Nurturing Choko Vines: A Guide to Growing them from the Fruit
The choko or chayote (Sechium edule) is a vigorous, herbaceous perennial vine from the Cucurbitaceae (gourd or cucumber) family, that originates from Central America, but is now cultivated in various regions of the globe.
Choko fruit are pale green in hue and display a range of shapes and sizes, resembling a squash that is either mango-shaped or pear-shaped and partially flattened, with a shallow to deep dent or crease at the base.
The vines possess coarse textured, somewhat lobed leaves with 3-5 angular lobes, which is a distinctive characteristic of the cucurbits.
The fruit contains a sole large seed, which exhibits viviparous traits, signifying that the seed will germinate and sprout within the fruit upon reaching maturity, regardless of whether it remains attached to the plant or rests on a kitchen counter. Choko vines likely lost their dormancy mechanism during the process of being domesticated and cultivated.
The choko (chayote) fruit has a relatively insipid taste, with a flavor profile described as that of a mild squash with a tinge of cucumber, and a crunchy texture. They can be consumed raw in salads and can also be cooked. Chokoes contain vitamin C and dietary fiber, and they are low in fat.
Every component of the plant is edible, including the roots, stems, seeds, and leaves. Furthermore, the leaves and fruit are also utilized for medicinal purposes.
How to Multiply Choko VinesChoko vines can readily be multiplied from a mature sprouting fruit during the late winter and spring seasons. The plants will grow vigorously throughout the summer and yield fruit in the autumn and winter, when other fresh fruiting vegetables are scarce.
The Choko fruit are utilized for propagation and can be acquired inexpensively from markets and greengrocers.
Step 1. Place Choko fruit on kitchen counter in well-lit spot. Choko propagation is a straightforward process. Just position a store-bought Choko fruit on the kitchen counter in a well-lit spot where it receives some natural light, maintain room temperature, and wait for it to produce a green sprout. It should take approximately two weeks to sprout. The fruit will slightly shrivel as it loses moisture, and the sprout emerges.
Do not position the Choko fruit too close to a window as it may become excessively hot and quickly dry out.
A Choko left on the kitchen counter in a well-lit spot will eventually sprout a vigorously growing sprout from the broader end of the fruit.Step 2. Plant sprouted Choko fruit into pot or into the soil. After the Choko fruit has sprouted, it is ready to be planted.
Planting in a pot – If the Choko is to be planted in a pot, a pot of 20cm (8″) wide or larger will be required to start with. As the plant grows, it will need to be transferred to a larger pot, such as a 30cm (12″) pot or larger.
Planting in the soil – If planting the Choko directly into the garden, choose a location with well-draining soil in full sunlight. Incorporating some compost into the planting hole will enhance drainage in heavy soils and improve water and nutrient retention in fast-draining sandy soils. Add some manure into the soil to provide additional nutrients for robust plant growth.
To cultivate a Choko vine in a pot, a sprouted Choko fruit and a pot of potting mix are all that is required. Plant the entire Choko fruit into the pot of potting mix or into the soil, with the tip of the sprouting end of the fruit slightly exposed and the sprout pointing upwards.
Sow the germinated choko leaving a small portion of the tip of the fruit exposed. If the shoot is curved to one side, that's acceptable as it will straighten naturally as it progresses towards the light.
When cultivating chokoes in containers, position them in a spot with ample sunlight, as choko vines require abundant sunshine to thrive.
After a few days, foliage will emerge, and the vine will initiate its growth.
Choko shoot will develop to form the stem of the plant, and young leaves will commence their emergenceStep 3. Construct a support trellis or frame for the plant to ascend. Provide the choko vine with some type of support, and it will require a structure to coil its tendril around and ascend, akin to a cucumber.
Choko vine in a container (far left) flourishing against a wall and ascending using support. At the very least, a wooden tomato stake or a vertical support will offer the plant something to cling to while growing upwards.
An interlaced panel, wire reinforcements or a barrier, any construction will suffice.
When cultivating choko vines in the soil, ensure ample space is given as they will grow rapidly.
Spreading Choko Vines from ClippingsIf choko fruit is unavailable for propagation, stem clippings from choko vines can serve as substitutes.
- Cut segments of stem measuring 15-20 cm (6-8″) in length with 2-4 nodes from mature stems.
- Eradicate all the leaves and plant the clippings in a slanted or horizontal position.
- Position the containers holding the clippings in a shaded area and keep them moist.
Clippings cultivated in containers will establish a healthy root system after 1-2 months and will be ready for transplantation.
Remember that it is impossible to dry and utilize choko seeds to grow new plants.
Caring for a Choko VineChokoes are vigorous, perennial vines that thrive easily in mild, frost-free climates. Frosts cause the vines to die off.
These rampant vines necessitate ample space for growth and a support structure to climb on, while the vine will take care of the rest! Choko vines can be cultivated to cover a trellis, arbor, or fence, or used as a rapidly growing ground cover. They are capable of quickly enveloping a substantial structure, such as a fence or shed, within a single growing season.
