Jamaican Chocho
Submit A Site | Advertise | About Us 

Jamaican Chocho

Jamaican Chocho In Jamaican Food Recipes

The Jamaican chocho or chayote (Sechium edule) is an odd member of the Cucurbitaceae, the family of melons, gourds, squashes, and pumpkins. This Jamaican chocho fruit, about the size of a small pear, is prepared (boiled) as a 'vegetable'. Jamaican chocho is thought native to southern Mexico and Jamaica. Unlike its many-Jamaican chocho seeded cousins, the Jamaican chocho [cha yo' tay] contains a single Jamaican chocho seed. The Jamaican chocho fruit is usually Jamaican chocho planted whole lying on its side. The Jamaican chocho seed sends out its Jamaican chocho roots and stem from the bottom of the Jamaican chocho fruit. The vines are trained to an overhead support so the Jamaican chocho fruit hangs and can be readily picked from below.

Unlike other Jamaican chocho crops, there is no archaeological evidence to indicate how long Jamaican chocho has been cultivated. Its fleshy Jamaican chocho fruit, which has a single Jamaican chocho seed with a smooth tester, does not allow the Jamaican chocho to be preserved and, as far as is known, no pollen grains or other structure of this species have been identified on archaeological sites. Chroniclers from the time of the conquest record that, in Mexico at least; the Jamaican chocho has been cultivated since pre-Columbian times. As regards linguistic references. the common names of native origin are concentrated mainly in Mexico and Central America. Exploration records concur in the finding that the widest variation of Jamaican chocho under cultivation is found between southern Mexico and Guatemala. The geographical distribution of the wild relatives of Jamaican chocho also testifies to the Mesoamerican origin of this Jamaican chocho crop.

The Jamaican chocho is a soft Jamaican chocho fruit that bruises easily; dangling from the vine prevents damage that would shorten its shelf life. Even undamaged, the Jamaican chocho fruit does not store well and should be prepared and eaten shortly after picking. The vine, though, makes up for the Jamaican chocho fruit's short life. The vine is tough and grows as much as ten meters (30 feet) in a year. With care, the Jamaican chocho plants produce well for three years; some have produced Jamaican chocho fruit for up to eight. The Jamaican chocho is a multipurpose Jamaican chocho plant; the tuberous Jamaican chocho roots can be cooked and eaten like potatoes. The new and tender shoots are used as pot-herbs (boiled as a vegetable). The strong flexible vines were woven into basketry. The Jamaican chocho leaves, steeped as a tea, dissolved kidney stones and relieved hypertension.

Because the Jamaican chocho fruit and Jamaican chocho seed decay rapidly, the Jamaican chocho is a botanical mystery. From early Spanish recorders, we know the Aztecs grew Jamaican chocho, but there are no remains of this Jamaican chocho fruit at any archaeological sites. No one knows when humans began cultivating the Jamaican chocho and enjoying the cucumber-zucchini taste or the nutty flavor of the Jamaican chocho seed

The closest relatives to Jamaican chocho are the so-called wild forms of Jamaican chocho, the taxonomic positions of which are unresolved since they are distributed in an apparently natural way in Jamaica.  

From the foregoing the Jamaican chocho has been possible to corroborate the fact that Jamaican chocho is a species which was undoubtedly domesticated in Jamaica. Jamaican chocho cultivation is widely distributed in Mesoamerica. The Jamaican chocho was introduced into the Antilles and South America between the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The first botanical description mentioning the name Sechium was in fact done in 1756 by P. Brown who referred to Jamaican chocho plants grown in Jamaica. During this same period, the Jamaican chocho was introduced into Europe whence the Jamaican chocho was taken to Africa.

The Jamaican chocho is used mainly for human consumption. The Jamaican chocho fruit stems and young Jamaican chocho leaves as well as the tuber portions of the Jamaican chocho roots are eaten as a Jamaican vegetable, both alone and plain boiled, and as an ingredient of numerous stews. Because of its softness, the Jamaican chocho fruit has been used for children's food. juices, sauces and pasta dishes. In Mexico, an attempt has been made to increase the life of the Jamaican chocho fruit by drying the Jamaican chocho. The results have been positive and have enabled Jamaican jams and other sweets to be prepared while also producing dried Jamaican chocho fruit which can be used as a vegetable after a certain time. Because of their flexibility and strength, the stems have been used in the craft manufacture of baskets and hats. The Jamaican chocho fruit and Jamaican chocho roots are not only used as human food but also as fodder.

