. This is my mother's recipe for curry, but really add whatever you need to use up. That's what leftovers are good for.

Ready to simmer

For a touch of fibre, I also add shredded coconut, as the final ingredient. And don't forget the frozen peas. Then you put the lid on, and let it simmer gently for about 45 minutes to an hour. The choko should be cooked and when you eat it, you won't be able to distinguish it from anything else in the pot. It's all curry, so its all good!

So attempt to track down a choko from a friendly neighbour, or just at the fruit store. Spring is only a few months away now. Once your choko sprouts, and the danger of frost is over, your fruit will be ready to go in the ground and smother whatever you plant it near. A trellis, chicken coop, fence or just a pile of garbage you want to hide for the season.

I'm making a new place for a choko, this spring, myself - thanks to our neighbours recent act of generosity.

Choko - a weird, but economical crop to grow for your family's table.


  1. I haven't eaten choko for years, Chris. There is something similar growing in the backyard but I don't think it is the real thing. If I ever get my new chicken coop I will grow a choko vine over it as you suggest.

    1. I know the plant you're thinking of. If it has milky sap, then its called a Moth Vine, or false choko. It's classified a weed. We have it here too. Not edible though.

      Chokos are better. ;)

  2. Reminds me of my Nan's prize winning apple pie that was 50% choko. I laughed at the pear....glad I am not the only person who uses spotted fruit, most would just hoik it out.

    1. I can't stand wasting fruit, so if we can't eat it, the chickens or worms do. ;)

      Your Nan sounds like a savvy cook. I bet her pies taste divine.

  3. Its definitely weird, but definitely useful. Ours have died back from frost, so I'll see them again next year. I was putting them in all our meals and the dog food! the chickens were helping themselves to any that they could reach. I was taking them to work and gave away several sprouted ones too.

    1. Great to see you can use them up in a practical, cost effective manner too. Also that you're sharing the sprouted ones around. Hopefully, someone else will get to grow them. :)

      Although, they tend to grow themselves. A true perennial plant.

  4. Choko? It looks very familiar, even though the name isn't. I wonder if I've seen it in the grocery store. I will have to look because it sounds like a very useful thing to grow.

    1. You said you have milder winters, in your part of the US, so the choko should grow for you. I lived in a cold climate, as a youngster, with winter regularly going as low as -2 Celcius (28 F). Very occasionally -4.

      Our choko vine would bounce back every year. Although it was also planted behind a tin shed, which probably helped with retaining heat.


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