In commercial cultivation, the vines are grown on trellises positioned slightly above head height, allowing for easy passage beneath the vines and harvest of the fruit dangling below.
Chokoes possess slender, branching stems with clinging tendrils that entwine around any available support to aid the vines' growth potential, reaching lengths of up to 10m (30 feet). It is imperative to prevent them from climbing into trees, as they will continue to grow until they reach the canopy tops!
The growth requirements for a choko vine include:
- Full exposure to sunlight or partial shade
- Well-drained soil in the garden or high-quality potting mix in a container
- Regular watering
They are capable of thriving in temperate, subtropical, tropical, and arid climates, with a harvest-ready period of 18-20 weeks after planting. In significantly colder temperate climates, they can be grown as annuals and require replanting each year.
Fruit production thrives when nighttime temperatures range from 5-20°C (59-68°F).
A choko vine yields 25 to 100 fruits, averaging approximately 0.5kg (1 lb.) each. Since chokoes are self-pollinating, only one vine is needed to provide an abundant supply of fruit.
Pair of vines will generate every single fruit a household can potentially utilize.
Just like all other members of the cucurbit (cucumber) family, the identical plant will produce both male and female flowers. These pale to greenish flowers are pollinated by bees, and the vines bloom continuously, providing a sufficient nectar source for the bees. The pollinated female flowers form the fruit which ripen in 30-35 days.
- In moderate climates, in winter the vines will wither to the ground and re-emerge once more in spring. Take down the dried vines and add them to the compost or spread them around the roots as a mulch.
- In warmer climates, in winter, trim the vines back leaving two to four young shoots which will grow to yield the crop in the following season.
The vines remain productive for 3-5 years, and new ones can be started from harvested choko fruit.
How to Utilize Choko (Chayote) FruitPicking – When selecting choko fruit, choose smooth fruit that aren’t wrinkled and feel heavy for their size, as these have greater moisture content inside. When fruit are very wrinkled, it’s an indication that they’re too old and will tend to be dry and tough on the inside.
Preservation – To preserve choko fruit, keep them refrigerated in a plastic bag which maintains the humidity to prevent them from shriveling. for many days or even weeks.
Culinary Use– All parts of the plant are edible, the roots, stems, seeds and leaves.
The choko fruit are utilized like a vegetable, and as mentioned earlier, the flavor is akin to mild squash with a cucumber-like mild, cool, and slightly sweet taste with a crispy texture.
Due to their mild taste, they are a versatile cooking ingredient as then usually take on the flavors of the other ingredients used in a dish and add some texture. They can be eaten raw in salads much like a cucumber, or they can be cooked. Older choko fruit can be steamed or stir fried.
It’s also possible to use choko fruit like summer squash or potatoes, they can be baked, fried (as chips), mashed or steamed, though due to their denser texture, they require a little more cooking time than a zucchini.
The fruit can also be added to stews, casseroles, and soups to add substance (thicken them up), and combine well as culinary ingredients with tomatoes, onions, capsicum and sweetcorn.
An additional way to use the fruit is to cut them in half, stuff them and bake them. They can even be pickled.
Choko fruit can also be used as an apple substitute for desserts, as it has a similar texture when cooked, as well as a mild apple-like flavor, so it’s often used in mock apple desserts. This probably was the origin of the old urban myth that MacDonalds once used choko (chayote) in their apple pies to bulk them out. Considering that they really do use the same foaming agent used to manufacture yoga mat foam rubber (azodicarbonamide, which releases the carcinogen urethane in the baking process) in their chicken nuggets, I wouldn’t put that beyond them as a way of skimping on using real apples!
When boiling choko fruit so it becomes completely soft for mashing, cut it into slices or pieces and then boil for 5-10 minutes to cook. If using whole or halved fruit, it will take 15–20 minutes to boil.
To sauté or stir-frying julienned choko and retain its crispness, cook it for less than 5 minutes.
The seeds, which are big, flat, and oval-shaped are consumed. The tender seeds, known as vegetable scallop, have a nutty taste and can be fried in butter or prepared in other manners.
The roots are tuberous and starchy, similar to yams, and can be eaten just like potatoes, boiled, baked, or fried. They can also be candied in syrup.
The leaves can also be consumed. Young leaves are steamed or boiled like spinach, and the sprouts can be used like asparagus tips.
What Are the Health Advantages and Nutritional Value of Choko (Chayote)Chokoes have a comprehensive nutritional content, containing vital vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
A solitary choko (chayote) weighing 203 grams provides the subsequent nutrients:
Calories: 39Carbs: 9 gramsProtein: 2 gramsFat: 0 gramsFiber: 4 grams — 14% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI)Vitamin C: 26% of the RDIVitamin B9 (folate): 47% of the RDIVitamin K: 10% of the RDIVitamin B6: 8% of the RDIManganese: 19% of the RDICopper: 12% of the RDIZinc: 10% of the RDIPotassium: 7% of the RDI
Magnesium: 6% of the RDI
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