Chokos are in season (late autumn) in Auckland!

Chokos are in season (late autumn) in Auckland!

20160521_100028Chokos – a prolific, fence-covering vine, masses of fruit – what DO we do with them?!

From tiny ones, new-formed to great big ones, larger than my hand – here’s our take on making best use of this resource. Now that zucchinis are ending their season growing in the open garden, small chokos make a great replacement.

The small ones are delicious and sweet – just thumb-sized. Steam a few minutes.

Large chokos develop a tough skin and are flavorless compared with the tiny ones. We spice large ones to make them worth eating. Big ones are kept in a cold place until we have no more small ones on the plant. Then we use the large ones [unless we’ve given them away].

Large chokos are usually the ones available in shops. If you see small ones, choose them for flavor.

The choko seed will sprout from the large end of a choko which is as big as your hand and grow into a whole new plant. It first grows a new shoot and begins to grow small rootlets.

20160522_171032It can be now planted into a garden bed in a frost-free zone, or into a pot, large end down, of good potting mix [or at least the growing rootlets covered with soil for protection]. Plant out into garden on a trellis or other support after all frosts and freezing weather has passed in spring.20160522_171117

Chokos grow on a rampant vine. Our’s covers the back fence and a tree. It will die back as cold winter weather and frosts arrive.

The roots remain in the ground to re-sprout next spring. Covering the roots with mulch for protection in winter helps this short-lived perennial plant last longer.

We replant a new one each year or so.

Here’s a post about the wonderfulness of chokos I wrote some time ago – it seems a good time to re-visit it now we have heaps of chokos available! Enjoy now as the season is quite short – a few months at most. Find the info here.

 

Recipes for delightful chokos: see post here

There are so many ways chokos can be used! Some of our favorite recipes for delightful chokos are found here

Wonderful additions to stews, casseroles, curries, soups, pickles.

Or just enjoy the tiny new ones steamed – sweet – a real treat in such a short season, and unavailable in most shops so grow your own treats.

Enjoy!

Choko vines growing new shoots in winter??!

Our choko vine is amazing us – its growing new shoots and leaves in winter [June here in Auckland, NZ]. Lovely fresh, new, bright-green leaves and growing tips.

Choko growing new leaves in winter!
Choko vine growing new leaves in winter!

They usually die back down to the roots and regrow stems and leaves in spring. They usually look scruffy, shriveled and tattered by now. Like this one growing through a Cherry Guava tree.

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The vine along the fence has not died back yet. I wonder if it will? Or has Auckland become sub-tropical enough for it to be perennial? Will we need to rescue the rest of the garden from the rampant choko vine? Only time will tell.

What is happening for your vines and shrubs which usually are deciduous and rest in winter before sprouting anew in spring?

 

Welcome predators in our garden – preying mantis

Welcome predators in our garden – preying mantis

Wonderful to find a preying mantis. Not sure why a male one came inside so we took it back preying mantis male with wings sitting on a handout in the veggie garden in the New Zealand spinach patch.
Late autumn and the males (which have narrow abdomen compared to the females) grow wings [like this one has].
He is sitting on the back of a hand watching us as we moved him. Then he didn’t want to get off so he was gently encouraged to move on to a leaf.

preying mantis egg case in the space between bricks in a house wall
preying mantis egg case in the space between bricks in a house wall

The females have a much wider, fatter abdomen and lay their eggs into a special case to protect them through the winter. They attach the cases to some protected place and we find them in the spaces between bricks in the house wall.

 

preying mantis baby, new hatched, climbing on bird-netting
preying mantis baby, new hatched, climbing on bird-netting

A preying mantis is so good at eating small pests so we love finding them around and carefully put them where the pest populations are greatest.

These newly hatched baby preying mantis we found climbing up the bird-netting around a garden bed. They were less than 1 cm [1/2 inch] long – so tiny! Yet they are great predators of all tiny pests.

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Chokos are in season (late autumn) in Auckland!

Chokos are in season (late autumn) in Auckland!

20160521_100028The small ones are the ones we eat [like those lower left in the photo].

Steam a few minutes for the tiny ones whole or sliced medium-sized ones. Sweet and delicious.
Large chokos develop a tough skin and are flavorless compared with the tiny ones. We spice large ones to make them worth eating. They are kept in a cold place until we have no more small ones on the plant. Then we use the large ones [unless we’ve given them away].

Large chokos are usually the ochoko vine over cherry guava treenes available in shops. If you see small ones, choose them for flavor.
Chokos grow on a rampant vine. Our’s covers the back fence and a tree. It will die back as cold winter weather and frosts arrive.

The roots remain in the ground to re-sprout next spring. Covering the roots with mulch for protection in winter helps this short-lived perennial plant last longer. Continue reading “Chokos are in season (late autumn) in Auckland!”

Our first persimmon!

20160424_085009

We planted a persimmon tree 18 months ago as an experiment – we had never grown them before. What would they be like? Could it grow here in a small suburban yard? On clay [all the top-soil went with the subdivision]? Would it like Auckland’s semi-tropical climate with warm, moist summers?

Persimmons are deciduous small trees and lose their leaves in winter so I thought it may just be a hopeful dream to grow our own organic ones.

Yet, here it is. Our small tree which we ‘sort-of’ espaliered on the fence in a narrow garden bed has lots of lovely green leaves and now has ripening fruit! Wonderful.

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What experiments do you wonder about? Do start, you never know what is possible anywhere until you try.

These flowers are a bee-magnet!

These flowers are a bee-magnet!

If you look closely and there are heaps of bees on the flowers.

Fatsia japonica or ‘8-fingers’ flowering here [Auckland, NZ] in Autumn so I look forward to well-fed bees to keep visiting my garden in winter.

In my child-hood in Australia, this plant was a favored indoor house plant – I had never seen it flower. What a wonderful place and climate it is in Auckland that I see its flowers now on the one I inherited in the open garden with this house.

Buying seedlings for your garden

Buying seedlings for your garden

What to look out for when buying seedlings for your garden:

  • vibrant small versions of the plant
  • Avoid seedlings if they have grown loooong and tall like these – follow the stem from the bottom of the picture way up to the flowers up on the 2nd shelf in the shop – this will not give edible parts to eat!
bolting brassica seedlings in nursery
Bolting seedlings in nursery – these will provide little edible produce.
  • look for Look for dense groups of leaves –  ‘leggy’ seedlings are best left in the shop.
  • check roots are in the pot – if they form a mat below the pot they are best left as these roots will need to be cut off to plant the seedling – which will decrease its ability to take up nutrients. Find a pot where the tiny roots are just visible at the base if there are any to choose from.
  • Wilted seedlings bolt to seed early – look around the nursery – are all plants well watered or not? Be wary if the nursery doesn’t care well for their plants.

 

lettuce seedlings bolting to seed
Bolting lettuce seedlings in nursery grow long stems before flowering – and few edible leaves

Wise choices in purchasing seedlings will provide strong, quality plants for your garden to feed you for a long time. Or – grow your own! Then you can plant them at the best time so they grow abundantly and flourish for you.

lettuce seedlings good to plant
Lettuce seedlings good to plant