One of our most frequent email topics is about chokos.  Here is a recent one from Tim;

 Hi Karen,

Just letting you know that the choko you gave me around 1.5 years ago has been very productive this year, we’re getting up towards 300 chokos, enjoying them and giving many to friends!

Thanks for sharing it. I remember you said it would be a long and faithful friend!

Are there any tricks to propagating them? My mum would like one.  I remember you had some sprouty ones around November but they were no longer good so you gave me one you’d put in a pot.

Thanks again,

choko sprout

 Hi Tim,

Thanks for the email, my plant is coming to the end of its life as it’s probably more than 7 years old, I’ve lost track! 

It still produces easily 100 or so fruits and I really do nothing for it besides prune the old growth to the ground in spring when the new growth appears and occasionally water it on a very hot day.

I do have clay soil which holds nutrients well so this is an advantage. 

Chokos are super easy to propagate. Select 2-3 good sized fruits, making sure they don’t have too many spines on the outside, as Chokos can have spines in the fruit, some more pronounced than others and you don’t want to be selecting for that characteristic. Simply leave the fruits on an outdoor table close to your front or back door, with the hope that rats won’t target them as they would if they were further away.

As the weather warms, they will sprout ready to grow into plants. By keeping 2-3, at least one should develop a strong sprout and it gives you a back up should snails discover the tender shoots. 

Once they are around 150-200 mm long, you can plant the Choko into the ground where you want it to grow. 

Make sure to provide a strong metal mesh trellis, as Chokos will grow easily to 3 m high and 6 m wide. 

I hope your plant continues to produce well for you and you have an abundant harvest to share!

Cheers Karen

Choko Flowers & Pollination

We recently had a question from another choko enthusiast who is experiencing difficulty getting their 2 year old choko vine to fruit in Fawkner!

I would have expected your plant to have some fruit this year, after establishing for a year or so in your garden.  Choko vines love sunshine and warmth, the recent cold weather in Melbourne may now be inhibiting fruit set.

Do you have bees in your garden? Bees love choko flowers, and seem to do most of the pollinating on mine. You could try some hand pollinating with a small paintbrush. Look for flowers with yellow pollen on them (male flowers), and touch them gently with the paintbrush to pick up some pollen, then transfer that to a flower that doesn’t have pollen (female flower). 

Choko are a type of curcurbit vine, related to pumpkins and zucchini’s, they all have female and male flowers, but the choko flowers are so small they are easily overlooked.  You can see how small the female flower is in the picture below.  Note the small bump behind the female flower, this will develop into a choko when it is pollinated. 

Female choko flower
A pair of female and male choko flowers

Tiny choko with a male  flower on the right hand side

small unripe choko

Successfully pollinated!  This photo shows the  choko with male flower on the left hand side.  In Melbourne’s winter this perennial vine will die down, re-sprouting in springtime.  

One of the great ‘survival foods’. I get more than 100 of these ‘winter zucchinis’ from my 5 year old vine over the next 3 months. That’s about 1 Choko per day for the girls and plenty for me to eat and swap with those who sadly don’t have a Choko plant.  I use the soft shoots and tendrils for stir-fries, the fruits in winter as a zucchini substitute and also take them to food swaps, where a big bag of chokoes can miraculously turn into home-made jam. It produces about 100 fruit per year, from late autumn onwards – a true survival food plant!  

The humble Choko (Sechium edule) often gets a bad rap – really what’s there not to like about a plant that’s really productive with so little care? Chokos in Melbourne are a lot easier to love than in warmer climates, as we only have a short season.  Chokos fruit started to appear on my triffid like vine, and they will do so for at least 3 months, just long enough fro me and all those I will share the with to become pretty tired of them! In the meantime, here’s some recipe suggestions for this ‘survival’ food.

 

Choko Recipes

  1.  ‘Stir fry replacement for water chestnuts’ – peel, thinly slice and add to stir fries, with lots of garlic and ginger. The Choko adds an amazing crunchy texture and are so much easier to grow than water chestnuts!
  2. ‘I don’t have enough vegetables to put into this pasta sauce’ – peel, cut into chunks, steam and add to pasta sauces as a filler
  3. ‘Winter Zucchini Fritters ‘ – peel, grate and mix with finely chopped spring onion and garlic, flour, egg and milk and lots of your favourite herbs, salt & pepper and grated cheese. Form into fritters and fry in a pan with olive oil. Serve hot with a tasty homemade relish or pack in your lunchbox for the next day.
  4. ‘Something Stodgy and Delicious’ – peel, slice thickly and dip slices into a batter (flour, milk and egg, salt and pepper). Fry slices in pan with olive oil and eat hot straight away or cold the next day.
  5. ‘Easy Roasted’ Peel, cut into large chunks and include with roasted vegies or with roast meat. 

Choko fruit on the vine

Check out my YouTube to see some more of my garden and gardening adventures!  

Perennial winter harvest choko kiwi fruit tamarillo yacon avacado chili

Winter harvest from my backyard, tamarillo, avacado, kiwi fruit, choko, yacon, perennial chili, babaco #melbourne #backyardfood  #urbanfoodgrowing  #chokopollination #chokoflower #choko #growyourown #chokorecipe