It’s loved by songbirds, wards off evil, but is rarely consumed by humans.

Here is the bewitching story of the brilliant red rowan:

What is Rowan?

Sorbus aucuparia is native to northern and western Europe. It’s also grown in temperate regions of North America and Asia, often at high altitudes.

Rowan is sometimes known as mountain ash, witch wiggin, keirn and cuirn. It’s often found in the wild, but also planted as an ornamental in gardens.

Rowan Fruit

Belonging to the Rosaceae family, rowan fruit are sometimes called rowan berries, even though they aren’t a true berry. Their green skin ripens from August to October, gradually turning bright orange or scarlet red.

About half an inch in diameter, the rowan is much-loved by songbirds — in fact, the word aucuparia means bird-catching. The fruit is soft and juicy, but rowans are rarely eaten fresh by humans because of the tart and bitter taste.

Sweetened with sugar, the fruit is enjoyed in preserves, syrups and liquors. Freezing removes some of the tartness, so the taste improves after the first frost. The fruit can also be frozen at home before eating or cooking.

Health Benefits

The rowan is full of vitamin C and antioxidants. Its bark, flowers and fruit have been used in traditional medicine to treat fever, infections, colds, flu and rheumatism. With high levels of sorbitol, it also has laxative properties.

Cultural Significance

The Celtic name for this tree is fid na ndruad, which means wizards’ tree. It was once widely planted in the British Isles to protect against evil, likely due to its fiery red color and the pentagram-shaped sepals on each fruit.

While the rowan is more likely to be part of a bird’s diet than ours, we can enjoy this tree for its splendid red beauty, and its storied legends.

Rose hip

Rose flowers are famous in art and romance, but rose hips have healing properties.

Without rose hips, new rose bushes couldn’t grow, and this fruit has medicinal and nutritional value. Find out how it’s grown and how to use it.

What Are Rose Hips?

Rose hips develop when wild roses drop off. Also called rose haw, this fruit is one of the most concentrated forms of vitamin C. Typically the fruit is shelled or powdered, but can also be eaten fresh. You can find it in teas and liquors as well as part of essential oils. Rose hips are tart and often used to flavor soup, jelly, jam or tea.

Interesting Fact

During World War II, rose hips collected by the British government were used to make rose hip syrup as a vitamin C substitute for citrus fruits, which were impossible to import.

Rose Hips in Herbal Medications

Rose hips are used as an herbal medicine with anti-inflammatory properties. You can buy it over-the-counter, and it may even relieve symptoms of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

How Rose Hips Grow

Rose hips come from a perennial plant that has thorny branches that develop into pink and white flowers. They are the seeded fruit that forms after the flowers fall. The beautiful scarlet fruit is oval and becomes shrunken and wrinkled. Three or more yellow-brown seeds form inside the fruit. When planted, rose hips grow into new rose bushes after one or two winters.

Now that you know about the nutritional and medicinal qualities of this fruit, you may wish to try it for yourself. After your wild roses fall and you confirm they are safe to eat, harvest the rose hips and mix them with ice cream or yogurt . If you have a lot, make some fresh rose hip jelly.

Getting to Know the Jujube Fruit

Some say that the fragrant smell of a jujube tree can make you fall in love.

Whether or not that’s true, what we do know is that the tree bears a tantalizing bite-sized fruit that can be picked off the branches fresh or dried.

What is a Jujube?

Grown on a tree known as Ziziphus jujube, the jujube has been cultivated in southern Asia for about 4,000 years. Also called a Chinese date, it’s a small, cherry-sized fruit. It’s slightly elongated with edible skin and a hard stone in the center.

How to Eat Jujubes

The jujube fruit goes through several stages as it matures on the tree:

  • The fruit is immature when green, and won’t ripen if picked at this stage.
  • It’s edible when it’s yellowish-green — sweet and tart, with a bit of crunch.
  • The fruit is fully ripe when it’s completely red and slightly wrinkled. At this stage, it’s soft, chewy, and very sweet, like a date.
  • Left on the tree, the fruit dries naturally. Tree-dried jujubes keep indefinitely even without preservatives.

While it’s difficult to buy jujubes fresh except when grown locally, they’re sold dried in Asian specialty markets. The dried fruit is used for making jam, desserts and tea, or to top hot cereal.

As for the jujube candies that are named for the fruit? They were once made with jujube juice.

Health Benefits

In traditional Chinese medicine, the jujube treats insomnia and anxiety. It’s rich in vitamin C to boost the immune system and a good source of fibre for aiding digestion.

While the jujube tree may not make you fall in love, it does offer a delicious and nutritious bounty of fruit. Enjoy it right off the tree — yellow and crisp, red and ripe, or naturally dried.

All About Babaco

The scientific name of babaco is Vasconcellea x heilbornii or Carica pentagona.

Description of the Fruit

The babaco is a hybrid between the Toronche and Mountain papaya. It grows well in high altitudes of over 2,000 meters.

Within its genus Vasconcellea, the babaco is the most cold-tolerant plant. It is an herbaceous shrub but only produces female flowers. Each plant can produce 30 to 60 fruits each year and typically lives around eight years. The tree stands between 5 and 8 meters tall when fully grown and has minimal branches. The fruit typically has a diameter of under 10 centimeters.

Changes to the Fruit Over Time

Babaco plants do well in greenhouse conditions, making them fairly easy to grow. They need a climate that is cool subtropical, unlike tropical papayas. People have successfully grown it in New Zealand, California, England, and Italy although it probably first grew in the Ecuadorian mountains. The fruit developed there as a natural hybrid.

Description of Taste

The babaco is seedless, and you can eat the smooth skin as well as the fleshy interior. The fruit tastes like a combination of pineapple, kiwi, papaya, and strawberries. The fruit is also pentagonal in shape. Although babacos are not acidic, the presence of papain can lead to mild irritation when eating it.

Is It Used in Desserts?

You can typically use babaco in any recipe that calls for papaya, including with other tropical fruits or in desserts like sweets and pies. You can make a simple dessert by combining babaco with water, sugar, and cinnamon sticks, cooking it to create a light syrup.

Pop Culture References

Babaco is grown for both its edible fruit and the fruit’s juice.

Other Uses

Growers sometimes plant babacos thanks to their resistance to disease. The fruit is also consumed for its richness in vitamins A and C.

All About the Barbadine

The barbadine is also known as grenadine, giant granadilla, giant tumbo, giant passion fruit, parcha, or badea, and has the scientific name of Passiflora quadrangularis.

Description of the Fruit

Within its genus of Passiflora, the barbadine is the largest fruit. It is a native perennial in the Neotropics.

The fruit is oblong and large with a large number of seeds in its subacid pulp, which is edible. The fruit is usually between10 to 30 centimeters wide and 12 to 15 centimeters long.

Changes to the Fruit Over Time

There is only one type of barbadine, and it does not appear to have changed over time, either naturally or by human interaction. Growers have successfully cultivated it in greenhouses.

Description of Taste

It is common to turn the fruit juice of the barbadine into a drink. In certain areas of Sri Lanka, people cook it in the form of vegetable curry, leaving the seeds for snacks or for extracting the juice. When eaten alone, barbadine has a taste similar to that of pears but with some slight acidic flavor and mild sweetness.

Is It Used in Desserts?

In addition to fruit juice, it is common to turn barbadine into ice cream. You can make a delicious punch with the fruit, milk, evaporated milk, and sugar. Alternatively, turn it into barbadine coconut ice cream with coconut milk, cornstarch, sugar, condensed milk, coconut essence, and heavy cream.

Pop Culture References

The barbadine earned the Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society, which honors plants of high quality for their growth in the United Kingdom.

Other Uses

Some cultures use the leaves of the barbadine plant to make a tea. The tea helps control diabetes and high blood pressure. Some people also grow the plant as an ornamental thanks to its gorgeous flowers.

All About the Bilimbi

The bilimbi is acidic, making it a good choice when combined with other ingredients.

The scientific name of the bilimbi is the Averrhoa bilimbi. It is also called the tree sorrel or cucumber tree.

Description of the Fruit

Bilimbi trees are closely related to carambola trees. They are part of the family Oxalidaceae. Bilimbi is a small tropical tree that is native to Indonesia. It reaches heights of up to 15 meters and features fragrant flowers.

The fruit is elongated and an ellipse, typically 4-10 centimeters long. It may be slightly five-angled. The skin is thin, waxy, and slightly bumpy to smooth. When ripe, it turns yellowish-green to light green.

Changes to the Fruit Over Time

The bilimbi may have originated in Indonesia, specifically the Moluccas. It is now prevalent throughout Indonesia as well as in Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Myanmar, Maldives, Bangladesh, and Malaysia.

It is also common in some Southeastern Asian countries and Zanzibar. The tree arrived in Jamaica in 1793 before spreading throughout South and Central America. It arrived in Queensland, Australia, in the late 1800s.

Description of Taste

The flesh of the bilimbi is crisp, with juice that is extremely acidic and sour. As such, people rarely eat the bilimbi alone. Instead, it is typically used as a seasoning for dishes in Indonesia.

Is It Used in Desserts?

Because of its acidic taste, bilimbi is not commonly found in desserts. Costa Ricans prepare it as a relish, Filipinos turn it into curries, Indonesians use it to make dishes sourer, and Malaysians turn it into a sweet jam. It is popular in curries and chutneys and is also sometimes turned into a drink.

Pop Culture References

Traditional Malaysian and Indonesian knowledge indicates that the branches and tree must be exposed to sunlight before flowering and fruits can develop. Growers sometimes assist this process by getting rid of leaves from the tree’s inner canopy.

Other Uses

The bilimbi is commonly used in complementary medicine, and there is plenty of research to back this up. The leaves are used for paste on swelling, skin eruptions, and more.

Other complementary medicines use leaf infusions for various conditions, or the fruit to control obesity. Some people in other areas use it as a stain remover.

