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The Joy of Choko

Choko variety at Botanical Gardens in New Orleans-Photo Lance Hill
I have been fiddling with my wonderful trellis that has micro-climated my vegetable gardening so much that I am aghast at the consequence a few poles can make.

Strung over my trellis for now is a rag tag collection of dry palm fronds. Underneath is mottled shade and some healthy photosynthesis by a mix of keenly growing vegetables.

I've been busy planting.

To avail myself of the structure I've planted a lot of climbing beans and cucumbers so that green stuff is expected to climb. I also planted a grape vine...

But on reflection, the most useful of the plants I've planted to adorn my trellis is choko. Like grape vines, it's easy to cut back and tame choko vines and they will shade the underneath.

On a site dedicated to Choko -- Mirlitons.org --
Mirlitons.org is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the conservation and innovative uses of Louisiana heirloom mirlitons. “Mirliton” is the Louisiana name for the iconic perennial climbing squash (botanical name: Sechium edule) better known as “chayote” in the Western Hemisphere.(...and 'Choko' in Australia--DR)
there's an interesting aside about the vine's utility:

Katrina left the New Orleans area with thousands of empty lots. Growing mirlitons on overhead trellises is an excellent form of urban commercial micro-gardening and the shade canopy would inhibit weed growth—a big problem with abandoned lots. In addition, there are a myriad of uses for mirlitons that have not been explored commercially, including food preserving and the use of vines for textiles.
Of course with Chokoes you'll want to personally determine how much shade falls below but it's an easy business to do.

Anyway the site's resident Choko expert -- Dr Lance Hill -- also offers a great gallery of photographs  that showcase his Adopt-A-Mirliton, heirloom preservation and growers' network projects. He also explores systems for trellising of chokoes and offers many photographs of trellis techniques.

Hill also links to a cookbook dedicated to Chokoes and written by Roslyn Deakin here in Australia which offers 176 ways to prepare Chokoes.

How many do you know?

So there are indeed folk out there who respect and value the humble Choko. It's a celebration I have joined.

As I move more rigorously into Choko mode I'm embracing the vegetable with abandon. As it happens, the local  seed supplier, Green Harvest , also take up the cause of the neglected Choko. 

In their latest published notes/newsletter, GH call the Choko, "the most unappreciated vegetable in Australia"  and then go on to extol its versatility.
Start your harvest early  by steaming the tender shoots and young leaves. Then pick the small, egg sized chokos; these are simply delicious with more flavour than zuchinnis. (As for the old large ones)...in Mexico they simply split them open to remove the nutritious and tasty seeds and feed the rest to the cows."
So maybe by dint of habit and neglect we're missing out on a bounty?


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