How to Grow Your Own Choko (Chayote)
Chokos are very prolific and easy to grow in home gardens. First, you will need to buy a choko if you want to grow one. Select a healthy looking choko that is smooth and free of blemishes, dents or cuts. As a guide, a fresh choko is hard and green in colour, a rotten one will be soft and brown.
Do not plant the choko immediately but leave it in a dark place, like at the back of a closet with some ventilation or under the kitchen sink, until it sprouts.
When it has sprouted to about 7cm, bring it outside after the last frosts and find a sunny location. Dig a hole where the choko is to be planted. Add some organic fertilizer or manure to the soil. Place the choko in the soil with the sprout sticking above the soil. Do not cover the sprouting bit. Give it a good watering and leave it to grow. Remember to water it when the soil looks dry.
The choko plant will need space to grow and support to climb onto, like along fences, trellises, pergolas or up a tree. Some of the vines will start to spread everywhere, including going over the fence to your neighbour's garden. You might want to train some of the vines and secure them to the fence or trellis to keep the vines under control.
Flowers will start to appear in summer and fruits will form. By autumn, the fruits should be big enough to harvest. One choko plant is enough for the backyard because one choko plant can produce several hundred fruits during the growing season. After the fruiting season, cut back the choko vines to four or five short vines to grow for the next season.
Chokos are best picked when they are young because they are more tender and can be eaten with their skin on. The skin of the chokos tends to toughen as the fruits grow bigger. The skin releases sap when it is peeled and this sap makes the chokos rather slippery to handle. In addition, when the sap sticks to the fingers, it is annoying and rather difficult to wash off.
Chokos can be eaten boiled, stir fried, baked, steamed and pickled.
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