The Choko – An Old Veggie Making a Come Back in Spring 2014
In our Spring 2014 Newsletter I made a brief mention that the humble Choko was making a comeback. Well I thought this amazing veggie needed a bit more said about it and how easy it is to grow and how versatile it is to cook with.
I believe the poor old Choko has unfairly inherited a bad reputation, mainly because of how our grandmother use to cook it. Like many veggies, they would simply boil the life out of it and slop it on a plate, but this really does not do it justice and the Choko deserves a second chance at winning our taste buds over.
I would like to give you a few interesting facts first to help you understand just how misunderstood and underappreciated this little veggie really is. The Choko is a green vegetable of the gourd family and is originally from Mexico where it is called a Chayote. It is a good source of amino acids and vitamin C. It has many medicinal purposes: the leaves have diuretic and anti-inflammatory properties and tea made from the leaves can be used to treat hypertension and also assist in the dissolving of kidney stones. Most people are aware the fruit can be eaten, but they often don’t realize the roots, stems and leaves are edible too. The tubers (root) can be eaten just like potatoes or other root veggies, and the shoots and leaves are fantastic in salads and stir fry’s.
The best thing is that you can grow this amazing plant in your back yard and you don’t even need a green thumb, it really is the easiest plant you will ever grow.
Establishing a new plant is easy, just stop in at the local fruit and veg shop and buy a Choko. Allow it to mature in a warm spot until a young shoot can be seen sprouting from the end, it’s best if the sprout is about 6 cms. Once you have your well sprouting Choko take it out to the yard and place it in a small hole in the soil. You need to leave about half poking out of the soil, especially the bit with the shoot pointing out. Don’t burry it completely or it will rot.
One important thing to remember is Choko’s climb; so planting them at the base of a fence and running some chicken wire along the fence is a good way to go. Make sure your fence is sturdy. Once you have a fully grown Choko vine with stems, leaves and fruit they can be quite heavy.
Once planted you can pretty much forget about it. Just give it a water now and again if conditions are dry. It will start to flower in summer and you should have fruit for autumn. After the fruiting season, cut your plant back to about 4 or 5 vines so it’s ready to grow again in Spring. Your Choko plant should be highly productive for about 4 – 5 years, then just pull it up, eat the tuber and start the process again.
Now that you know the facts about the Choko and how to grow it, I guess I should give you a couple of ideas on how to cook it. Otherwise you might boil it like grandma and that would be a complete disaster.
Just a quick note: It’s best to wear a pair of kitchen gloves when peeling Choko as they can have a sticky sap just under the skin which can irritate some hands.
- 6 x Choko’s
- 2 Tablespoons finely chopped fresh Thyme
- 2 Tablespoons garlic (crushed)
- 2 Tablespoons Dijon Mustard
- Salth & Pepper to Taste
- 100 gms of butter
- 100 gms of all-purpose flour or gluten free alternative
- 800mls milk
- 2oo gms grated Gruyère cheese
- 1 cup bread crumbs or gluten free alternative (I use rice crumbs)
- 4 Choko’s
- ½ cup Lemon Juice
- ½ cup Muscovado or brown sugar
- 1 Tablespoon vanilla essence
- 4-5 threads of Saffron
1. Preheat oven to 200°c
2. Peel the Choko and remove the seed and cut into quarter’s length ways
3. Steam the Choko’s for about 30 mins, they should still be firm but no longer crunchy.
4. While they are steaming make the Béchamel
5. Make a roux by melting the butter in a saucepan to the noisette (nut brown butter) add the flour and mix, it is important to cook the flour out for 3-5 mins
6. Take 800 mls of milk, and slowly add to the pan, make sure you keep stirring
7. Add salt, pepper, mustard, garlic, thyme and Gruyère cheese
8. Evenly spread the Choko’s over the bottom of an oven proof baking dish
9. Pour Béchamel over the Choko’s
10. Sprinkle bread crumbs over the top and place in the oven
11. Bake for 1hr or until top is golden brown.
Serve as an accompaniment to your favourite protein, I think they work perfectly with Chicken Kiev’s.
Saffron Dessert Chokoes
In days gone by, Choko’s were used as a substitute for stewed apples or pears but they are wonderful as a dessert in their own right.
- Peel, seed and quarter the Choko’s
- In a saucepan add about ½ litre of water and bring to a simmer
- Dissolve the sugar and then add, lemon juice, vanilla essence and saffron threads
- Place Choko’s into the poaching liquid and simmer on a low to medium heat for about 20mins or until the Choko’s are soft but still holding their shape. You should be able to slice them easily with a spoon
- Remove Choko’s from the poaching liquid and place in a bowl to the side cover with alfoil to keep them warm
- Turn the temperature up to high and reduce the poaching liquid until it is at a sticky sauce consistency
- Place Choko’s into serving bowls (approximately 4 serves) pour over the poaching liquid and some homemade custard or Vanilla ice cream and you will have the best stewed fruit you have ever tasted. They are truly delicious!
Cooks Note: The lemon removes the vegetable flavour, while the vanilla and sugar are absorbed into the fruit for a beautiful flavour. The saffron gives the Choko a beautiful golden glow.