6 Ways to use the Humble Choko Vine
Approximately a 4 minute read | Originally published Nov 6th, 2018 | Updated Aug 16th, 2023
There are so many ways to use chokos and choko vines. People food, animal food, weed control, and mulch are among the uses listed in this post.
It's spring time in Australia, and I’m looking forward again to abundant chokos (Sechium edule).
I used to think of choko as a bland, boring vegetable. I didn't like skinning it, and I didn't like eating it with the skin on. Under-cooked, it’s too tough; overcooked it’s a watery, unappetizing mush.
Add to that the baskets of cheap chokos on offer at roadside stalls, farmer markets, and LETS1 drop off points throughout the summer, and choko is just… blah.
Or so I thought. A few years down the track, I've learned that there are more ways to use choko vines and fruit than you can poke a stick at. Here are 6 of them.
1. Put all the tiny tender little bits into salads
The smallest little nut sized chokos are great sliced into salads, along with the tender tips of the vines, the tiny, shiny, newest leaves, and the curling tendrils. Or you can eat these bits on the spot in the garden; my 12-year-old son doesn’t bother putting any of these in a salad – he just plucks them down and munches on them as he goes about his day.
2. Cook the small to medium sized chokos
If you pick them before they're tough and big, there's no need to peel or to remove the seed.
This was a revelation for me – so much faster to prepare! The seed of these smaller chokos tastes pleasant and probably adds some nutrition, and the skin is not at all tough. Steamed small to medium choko is my daughter’s favorite vegetable. (You have to start somewhere, I suppose. Maybe she’ll end up being a lover of super-nutritious weeds and sauerkraut…)
3. Make pellet fertilizer (via guinea pigs or rabbits)
Choko vines and leaves can be fed to guinea pigs (and probably rabbits), who convert it into fruit tree or garden fertilizer. Guinea pigs love the leaves and vines of chokos, young or old. They probably would eat the chokos, too, but there are too many other takers for them.
A small group of guinea pigs can eat an amazing amount of choko vine, very quickly. It comes out the back end as manure, which is a much more nutrient dense product for the soil than what went into the front end.
Guinea pig and rabbit manure can be used in your garden without having to be composted first; it breaks down quickly and won't burn plant roots.
4. Feed pigs, goats, and cattle
We feed the large, tough fruit and the excess vines to the pigs. Pigs will eat all parts of the choko plant, at any stage. They prefer sweet potatoes or pumpkins to chokos, but they do love choko vines and they'll eat chokos if there is nothing else on offer. Choko is a great back up for getting some greens to the pigs at times when other plant foods for them are in short supply. (Little piglets need the large, tough chokos cut into small chunks.)
Goats and cattle will also eat the large, old chokos, roughly chopped. They’d eat the young tender ones, and the vines too, if they were invited.
You could grow the vines on or near the outsides of your animal fences, and throw the fruit and excess vines to the animals as you notice them.
5. Grow your own mulch
Excess vines, and spent vines at the end of the summer growing season or at the beginning of spring when you want to clear the way for new growth, are easy to pull down from where-ever they’ve climbed to and can be used as mulch.
In the growing season, besides growing up whatever you've provided for them to grow up, choko vines will also ramble away across the ground in every direction. If you want to allow them to cover the ground, they'll form a living mulch that’s easy to pull away when you no longer want it there.
Volumes of easily produced plant material that can be used for mulch or in compost is something I place a high value on; plants that will do this with no effort on my part are welcome helpers in the garden.
And the ground underneath a dense choko vine is always clear of weeds and full of tiny, happy soil-building critters.
6. Weed control
We've grown chokos on fences where we have weeds and grasses growing up through the fence that are difficult to clear out. When the choko vines get thick enough they shade out the weeds, and a choko vine is a lot easier to clear out of a fence line than tough tropical grasses.
You can also use "choko bombs" to subdue large patches of woody/prickly weeds like lantana or wild raspberry. A choko bomb is a ready-to-sprout choko thrown into the densest part of a lantana patch. Throw lots. If there's enough moisture for them to establish, they'll climb up through the weeds, cover them, and shade them to death. If you want to grow trees there after the chokos, you could throw "seed balls" in with the choko bombs.
Now I look differently upon those baskets of cheap chokos. I almost always gratefully snap some up, because we rarely have enough of them growing at our place. The humble choko has become a valued helper in our efforts to develop our gardens and reduce our dependence on supermarkets and feed stores.
- LETS: Local Exchange Trade System. LETS is a community-based exchange system that allows its users to exchange goods and services using a locally created currency, to build community and keep wealth where it is created.