DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS

DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS
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13 October 2011

Chokos ready to plant

There is no sitting on the fence when it comes to chokos in Australia, you either love them or hate them. I love them, but not to eat; we use choko vines for the shade they provide the chook house over summer. For those of you in other countries, chokos are chayote, christophine or vegetable pear. I think they're native to Mexico. They grow on a vine and put out thick lush growth, idea for shading a corrugated iron shed in the heat of summer. Of course they are grown for their fruit as well although they do have a reputation here as being bland and dull. It's like any squash I suppose, it depends on how you cook it and what you cook it with - it carries the flavours of other sweet or savoury foods very well.


About a month ago, I bought two healthy looking chokos  at the market in the hope they would sprout. Sure enough, they have, and soon they'll be planted out in the vegetable garden at the base of the fence near the chook shed.  Slowly buy surely, they'll creep up the fence, up the side of the shed and cover it by January. In Australia, chook sheds and choko vines go hand in hand. It's a good cheap way to provide shade in summer, you pull it out in winter and let the sun hit the shed, then replant again in spring.

I put both chokos in my fruit basket and let them sit on the bench to sprout at room temperature in their own time. You can see them above almost covered by tomatoes.

Here is an old Australian recipe for choko pie. This recipe was hand written and given to me by Curly - my daughter-in-law Cathy's father. Curly's a real bushy, as * fair dinkum as they come, so although I haven't made this pie myself, I have no doubt it's a winner.

*Fair dinkum - genuine

CHOKO PIE
(written in the pre-metric days)

Boil one large choko with no salt (till tender). Drain and mash.
Add ½ cup sugar, juice of one lemon and two tablespoons of custard powder.
Put into a cooked pastry case.

Topping

Mix 2oz (60 grams) melted butter together with 2 oz sugar, 4oz (115 grams) coconut. Sprinkle over choko mixture and bake in a moderate oven till cooked and brown - about 30 - 45 minutes.

I guess it would have been served in the old days with cream or ice cream.


Chokos sprout from the top of the vegetable and when you see the vine grow about 6 inches, it's ready to plant. Like any squash, it likes a rich well drained soil and plenty of organic fertiliser.

Do you eat chokos or do you use the vine like we do?  I wonder how people in other countries use this vegetable and if it's commonly grown. If you live outside Australia, I'd love to know how you use this vegetable.




67 comments:

  1. I live in the southeast USA and have never heard of a choko! Very interesting :)

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  2. Chokos? Never heard of them, I don't recognise them either...great name though!

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  3. You are just always teaching me new things. I'd never even heard of this plant before!

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  4. So weird: I continued on down my blog roll reading all the new posts and Goin' Off da Grid, Janice also posted about Chokos. So I guess today was the day I was going to learn about them one way or another!

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  5. I first tried this vegetable in the Caribbean where they were called christophene. They were simply sauteed in butter, but I loved their delicate flavor. When I returned from my vacation, I found they were available here and called chayote. I cut them in half and scooped out the seeds, then stuffed them with a savory stuffing and baked them. I live in the Northeastern US so I suspect they will not grow well in our short growing season.

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  6. Im not a huge fan of them, unless they do carry the flavour of something stronger after cooking. My Mother-In-Law has planted some this year and they grow very fast.Another hint to all the sneaky Mums out there trying to get kids to eat veggies. In an apple pie, put half apple,half choko and the kids (and you) will never know the difference! I will have to try your custard pie recipe too :)

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  7. I love chokos! My mother cut them into thick slices, boiled then in salted water and served them with a white sauce ... yum. My husband hates them so I haven't had one for years. I must remedy that!
    Seagreen

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  8. We had a choko vine in the backyard when I grew up, and chokos were often served up with dinner.
    Dad used to cut them into quarters and boil them and we'd eat them with a knob of butter. I loved them.

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  9. I have heard of Chayote and seen them in the market here in Sacramento California. Our climate is hot and dry during the summer, and I will give this a try next spring. I sadly don't have a chook house, but do have some areas that could use some quick growing vines for shade in the summer....ones that don't need a flame thrower to remove them!

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  10. I have to smile, I don't mind eating chokos, picked when young and tender, they go well in a stir fry, and the classic white sauce is also good. I planted one a few years ago, and it grew so vigorously and so wild, with so much fruit, that I just couldn't use it even with gallons of choko pickles! I'm sure 1 choko vine could feed the population of a small town, I eventually had to pull it out!

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  11. We grow ours to make choko pickles.

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  12. I'm in Florida and I know those as chayote squash. We had a vine years ago and it does make a great sun shade. I'm going to see if I can find another one and try growing one again. I'd like to try your recipe.

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  13. I love choko's but dh does no. I usually cook them in water then make a cheese sauce and put them into that. Yummo. I also (sneakily) add them to stir frys, soups, and stews. Guess who doesn't even know they are there.

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  14. Hi! We love chokos! My grandmother has a huge vine and gives us bags of them! They are so versatile - we even grate them into things!

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  15. As BLD mentioned, I did jsut post about them! We're starting to get our harvest here hopefully enough before the frost hits in Southern California. We eat them as we would a zucchini. Sauté them, boil them in soups, even pickle them. Very versatile. We even eat the tender shoots. The Thai call them "Dragon Whiskers" so that's what I call them and my son just loves eating them for the name-sake! Not that he has any aversion to eating veggies but, anything that helps encourage more veggie consumption is always good! We sauté the tender greens into stir-fries in an Asian flavored dish. I've read you can even eat the tubers(root) as well. Extremely hardy without any diseases! Love it!

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  16. Raw with a cream cheese dip, in curries, stir fries, lightly steamed with a little butter- yum, we all love them here! and they grew beautifully over the garden shed, intertwining with hibiscus and down over the fence to the neighbour- who fortunately doesn't mind!! Thanks Rhonda!

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  17. I'm not too keen on them by themselves but add them to most things and only this year made choko pickles for the first time. I must say, the cows and chooks will be getting less next season.

    I have a couple of vines but plan on planting out a couple more...we supply a few families with them.

    Barb.

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  18. Hi Rhonda,

    Just a quick comment on the house value posts. I've loved them and look forward to the next one. What on earth would I do without your blog! It's the grounding and connection that I need in my life. Thank you, you are a real gem.
    Vickixx

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  19. They are called chayote squash here. I grew them this summer. So far though no flowers or squash! I am enjoying the vines though and will try them again next year. Rhonda I do have a question. You said to plant them when the sprout is about 6" but do you bury the whole squash part of them and just leave the sprout vine out of the ground when planting? I planted mine with just the bottom tip of the squash in the ground and the new vine sprout growing upwards. Perhaps I planted them to shallow? How far apart should they be planted? I planted them where they would later in the summer, shade veggies that could use shade by then. Thank you. Sarah

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  20. As others have said, I love them, hubby does not! He says they don't taste like anything so why bother eating them...however I really, really like them, steamed with white sauce especially, but ever baked along with baked potatoes with a little salt is good. I am going to have to buy one and get a vine started.
    Hope you have a great day,
    Cassandra

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  21. We have an 8 yr old choko vine on the east side of the house that grows over the shed. We cut it back every year after fruiting and fertilize it with cow and horse manure at the beginning of each new season. We eat young chokos unpeeled, roasted or steamed, and use older ones for pickles, apple extender for pies and in soups and stews, cut small, as a thickener. There used to be an annual choko festival held at the local hall but with changes of committee and residents it's fallen by the way. Chokos are very popular where I live, particularly with the older residents, and we have no problems giving any excess away and often receive a lovely bottle of mustard choko pickles as thanks :).
    Cheers,
    Robyn

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  22. Hi Sarah, Hanno planted ours this morning. They're buried down to the tip. If you have a loo at the photo above, that yellow spot at the base of the shoot are roots. We plant so that bit is covered. That said, they're so easy to grow here, I think it you threw on into the garden it would probably strike. I would worry about yours, Sarah, they usually flower in autumn and spring so you might get your flowers, and chokos, soon. Good luck.

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  23. Wow I have never even heard of this plant. I love coming here I always learn something new. Thank you. B

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  24. What a clever thing to do...will the chooks eat the fruit? Never have eaten it myself yet either. With food allergies in the family however, sometimes we do try out other things. Thanks for the ideas!!
    Elizabeth in NC

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  25. ok this one's definately on my list. I have been pondering for a while but they will really help with shade for the girls in the summer AND on our east wall that heats up as well.

    If I haven't managed to get one to sit and sprout like yours, what's the next best way to get one or two started?

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  26. Elizabeth, yes, the chooks eat them.

    Kristy, we usually don't have a problem with them sprouting. Find some healthy looking ones, that feel heavy for their size. Leave them to sit for a while - this is their sprouting season so you might try your luck now.