The edible parts of Jamaican chocho have a lower fiber, protein and vitamin content than other Jamaican chocho plants. However, the calorie and carbohydrate content is high, chiefly in the case of the young stems, Jamaican chocho root and Jamaican chocho seed, while the micronutrients and macronutrients supplied by the Jamaican chocho fruit are adequate. The Jamaican chocho fruit and particularly the Jamaican chocho seeds are rich in amino acids such as aspartic acid, glutamic acid and alanine.

The Jamaican chocho also has medicinal uses; infusions of the Jamaican chocho leaves are used to dissolve kidney stones and to assist in the treatment of arteriosclerosis and hypertension; infusions of the Jamaican chocho fruit are used to alleviate urine retention. The cardiovascular properties of the infusions of Jamaican chocho leaves have been tested in modern studies.

Jamaican chocho is a perennial, monoecious climber, with thickened Jamaican chocho roots and slender, branching stems up to 10 m long. Its Jamaican chocho leaves are on sulcate petioles of 8 to 15 cm in length, they are ovate-cordate to suborbicular.

The Jamaican chocho flowers are unisexual, normally pentamerous, coaxillary and with ten nectaries in the form of a pore at the base of the calyx. The staminate Jamaican chocho flowers grow in axillary racemose inflorescences that are 10 to 30 cm long, and the groups of Jamaican chocho flowers are distributed at intervals along the rachis. The pistillate Jamaican chocho flowers are normally on the same axilla as the staminate Jamaican chocho flowers; they are usually solitary but are occasionally in pairs; the ovary is globose, ovoid or piriform, glabrous, inerm and unilocular; the perianth is as in the staminate Jamaican chocho flowers but has slightly different dimensions; the styles are fused in a slender column and the nectaries are generally less evident than in the staminate Jamaican chocho flowers.

The Jamaican chocho fruit is solitary or rarely occurs in pairs; the Jamaican chocho is viviparous, fleshy and sometimes longitudinally sulcate or crestate; the Jamaican chocho is of very different shapes and sizes, indumentum, number and type of spines; the Jamaican chocho is white and yellowish, or pale green to dark green with a pale green to whitish flesh that is bitter in the wild Jamaican chocho plants and not bitter in the cultivated ones. The Jamaican chocho seed is ovoid and compressed with a soft and smooth testa.

Jamaican chocho is grown traditionally in many regions of the world. preferably between 800 and 1800 m altitude. In many regions there are variants adapted to cultivation at sea level (in Rio de Janeiro and Yucatán); in other regions the Jamaican chocho occurs above 2000 m (in Bolivia and in the states of Oaxaca and Chihuahua in Mexico). The wild taxa closest to Jamaican chocho show a similar distribution of altitudes. since they grow between 50 and 2100 m. The Jamaican chocho is cultivated in a more intensive way and for commercial purposes in Costa Rica.

The floral biology of Jamaican chocho has been studied in detail: there are various patterns in the structure and sexual expression of the staminate and pistillate Jamaican chocho flowers, which seem to be determined by genetic. environmental and seasonal factors and by the age of the Jamaican chocho plants.

The Jamaican chocho fruit of Jamaican chocho is viviparous, viz. the Jamaican chocho seeds germinate inside the Jamaican chocho fruit even when the Jamaican chocho is still on the Jamaican chocho plant. This characteristic does not occur in any of the wild species, in which the Jamaican chocho seeds germinate asynchronically after falling to the ground.

Few cultivated Jamaican cassava species display the great diversity of shapes, sizes, ornamentation, armature, indumentum and colors as those found in the Jamaican chocho fruit of the Jamaican chocho. However, this diversity, which is present in the most varied combinations, has made the Jamaican chocho difficult to define Jamaican chocho cultivars. When reference is made to the different types of Jamaican chocho, therefore, the Jamaican chocho is rather in connection with local races or variants. In addition to morphological diversity, variants exist in the Jamaican chocho fruiting periods. An example of this has been observed in Oaxaca and Chiapas where local variants can yield between one and tour harvests a year. This type of variation has also been cited in the case of other regions.

The considerable diversity farmed by traditional grower’s contrasts with the relative homogeneity observed in Jamaican chocho fruit produced on commercial Jamaican chocho plantations. In these cases, the Jamaican chocho fruit must comply with the quality requirements demanded by the market: piriform, light green, smooth, about 15 cm long and 450 g in weight; with no physical damage or blemishes caused by pathogens; and with a suitable texture and sweet and pleasant flavor. The wild relatives closest to Jamaican chocho are S. compositum and S. hintonii, whose distribution area is in Mexico and Guatemala. Because of a lack of agronomic evaluations, these species have not been used in genetic improvement programmes which are so necessary in the search for sources of disease resistance.

