A squash from tropical America, it is also
known in that part of the world by various names including chayote,
christophene, custard marrow, mirliton, pepinella and vegetable pear. A
perennial vine, it adapts well to any sunny climate. There is more than
one edible part to the plant. The fruits may be steamed or boiled, or
battered and fried, and also make a delicate addition to Asian soups and
stir-fries. The tender shoots, boiled, are served like asparagus while
the leaves are eaten like spinach and the large, tuberous roots are used
like yams. A popular vegetable in all the cuisines of Asia.
Shaped like a flattened pear 10-15 cm long
with deep creases at both ends, it has a thin but tough jade-green skin,
occasional soft spines and a single seed which is soft and edible,
provided the fruit is not too mature.
Purchasing and storing : Choose the
smallest (therefore youngest and most tender) chokos from the pile. Even
if the fruit is large, those with the softest spines will be the more
tender. They keep well at room temperature, but if kept too long will
start to sprout from the seed and become stringy. They are easy to grow.
Simply bury one in the garden and they will start to grow. But be
warned, they are vigorous growers and will twine their sturdy tendrils
around anything that stands still like clothes lines, other trees and
the garage roof.
Preparation : Wash the chokos, halve
lengthways and cook them either with or without peeling. The skin, which
should be removed before eating, protects the pale, delicate flesh which
remains curiously crisp when cooked. If the choko is to be sliced or
diced, it is better to peel it before cutting it up. The cut flesh of
the raw fruit exudes a strangely slippery sap which is difficult to wash
off one's hands, so if sensitive skin is a problem, oil hands lightly or
protect hands with thin rubber gloves before peeling. Chokos are
delicious simply steamed and buttered with a grinding of black pepper.
Added to soups they provide unique texture without adding an obtrusive