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  27. We love them in a recipe we call "Healthy Veggie Fajitas". It's in a cookbook called "1001 Deliciouss Recipes for People with Diabetes" by Sue Spitler and Linda Yoakam. I also found a link for growing your own (in the California region), but I might try that next year here in the DC area. I'll let you know how it turns out! :) http://www.motherearthnews.com/Organic-Gardening/1980-11-01/Growing-Chayote-Vegetable-Pear.aspx

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  28. choko pickles and choko in cheese sauce! yum.

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  29. Oh! Now I see now how to plant them. Like you said, they seem to grow no matter what you do! :) I planted mine so that root area was touching the ground and the shoot naturally upward but did not bury the bulb part except enough to keep it in the ground. So I was planted sort of half laying down. I did not realize it needed covered it all up to the root! Mine have as I said, lots of vines and leaves and looks healthy! I will definitely try them again no matter how this first planting works out. . Thank you for answering me Rhonda. Sarah

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  30. Hi Rhonda,
    nobody knows this vegetable here in Germany, it doesn't grow here. But last year I was in the south of France and being a person who wants to try anything and everything, I bought this so called CHAYOTTE. Not knowing whether it's fruit or vegetable I just boiled them in water....it tasted like nothing, nothing at all.
    Maybe there is a french lady around to give us advice for cooking?
    Have a good time...Kind regards from Claudia
    BTW: It's getting really cold and wet here!

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  31. I really like chokos! I'd never had them (or heard of them) before I moved to New Zealand, but I think they're great if you want to bulk out a meal with something.

    I never knew chook sheds and chokos go hand in hand. I'll remember that for when we have chickens, one day!

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    1. Gday Gwen,I live in Australia and was raised on them and inturn raised my kids on them and now are all adults with kids;ALL can't wait to come to dinner and asked if we are having Chokos in white sauce.You cut them into strips then boil them, make a white sauce the old fashion way with butter and plenty of pepper and ad salt once made drain chokos and combine them into sauce and simmer for 15 mins.. you can bake with butter and pepper and garlic. In the 60s peaches and pears were hard to come by so everybody even canneries used chokos with those other fruits to bulk up their products.
      AS PEOPLE HAVE SAID CHOKOS TAKE ON THE FLAVOURS IN WHICH THEY ARE COOKED IN.

      One of the nicest ways is that you cook a piece of corned beef and chokos in white sauce a marriage made in heaven or I should say hell as it is so wicked HAHAH

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  32. I love chayote. My husband is from Central America and it is used frequently there. They use it in chicken soup, along with carrots, potatoes, celery, etc. I have had them cooked, sliced, stuffed with a cheese mixture, and then fried with an egg batter, like a chile relleno. I have also boiled them, cut them in half and then stuff them with a bread crumb, egg and cheese mixture, then bake. Also, just boiled as a side dish.

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  33. My neighbour has another vine starting on our mutual fenceline and although I've hated them since childhood, having been forced to eat the wretched things, I've discovered in my dotage I'm more open to trying things I avoided like the plague. I even tried them raw as my dear departed grandfather used to and found they were not awful as I'd imagined. Hers are white and I must say if the green ones are tasteless, these are even more so (is that possible?) and not so 'gluey' when you handle them. A Vietnamese friend advised me to saute the new shoots and I must say I enjoyed them.

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  34. We love chokos and both our families always had a vine. We eat them all the above ways but they are also delicious roasted, just put them in with your potato etc. next time you do a roast. Another family favourite was when we went to my husband's father's for a family BBQ the choko vine hung over the fence and one was pulled off, sliced thinly and put on the hot plate and fried. We would then sit around the barbie eating the choko slices while waiting for the meat to cook!

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  35. Have asked my partner to go to the Asian grocery store to get one for shooting as you don't see them around here in the fruit and vegie shops. I've heard the shoots are very tasty and chokos extend into Autumn when your zuchinni have disappeared. My partner's not a fan so I'm having a hard time convincing him.

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  36. This is my first time posting but I have been reading for quite some time. My Grandma used to have a Choko Vine and would make pickles. My sister has Grandmas recipe book with the hand written recipe(also in old school measures:

    Choko Pickles:
    3 lbs Chokos
    1.5 lbs onions
    1/2 cup salt
    1/4 cauliflower
    1-2 carrots
    water
    2 pints brown malt vinegar (1.2 ltr)
    2 lbs brown sugar
    1 dessertspoon tumeric
    1 dessertspoon dry mustard
    1 dessertspoon curry powder
    1/2 teaspoon ginger
    1 cup of plain flour.

