It’s choko time again! A-n-d the pest moth plant is fruiting too. As the seeds of moth plant are apparently poisonous, please know a real choko from the poisonous alternative.
So how to tell the delicious from the noxious?!
Which is choko and which is Moth Plant?
Moth Plant fruit
The fruit look ‘sorta similar’ from the outside so people can easily confuse the two. Yet the leaves, flowers and seeds are different.
Choko leaves are similar to grape vine leaves, whereas Moth Plant leaves are different.
Here are piks of a choko fruit cut in half. One seed in the middle of the fruit.
Here’s a pik of a Moth Plant fruit cut in half – showing the many, many seeds in the center.
See also the flesh is different – harder, and has a milky sap which can be really irritating so best to not touch it at all [if you must pick this plant, use gloves].
The single seed of the choko sprouts a little root and shoot from the fruit to grow one new plant.
Whereas the Moth Plant splits the old, shriveled fruit and releases millions of fluffy seeds [so its also called ‘kapok plant’] to fly on the wind far and wide.
Chokos have 2 types of flowers – the little white-petaled male ones grow in a long group. The female one [which forms the fruit we eat] is a single one and hangs from a stalk on the small end of the fruit.
Moth Plant flowers look very different:
Moth plant fruit hangs from a stalk on the fat end of the fruit.
Pumpkins/squashes/zucchini [courgettes] can be sequenced to provide crops over a longer time span. Here’s how we approach it:
First we plant 1-2 zucchinisin pots in early spring, inside a plastic-bag ‘mini hothouse’then transplant them into a rich, protected garden bed when the soil has warmed up. These are amazingly hardy and prolific [and they are bushes rather than rampant vines].
We like ‘Zorro’ variety for it’s hardiness, good taste and productivity.
We usually also plant non-hybrid varieties a little later. This year ‘Cocozelle’ was the one we put in – and they grew wonderfully. These give a solid-fleshed fruit with a great buttery taste. And produced heaps of fruit. Really lovely.
Then, we plant a number of ‘tromboncino squash’ seeds into rich, warm soil in the garden in late Spring. These rampant vines will start fruiting later than the Zorro zucchinis – and keep going longer too.
They produce ‘crook necked’ type squash which are wonderfully tasty when small [less than my hand long].
A.N.D the ones we miss grow and grow and grow some more so quickly. There’s an in-between stage which is meh – so they go into soup. We leave most of them on the vine to mature. When the vine dies back the squash skin gets harder and harder – these fruit store well. And the flesh gets sweeter and richer – we think they are best baked or made into soup.
There are a number of varieties and we have tried 3 so far:
Our favorite ‘tromboncino squash’ is from Running Brook Seeds [only available in NZ]. It is long, tasty, has a dark green skin and stores well too.
Second is from ‘Diggers Seeds’ in Australia – nice taste, with light-green skin.
Another is called ‘rampicante squash’ [here in NZ] with dark-green skin.
Third, main-crop pumpkins/squash go into warm, rich Spring soil. Their fruit will form hard skins and keep well. There are so many varieties to try!
A standard pumpkin here is a ‘grey’ and can form a nice tasty fruit which keeps well. This one is reliable for us.
Then there are all the seedlings which come up from the home-made compost. Sometimes they grow wonderful fruit without any effort on our part at all. The above harvest includes these bountiful plants results – grey pumpkins, buttercup, tromboncinos [2 types].
Some varieties we used to grow well in Australia do poorly here in Auckland, or are not available at all. Would love to grow sweet butternuts but here in south Auckland it hasn’t been hot enough for them to flourish yet. Maybe one year! In Australia we grew Jap pumpkins which were delicious – but like it hot too – and I haven’t seen seeds here yet.
We get better results when we choose varieties adapted to local conditions where-ever we are than expect the same results everywhere.
Here’s Musquee de Provence – a buttery pumpkin which becomes flavorful in hot, dry conditions. In Auckland it can be bland when summer is wet. This one is stored on wire rack in cool room on east side of house.
Store round pumpkins on their side so moisture does not accumulate in depressions which then start to rot. Where the stalk joins the fruit, and the base are prime places to collect moisture]. Pumpkins last far longer in storage if we can keep them free of moisture and rot.
Here’s Marina di Chiogga growing well. It stores really well for a long time and tastes good too.
The piece of wood was placed underneath the pumpkin fruit to keep it up off the wet ground so it doesn’t rot before it is ripe enough to pick. It will be ready to pick when the fruit stalk turns hard and brown, and tendrils near the fruit also turn brown and withered.
And after the pumpkins have been harvested, and the zucchinis have finished fourth, we use chokos – not a zucc but it is a delicious replacements for zuccs. The chokos are just starting and, when they are very small, thumb-sized, they are really tasty and almost sweet.
chokos – assorted sizes
Choko is also called chayote (Sechium edule) and is an edible plant belonging to the gourd family of Cucurbitaceae rather than the pumpkin family. For more info see wikipedia.org/wiki/Chayote
Saving seeds for next years pumpkin crops:
If you wish to save seeds from pumpkins, squash or zucchinis, many cross-pollinate so check out options before beginning. Check how to save their seeds to get true-breeding results.
Plant just one variety from each type/species and there are no issues with cross-pollination problems – as long as neighbors do not also have pumpkins growing! Bees can bring pollen a long way so it is safer to hand-pollinate your flowers for next year’s crop. For more info on hand-pollinating your pumpkins go here.
There are 3 main types/groups [species]:
Cucurbita maxima are the larger pumpkins, often with tough skin and long-keepers. Buttercup, Queensland Blue, Jarrahdale, Turks Turban, Banana Squash, Hubbard Squash, and many more.
Cucurbita moschataare usually smaller, sweet, including butternuts, crookneck squash, Jap etc [we found they like hotter conditions than we have here to become sweet and flavorful].
Cucurbita pepo include zucchinis, crooknecks, scallops, acorn squash, some winter squash and some ornamental gourds [so a lot of cross-pollination is possible!]
We plant a variety of types and times so hopefully some will do well to give a harvest no matter what the weather does – hot/dry/cold/wet.
If you like experiments about when to plant for best results, a great one is to plant the same seeds in rows right beside each other [so all other conditions are identical], and label the rows with the date of planting. Then sow seeds from 1 packet at weekly intervals, each week in a new row.
This way you can see how the recommendations for best/worst seed sowing outcomes from moon-planting guides work for you. Maybe they do, and maybe they don’t.
I enjoy experimenting with such ideas – and if only I can rescue the rows from the snails and black-birds, I might even get some results to share!
Here’s a link to a post about the delicious chokos available now.
The small ones are the ones we eat [like those lower left in the photo showing many chokos of different sizes].
Steam a few minutes for the tiny ones whole or sliced medium-sized ones. Sweet and delicious when they are young.
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 ones 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.
Where could you put such an abundant provider of sweet, buttery new chokos to enjoy next autumn?
See the post for how we grow the plants and also for recipes using the fruits too.