All About the Pond Apple

Pond apples are unique apples, perfect for making jelly.

Pond apples are also called alligator apples, swamp apples, monkey apples, corkwood, or bobwood.

Description of the Fruit

Pond apples are tropical trees belonging to the Annonaceae family, which also includes Cherimoya and Soursop. The tree is native to South America, West Africa, the Caribbean, and Florida in the U.S. It is particularly common in the everglades. The tree does best in swamps and cannot thrive in dry soil.

The fruit is spherical to oblong and between seven and 15 centimeters long with a diameter of up to nine centimeters. The fruit falls when ripening yellowish or green. It then spreads to new locations by floating. Each fruit has at least 100 light yellow-brown seeds.

Changes to the Fruit Over Time

The biggest change to the fruit over time is its spread, which led to it becoming an invasive species in some areas like Sri Lanka and Australia.

Description of Taste

When the fruit’s pulp is yellow or orange, you can tell that it is ripe. It will taste similar to honeydew. You can eat it raw, use it in fresh fruit drinks, or turn it into jam. The flesh also smells sweet.

Is It Used in Desserts?

The pond apple is not commonly used as a dessert. Instead, most people will make jelly from it.

Pop Culture References

In Australia and Sri Lanka, the pond apple tree is an invasive species. Recent research indicates the alcohol extract from the seeds may have anti-cancer compounds.

Other Uses

Historically, people crushed the seeds of the pond apple and then cooked them in coconut oil to use as a lice remedy.

There have been some experiments in Florida using pond apple trees as rootstock for other plants, but they did not go well. The leaf and stem of the tree can be boiled to make a tea that destroys nematodes and flatworms.

All About Shaddock

Shaddock is another name for the fruit called pomelo, a citrus fruit also written as pummelo.

Description of the Fruit

Shaddocks are the biggest citrus fruit in the Rutaceae family. The fruit is a non-hybrid citrus fruit and is one of the world’s original citrus fruits. The fruit looks similar to a big grapefruit, but it is larger than most. It is native to Southeast and South Asia.

Changes to the Fruit Over Time

As one of the first citrus fruits, many cultivated citrus fruits have it as a basis for hybridization. There is a great deal of genetic diversity in the shaddock. Both grapefruits and oranges likely occurred naturally from a combination of the shaddock and the mandarin. There are also numerous artificial breeding programs today involving the shaddock, including sweet oranges, bitter oranges, and tangelos.

Description of Taste

Although shaddocks look very similar to grapefruits, they have almost none of the bitterness typically associated with grapefruits. The membrane that envelopes the citrus segments, however, is too bitter for most people to eat. You can use the peel to make marmalade or dip it in chocolate. There are two main varieties of shaddocks. The sour ones have pinkish flesh while the sweet ones have white flesh.

Is It Used in Desserts?

Shaddocks are common in many dessert recipes around the world, most of which use its citrus flavor. Pomelo citrus bars, for example, require making shaddock curd.

Pop Culture References

Many Southeastern Asia festive celebrations use the shaddock as part of the festivities.

Other Uses

The leaves of shaddock plants are popular for aromatic baths. It is also possible to extract the essential oil from the seeds, peels, or leaves of certain species. In Indochina, people used the seeds of one type of shaddock to light their opium pipes. Tool handles and other items are made from the timber of pomelo trees, thanks to their hardness and heaviness.

All About Sugar Cane

Sugarcane, also written as sugar cane, refers to several species of true grasses that are used to make sugar.

Description of the Fruit

Sugarcane is part of the Saccharum genus and Andropogoneae tribe. These tall perennial true grasses are native to tropical parts of Southeast Asia, South Asia, and New Guinea. The plant includes stout fibrous stalks that contain high quantities of sucrose. The plant grows between 2 and 6 meters high.

Changes to the Fruit Over Time

The species of sugarcane can interbreed with each other, resulting in complex hybrids. The ancient Papuan and Austronesian people grew sugarcane. Austronesian sailors brought it to Madagascar, Island Melanesia, and Polynesia, before bringing it to India and China at about 1200 or 1000 B.C.

Description of Taste

The main use of sugarcane is to make sugar, but it also helps make molasses, cachaça (a Brazilian spirit), and rum. You can toast, steam, or eat the young sugarcane raw. You can chew on raw sugarcane to extract the juice. This is almost pure sugar, so it is very sweet.

Is It Used in Desserts?

You will find the sugar from sugarcane in nearly every dessert recipe you come across. Some desserts also directly use sugarcane, such as this sugar cane rice dessert. It requires fresh sugarcane juice.

Pop Culture References

Figures indicate that sugarcane is the biggest crop in the world based on production quantity. In 2016, people produced 1.9 billion tons of it. In 2012, estimates indicated it was cultivated in over 90 countries on around 64 million acres. Around 79 percent of sugar produced comes from sugarcane.

Other Uses

Specialized mill factories extract and purify the sucrose from sugarcane. It is then either fermented into ethanol or used in food. Some parts of the world use the reeds from sugarcane for making thatch, screens, mats, and pens.