    Peel chokos, cauli, onions and carrots. Chop into small pieces and place into large bowl. Sprinkle with salt, cover with water. Cover bowl and stand overnight. Drain veges (use pantyhose), rinse in cold water. Place 875ml vinegar and the sugar into a large pan, bring to the boil, add veges and bring to the boil again. Mix all dry ingredients to a paste with the remaining vinegar. Gradually add to vegie mixture. Stir constantly until mixture boils and thickens. Simmer for 10 minutes and pour into hot sterilised jars and seal.

    I have always wanted to try this recipe but have never been able to acquire the chokos. Vicki

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  37. Wow! The things I learn from your blog. I've never heard of chokos before, though I might be able to find them at the Asian shops here in London. I did a little research and the health benefits are astounding! Who knew such an ugly little vegetable could be so good for you! lol

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  38. In New Orleans, we called them melitons, real name miriltons, boiled first and then baked stuffed with shrimp and savory bread crumbs.

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  39. I love them boiled with some butter. As a child my mum always saved the heart for me (the white seed). Delicious.

    I wonder if they would grow in Darwin - I will look into it.

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  40. WOW - what an education you can get here for sure!

    I used chayote years ago cut into flatish cubes and added to an Asian stir fry. I assumed they only grew in Mexico, but maybe they would grow here too. I had no idea they were so versatile. I'm going to have to take notes.

    brenda from arkansas

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  41. Ewww, I hated them growing up, mum used to cook them in a white sauce and it would make me gag!
    Although my italian nonna-in-law sliced and fried them one day and I quite liked them....I'm too scared to make them for myself...but them again...maybe in a pie they'd be ok :)

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  42. Im from Haiti, where we call them militon. Living in New York we find them
    at the corner fruit and vegetable markets as cho cho or chayote. They are rather delicious. One of the many ways we use them is with beef or we put it in a vegetable stew that has stewed eggplant, cabbage, militon (chayote ) beef and beef bones, carrots, potato , and spices like cayenne pepper , thyme and a bit of salt. You can also just cook it simply with the beef and some spice . Both ways are topped over white or brown rice. Simply delicious and quite nutritious. And if you're a vegetarian like myself just omit the beef.

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  43. My grandmother used to make choko & apple pie - it was really nice

    I personally love this recipe for them http://www.sbs.com.au/food/recipe/8112/Choko_stir_fried_with_beef_and_garlic_(trai_su_xao_thit_bo)
    even my kids love it.

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  44. Hi Rhonda. In Portugal and Brazil it's known as chuchu. I've eaten it in stews and soups. I don't like its texture very much, so i think it's best in soups. Oh and in the Azores islands it's also known as caiotas....

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  45. Hi RJ
    I remember eating some when I lived in Queensland as everyone seemed to have them growing and were keen to give away the fruit. Will have to search out the asian grocers here in Adelaide. Can anyone tell me do you peel them before steaming or stir frying or just cut them up skin and all?

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  46. I haven't ever tasted them, but I'm thinking of planting one after seeing an episode of Gardening Australia - they attract all sorts of good insects apparently, like ladybugs... natural pest control!

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  47. Yum ! That must the the choko pie my grandma used to make thank you !!!

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  48. In Peru they are called Caigua Chileno and in the Dominican Republic they are known as tayota!
    I've enjoyed all the comments about this veggie!

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  49. I was sure I posted here yesterday, but can't seem to see it anywhere.
    Chokoes are delicious, halved, boiled until just tender, then sprinkled with chopped bacon and grated cheese, and popped under the grill until cheese melts. I love them any which-way, boiled with butter and pepper, baked with other vegies for a roast dinner. DH used to cut them into chips, dust with a little flour and deep fry them for our daughters. :)

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  50. We don't have them in the mainstream groceries in my part of Kansas, but I am willing to bet the Hispanic groceries have them. I will have to seek them out.

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  51. oh, this brought back memories! Of my Mum trying to get us to eat them & me refusing to (ungrateful teenagers!) & my sister once trying to be inventive & asking who would like to try choko wedges? (like potatoe wedges). I am definately goingt o try grrowing them in a pot on my verandah (apartment living). I think I'll skip the wedges & try some other recipes here. Thanks!
    Dee

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  52. domestic engineerFebruary 25, 2012 2:14 pm

    Love your article and pic. of your garden.
    1) How do u keep the weeds out of your garden?
    2) What is a chook shed?
    3) Is it necessary to peel the chayote before using it?
    4) Can you eat it raw?

