Category Archives: Edible Gardens

All hail the choko

As the choko season draws to a close I’d like to take a moment to thank the choko for its generosity.

I find people fall into three categories over the choko. Love them, hate them, never heard of them. I’m in the first and if you’re curious here’s some tips.

Choko must be grown from choko. You can’t extract the seed. So buy a choko or get one from someone already growing, leave it in the back of your cupboard for a few weeks and then pull it out when it’s sprouting and stick it in the ground (choko’s prefer ground over pot but if you have a really large pot and no ground I’d still encourage you to give it a go). Choko’s aren’t keen on really hot spots but do need some sun. They also need to climb and if you let them will keep going and take over trees, sheds, houses… So you need to think carefully about where you plant your choko and how you are going to control it. Any unpicked fruit, no matter how small or deformed looking, will sprout and grow another choko vine.

Once you’ve got your chokos (and if you’ve planted it right you’ll have a lot of chokos) pick and eat them as soon as you can. I find they store better out of the fridge in a cool dark spot but left too long they will sprout so you need to have some choko eating strategies.

Chokos are slimy. If you peel them with bare hands you’ll get a slime over your hands that dries like glue so I’ve taken to wearing gloves. Another way to prepare them is to cut them in half and bake them, then scoop out the flesh (no slime when they are cooked.)

Best choko uses I’ve found are: choko pickle or chutney, choko chocolate cake (grate a couple of chokos into any cake recipe for added moisture and fibre) and choko added to curry or dhal. The choko is able to take its place in desserts or savoury dishes because it has no actually flavour of its own but will absorb the flavour of whatever it’s cooked with. Choko can even be used to fluff out an apple pie but I don’t think this is where it shines.

The choko is a low kilo joule vegetable and a source of fibre and vitamin C. I’ve included the choko chocolate cake recipe below in case you’re feeling adventurous.

1 ½ cups sugar

2 ½ cups plain flour

½ cup milk

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

125g butter

1 cup sugar

1 tablespoon cocoa

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon salt

2 cups grated choko

 

Cream butter and half the sugar. Beat in the eggs and vanilla. Gradually add dry ingredients including balance of sugar. Add choko and mix gently. Bake at 160C in 23cm spring-form tin for 50-60 minutes. Cool in the tin for five minutes. To glaze melt 60g butter plus 125g dark chocolate in a double boiler. Add 1 tablespoon milk and 1 tablespoon golden syrup when the chocolate mixture is smooth. Spoon onto cooled cake.

Recipe is from www.annettemcfarlane.com (when I made it I made them cupcake size and skipped the glaze, kids didn’t notice)

Posted in Autumn, Edible Gardens, Grow, Recipes, Vegetable | Comments Off on All hail the choko

Getting your kids working in the garden and eating in the kitchen

I spend half of my working week helping children to grow food in school gardens and the most of my non (paid) working life trying to think of healthy meals my children will eat. Most of my work with school children is via the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation. This is a fantastic program with flexible models to suit all schools. Teachers are given training and curriculum support and kids are exposed to the joys of gardening and cooking while trying new foods they’ve had a hand in growing. I joined the program for environmental reasons not convinced it would really change eating habits. After a few years of being involved I have become convinced that getting your kids involved in the growing and cooking of food is a great way to ensure they remain interested and engaged with their nutritional health not to mention that ever increasing importance of knowing where your food comes from.

But what about at home? And what if you have fussy eaters in the house who aren’t old enough for school or not at a school with a kitchen garden program? I, like lots of others, have one (or two) of those children who aren’t particularly interested in eating vegetables or trying new things. I did the growing thing. We grew peas. He planted the peas, watched them grow, then watched me eat them. Legumes aren’t his thing I discovered.

But we persisted and found other things to grow that he will eat (he still grows legumes just doesn’t eat them). But the growing alone wasn’t enough to change his eating habits. What really made a difference was group eating. And by that I don’t mean eating with the family. I mean sitting down with a big group of children and watching everyone else enjoying food. This, I find, to be the best place to introduce new foods to my children. Around a camp fire with a few other families or at friend’s houses seem to be the places my difficult eater finds trying new things easier.

So for your fussy eater at home, what can you do?

  • Grow – start small, a few herbs and a strawberry plant
  • Cook – get your kids involved in planning, shopping and preparing
  • Share – make eating a social event

On a side note, taking the pictures for this blog post and checking on our seedlings at the same time my 4 year old saw me taste a new radish leaf and asked for a try. He then asked for another while proclaiming how much he liked it! (He’s not my fussy eater but still, it was a radish leaf?!)

Posted in Edible Gardens, education, Enjoy, Grow, Herbs, School Gardens, Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation | Comments Off on Getting your kids working in the garden and eating in the kitchen

Building community in the garden

Today, a couple of my children and I spent a very pleasant 3 hours in their school garden with two other families and their children.  The kids gathered caterpillars and seeds and ate tomatoes before moving on to running through sprinklers and climbing trees.  The adults dug and picked, sorted and trellised and everyone had a lovely time.

2014, for me, is the year of building community.  When Thea and I started grow.eat.enjoy. we wanted to put edible gardens into homes (we still do).  But as the years go on we move more and more into education and community gardening and I’m finding this a good place to be.  When I’m at Razor&JOY, tending to their office garden, and staff come to sit amongst the plants while they eat their lunch; when I put a call out to the OzHarvest volunteers and people come from all walks of life to work in the garden with me; and when I make a connection with a parent from a non English speaking background who in turn brings others to our school garden and everyone feels happy and connected, I know, like Thea and I always thought, that gardening brings so much more than just good food.

So here’s to 2014, my year of growing good food and building community.  If you’re in Sydney and need a little help doing either, let me know.

Posted in Community Gardens, Edible Gardens, education, Enjoy, Grow, Oz Harvest, Razor & JOY, School Gardens | Comments Off on Building community in the garden