Botanical Name: Sechium edule
Some other names: Chayote, Alligator pear, vegetable pear, christophene, citrayota
How to grow it: Choko is a sprawling, hardy perennial vine to several metres that will happily climb fences, trellises & other vegetation. It is usually grown for it’s fruit, but all parts of the plant are edible making it a very useful plant.
It’s grown very successfully in the sub-tropics/tropics where it’s warm season growth can be quite massive – invasive if it isn’t given the room. In cooler climates, it will die back in cooler weather and won’t tolerate heavy frosts. May need to be treated as an annual in these climates.
It’s fairly hardy overall, but will do much better in moist well drained soils. It’s roots might rot in heavier soils. Needs full sun for best results.
The easiest way to propogate Choko is to bury a fruit in the ground in spring. It strikes very easily as you’ll notice from any fruit that falls to ground – they’ll start growing with almost 100% success. Tip cuttings in spring also work well.
Not a great plant for pots – unless you want growing tips and tendrils for your stir-fries. Plant 2-3 fruits in a pot and cover with mulch. Then harvest the shoots & tendrils very regularly to keep the plants under control.
Nutrition: Choko is an excellent source of Vitamin C, and has good levels of Vitamin B, zinc, copper, manganese, and potassium.
Using it in the kitchen:
Choko is an amazing food plant. Most people are aware that fruits can be eaten, which in season are abundant. Try eating the smaller fruits chopped in salads and stirfries. Larger fruits are great quartereed and baked, as well as added to curries, soups, and casseroles.
What people aren’t so aware of is that the plant is a bountiful source of shoots and tendrils which are highly nutritious in salads and stir fries or even sandwiches. Any shoots that snap off will be tender and added at the last minute, have a great texture in stir fries.
Tubers can also be harvested in the dormant season and used the same as yam or potatoes.
Seeds have a nutty flavour and can be eaten fresh or roasted.
Chokos are a great plant to grow over the chooks run to provide shade, protection and a regular supply of fresh greens.
The prolific leaf growth can be cut back several times during the growing season and used as mulch – this will encourage growth of new shoots for use in cooking.
Choko is an excellent survival plant as it’s easy to grow, prolific, and the entire plant can be used as food.