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  53. Rhonda, I often come here for inspiration and to read abut your lovely way of living. I don't think I've posted many comments. Living in a big city working on a Corporate job that I love and being a lazy procrastinator, I don't do much of the things I want to and can. But I do try to incorporate simple things in our life to get closer to nature and ourselves by living chemical free and buying organic where needed and shopping second hand for clothes, cooking mostly at home and buying food, not food products etc.. etc, but still there's a v.e.r.y long way to go. I've attempted to garden in a miniscule scale as well and enjoy gardening.


    Your post on chaote squash made me smile. Being Indians (as in from India), we use chayote a lot. As a kid, I hated it, but now that I've found a way to cook it in a way I like,I've come to love them. In south India, it is often made as a lentil stew called kootu. but I like it even better as a stirfry - skin peeled, seed removed and chopped up into small cubes, I saute this 1 tbsp olive oil, add salt and red chilli powder, a pinch of tumeric.. that's about it. I cover it and let it cook and eat it when done. very simple and very tasty. You can also add curry powder or garam masala powder - just a tiny bit of either powder, not both.

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  54. Chokos are a food that very very few people have any intolerance or allergy to. Royal Prince Alfred Hospital Allergy Unit lists them as one of the foods to use when on their elimination diet

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  55. yum best way in our house peeled and quartered herbs and a little salt and cook with the other roast vegies ,you dont have to peel them ,but its easier with kids >>>fresh is best so grow your own cant beat them steamed is good to hmmm butter and salt or serve with corn
    Blue mountains Sydney

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  56. WOOOW!This is a very important vegetable in my country, Mauritius, it is very much loved, it is cook as a curry or just simpler fried or as we say "touffer".
    Reunion islanders (next to the island of Mauritius)also love them.it can be cook with the other Mauritian delicacy which is Poisson saler! (salted Fish) guests are serve food at Hindu weddings and Chouchoux or Choko (as it is known in Australia)is served as one of the vegetable it is a very cheap vegetable. It can also be cook in Gratin!!

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  57. If you are going to plant chokos, you must plant two at the same time otherwise they will not get cross pollinated and will not bear fruit.

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    1. I've only ever planted one and never had problems with pollination.

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  58. ive just put 2 chokos into the ground I forgot about them in my cupboard and they had about a 6inch vine growing out the top all a creamy white colour, well they are a nice green now and are growing fast and have curly little things on them , I love them I peel , then slice thickly , steam till tender and put a nob of butter on them and salt and plenty of pepper ......yummmmmm

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  59. I eat choko's this way , cut in half scoop out the centre , steam them till tender , while choko's are steaming , fry off some diced bacon and diced onion till onion is transparent add 1/8 minced garlic clove , take off heat...get chokos and fill hollow with bacon onion mixture , top this with tasty cheese and grill till cheese melts...yummy

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  60. in India chokos are more popular as squash.In fact my mominlaw introduced me to this tasty dish.
    I am now in Australia.We usually make curry with this, Indian style with potatoes and put all sorts of spices like red chilli ,coriander powder,cumin powder and then make a curry .
    Since chokos are bit hard so I pressure cook them to soften them.You can even add grated coconut to this dish.

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  61. My husband & I grew up in Sydney in the 70s with lush choko vines over our back fences. Many people here in Perth haven't heard of them. I pounce on them if I spot some at a small green grocer. Have 2 sprouting a.t.m. & hope to plant them today. :-)
    My mum used to put them in stews or to bulk out stewed apple. I love them as a roast veggie, or in Thai curry.
    We only get the big ones, so must be peeled. Watch out for the very sticky sap while peeling!

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  62. We use them in a soup called tinola. It's a Philippine dish. You can use chicken or pork and saute ginger, add spinach, and sayote (chayote) or what your call chokos into the soup and it's very tasty.

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  63. My grandma used to preserve them in a sugar syrup. Apparently during the war they couldn't afford pears and by preserving them halved that way they tasted like tinned pears. I grew up believing that's what i was eating until i found out all along it was choko.

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  64. Put a choko in wetnewspaper throw it into a blackberry bush it will grow and kill the blackberry bush

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  65. I used to despise them when I was a child but now a love them and would eat them daily if I could. I steam them, sliced quite thin, bake/roast them and add to soups or casseroles or curries.They go beautifully, par boiled and added to cauliflower in the oven with a little cheese over them. I believe that the shoots are good in stir fries or even salads. I find them very calming to the gut. They are so bountiful and grow so well and here in Queensland seem to have no pests. All hale the choko.

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