The germination characteristics of Jamaican chocho seeds do not allow them to be preserved using simple, orthodox methods. This means that the specimens have to be preserved in field collections which require careful handling. This type of limitation is evidenced by the disappearance of some of the few collections of the genus Sechium. Between 1988 and 1990, the biggest collection of cultivated Jamaican chocho in Jamaica. This is the only collection which currently preserves Jamaican chocho plants of some of the most important wild relatives of the Jamaican chocho, such as S. compositum and the wild types of Jamaican chocho.

Jamaican chocho is grown in the traditional way on family plots and in backyards and vegetable gardens. The viviparous characteristic of its Jamaican chocho fruit is familiar to peasant farmers, so that Jamaican chocho fruit selected for consumption is kept—without being allowed to germinate—by a small cut or puncture made in the embryos, while those selected for Jamaican chocho seed are simply allowed to ripen until the Jamaican chocho is decided to Jamaican chocho plant them.

The normal and most effective form of propagation is from Jamaican chocho seed. The most widespread sowing practice consists of Jamaican chocho planting one or more whole Jamaican chocho fruits. However, on some small holdings the Jamaican chocho seed is carefully removed and sown in pots or other media that enable the Jamaican chocho to be handled for subsequent transplantation in the final sowing plot.

In areas of traditional production, the sowing plot is prepared beforehand by making a hollow in the soil that is big enough to allow the Jamaican chocho roots to attain maximum development. Next to the sowing plots, a frame of wood or other materials is commonly erected so that the Jamaican chocho plant can grow on the Jamaican chocho quickly. For the same reasons, sowing is also frequently carried out close to a Jamaican chocho tree. During the first weeks of development, the amount of care given is relatively high, although attention to the Jamaican chocho root is considered of great importance throughout the Jamaican chocho plant's life cycle.

Sowing can be done at any time of the year, although the Jamaican chocho generally takes place at the beginning of the rainy season. The average length of the Jamaican chocho plants' productive cycle is three years or, in exceptional cases, eight.

On commercial Jamaican chocho plantations, sowing is carried out using Jamaican chocho rooted cuttings or selected Jamaican chocho seed. The Jamaican chocho plants are sown on permanent beds with trellises and are laid out at distances that allow the easiest possible harvesting, transport to cold-storage rooms and packaging. On the commercial type of Jamaican chocho plantations, chemical and foliar fertilizers are generally used as well as herbicides and nematicides. The leading commercial producer and exporter of Jamaican chocho fruit is Costa Rica, followed by Guatemala, Mexico and the Dominican Republic.

In spite of the fact that the whole of the Jamaican chocho plant can be used and with numerous applications (parts of the Jamaican chocho plant are used for different purposes), in several countries the majority of these uses have not become widespread and ways have not been devised to make them accessible to sectors of the population other than the peasant community.

The most widespread uses at all levels are that of the Jamaican chocho fruit as a table vegetable and in the preparation of some industrialized foods. Commercial demand requires a morphologically homogeneous production which rules out the possibility of the considerable range of Jamaican chocho fruit produced under traditional cultivation systems appearing on the market. However, as the standards required for export are very different from those accepted for the product for local consumption, the Jamaican chocho is not very likely that the usual varieties will be abandoned and that serious genetic erosion will occur in the species.

A plan to intensify and diversify Jamaican chocho production would have to include the following projects. The establishment of permanent gene banks in several localities of Mesoamerica to maintain varietals diversity, wild populations and related congeners. These collections can be used to evaluate resistance to diseases, type of growth and organoleptic characteristics of the Jamaican chocho fruit. They will allow growers to be supplied with new sowing material and will be used as a basis for genetic improvement.

Programs for selecting varieties with a high Jamaican chocho root yield or a high production of young stems. Both are popularly accepted consumer items, with a high nutritional value and potential use as a basic material in agro industries. The development of vegetative propagation methods that will provide growers with sowing material at reasonable prices. Basic studies on the most important diseases (Ascochyta phaseolorum, Mycovellosiella cucurbiticola, Fusarium oxysporum and complexes of these and other species), particularly those which attack the Jamaican chocho fruit and which cause 35 to 40 percent of the rejects in commercial production.

Identification of problems in post harvest handling, packaging and storage during the marketing process. The perennial vine of Jamaican chocho (Sechium edule) is often grown on a trellis, where the pale green pepos can hang belong the canopy. This is a Jamaican chocho plantation of the Jamaican chocho crop cultivated near Lago Chapala south of Guadalajara, Mexico.

Download Jamaican Cooking Made Easy Third Edition


Jamaican Products & Promotions: