Monday, May 18, 2009
Is Choko a vegetable or a fruit?
Have you ever left standing in front of a vegetable or fruit and wondering what is it? And the next probable question you will be asking yourself is “How do I eat it?”
Last week, at the local fruit and vegetables shop and standing next to me was a young couple pondering in front of a huge pile of chokos.They took a good look at these slightly flatten triangular pear-shaped fruits,before picking up a fruit each, in their hands for a closer inspection. At the same time, looking at the displayed name and price, she said aloud. “Choko, 99cents a kilo… wah so cheap but don’t know how to cook leh?” I could not help but asked “ Are you guys from Singapore or Malaysia?” Looking surprised, she answered. “Ya, Singapore and how do you know?” The answer was simple; we can’t run away with our accent. It is the trademark and a telltale sign of all Singaporeans worldwide. Before long, we were talking like long lost relatives in Singlish, oblivious to the pile of choko and other shoppers in the shop. Sorry, what was the question again?
Is choko a fruit or a vegetable?
Choko is everything.The root, young stems, seeds, and leaves are all edible. Choko is a versatile, rampant and prolific plant. During my stay in Papua New Guinea, I have seen the villagers used the tuberous root not only for their own consumption but also used the starchy roots as a fodder for the pigs. In fact, nothing is wasted. The stems or vines have also been ingeniously used by the villagers in the manufacture of baskets and ropes.
In other Asian countries choko fruits are known as 佛手瓜 fut sao gwa (lit. Buddha hand melon), 合掌瓜 hup jeung gwa (lit. closed palm melon), and chokos are are widely planted for their shoots and tendrils, known as lóng xü cài (龍鬚菜, literally "dragon-whisker vegetable"). Along with the young leaves, the shoot is a commonly consumed vegetable in those regions.
How to grow Choko:
Choko can be easily propagated by sprouting a fruit indoors in late winter and early spring in cooler areas, or all year round in tropical areas. It is a vigorous vine which is easy to grow and it is perennial as it will grow for years in mild, frost-free climates. Choko isn’t fussy about conditions but prefers rich, well-drained organic soils. Plant with the sprouting shoot just above the soil level. Because the choko plant is a climber, it can easily be grown on fences, trellises or frames allowing the fruit to hang down for easy harvesting. Feed the plant every six weeks with a complete fertilizer. It has few pests but needs protection from hot winds or frost. The choko plant bears fruit in autumn and winter. Pick fruits young when it is tender and has a delicate flavor.
One Choko vine will easily cover and overrun the whole backyard, garage, shed, or even the house! It can become a rampant weed under the right conditions. So be warned. To be continued...