The humble choko was once the primary food that filled the tummies of poor families in Depression-era Australia, as it could be easily plucked from the back fence where the vines grew prolifically.
Unfortunately though, the bland, knobbly fruit (which is treated as a vegetable) was dished up for every meal, in every conceivable way, making many from the generation loath to ever eat it again.
While it doesn’t have the most fantastic culinary reputation, not everyone treats the choko with disdain. Stephanie Alexander devoted a whole chapter to the choko in her revised edition of The Cook’s Companion, while Margaret Fulton deemed the choko “one of the most attractive and delicious of vegetables” in her Encyclopedia of Food and Cookery.
SOURCE: Chokos can be bought at most greengrocers and supermarkets in season. Choose the smallest young chokos, but if they are all large, the ones with the softest spines will be most tender.
BLOCK: The skin needs to be peeled, but when cut, chokos exude a slippery sap that is hard to wash off your hands, so use rubber gloves.
POT: With the right treatment, chokos can be delicious. The secret is to work with their nature – they may be bland but they absorb other flavours well – similar to the potato. Also, avoid overcooking or they will turn to mush. Choko relish or chutney packed with dates, ginger and a dash of curry powder is excellent. Choko is also right at home in a fragrant curry, where it remains solid and takes on the flavour of the other ingredients.
Stephanie Alexander’s cookbook features a Jamaican Choko Tart while other intriguing recipes found online include Maple Syrup Choko Fries, Burmese Choko Soup and a Spicy Mauritian Choko Salad.