asia

Diospyros kaki - Hachiya and Fuyu

Ziziphus jujuba, Jujube - Rhamnaceae

Nephelium lappaceum - Rambutan, Mamon Chino

Native to Malaysia and Indonesia, the Rambutan is one of the most popular and common fruits in Southeast Asia where it is grown both on a domestic level, as a patio tree, and at a commercial level. It has been introduced to some areas of Africa and Central America, like Costa Rica and Panama, to a lesser extent.  The Rambutan is a medium size tree reaching 15 -25 meters in height, with a straight trunk and a dense canopy. 

The fruit is the shape of an egg encapsulated in a red, yellow, or sometimes orange casing covered in soft spiny hairs. The sweet, juicy, aromatic fruit is translucent and surrounds a large seed. There exist freestone cultivars. Fruit can range in acidity, yellow varieties tending to be more acidic than red. 

Reportedly the seed is edible. I forget where I first heard this, but I have eaten the seeds raw, which are not disagreeable in flavor and gave me the sense that they were especially nutritious. Any further info regarding Rambutan seed edibility would be greatly appreciated. 

The Rambutan fruit, like the Lychee, is rich in sugar (11%) and vitamin C.

There are more than 100 varieties of Rambutan in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. Culitvars are distinguished by whether they are best consumed fresh (Ayer Mas, Chooi, Ang, Kelip, Rongrien, Tau po Cheng), or used in preserves (Chompu, Kepala Besar).

The Rambutan is a tree from the humid tropics. It isn't found cultivated higher than 600 meters. It has not been successfully cultivated in Florida and other subtropical areas and does not tolerate long periods of drought. The tree is not especially selective in soil type although it does best in heavy clay soils with a heavy organic mulch layer. 

Orange Rambutan.

Orange Rambutan.

Yellow Rambutan.

Yellow Rambutan.

Red Rambutan. 

Red Rambutan. 

Edible Condiment Leaves of Southeast Asia

The following is a list of species whose leaves are used as condiments in Southeast Asia. The list is not, by any means, complete, but includes some of the lesser known, more obscure species.

Acacia farnesiana, Cassie flower, Leguminaceae

Achronychia laurifolia, Ketiak, Rutaceae

Aegle marmelos, Bael fruit, Rutaceae

Allium odorum, Chinese chives, Liliaceae

Ancistrocladus extensus, Ox-tongue, Dipterocarpaceae

Antidesma ghaesembilla, Sekinchak, Euphorbiaceae

Begonia tuberosa, Tuberous begonia, Begoniaceae

Claoxylon polot, Rock blumea, Euphorbiaceae

Coleus tuberosus, African potato, Labiatae

Crypteronia paniculata, Sempoh, Lythraceae

Curcuma domestica, Turmeric, Zingiberaceae

Cymbopogon citratus, Lemon Grass, Graminae

Cyrtandra decurrens, Graminae

C. pendula, Rock sorrel, Graminae

Dendrobium salaccense, Cooking orchid, Orchidaceae

Derris heptaphylla, Seven finger, Leguminaceae

Elethariopsis sumatrana, Frangrant gingerwort, Zingiberaceae

Eugenia polyantha, White kelat, Myrtaceae

Evodia roxburghiana, Sour-relish wood, Rutaceae

Gymura procumbens, Akar, Compositae

Homalomena graffithii, Itch grass, Araceae

Hornstedtia, Tepus, Zingiberaceae

Horsfieldia sylvestris, Pendarahan, Myristicaceae

Kaempferia galanga, Chekur (Galangal), Zingiberaceae

Kaempferia rotunda, Kenchur, Zingiberaceae

Leucas lavandulifoia, Ketumbak, Labiatae

L. zeylanica, Ketumbak, Labaiatae

Limnophila aromatica, Swamp leaf, Scrophulariaceae

L. villosa

L. conferta

L. pulcherrima

L. rugosa

Lycium chinese, Kichi, Matrimony vine, Solanaceae

Lycopersicum esculentum, Tomato, Solanaceae

Medinilla crispata, Medinilla, Melastomataceae

M. hasseltii

M. radicans

Mentha longifolia, Longleaf mint, Labiatae

Murraya koenigii, Curry-leaf tree, Rutaceae

Nauclea esculenta, Pincushion, Rubiaceae

Ocimum canum, Hoary basil, Labiatae

Oenanthe javanica, Shelum, Umbelliferae

Ottelia alismoides, Pojnd lettuce, Hydrocharitaceae

Oxalis corniculata, Sorrel, Oxalidaceae

Pilea melastomoides, Sweet nettle, Urticaceae

Piper lolot, Pepper leaf, Piperaceae

P. caducibracteum

P. umbellatum

Pistacia lentiscus, Pistachio resin tree, Anacardiaceae

Pluchea indica, Indian sage, Comppositae

Polygonum hydropiper, Water polygonum, Polygonaceae

Staurogyne elongata, Cross flower, Acanthaceae

Trachyspermum involucratum, Wild celery, Umbelliferae

Chondrilla juncea - ampelosyrida (αμπελοσυρίδα) or glykosyrida (γλυκοσυρίδα)

ORIGIN AND DISTRIBUTION

The plant is native to Europe, Asia, and North Africa, but it is known throughout most temperate regions of the world as an introduced species which is usually considered a noxious weed.

USES AND ETHNOBOTANY

In the Greek island of Crete the leaves and the tender shoots of a local variety called ampelosyrida (αμπελοσυρίδα) or glykosyrida (γλυκοσυρίδα) are eaten raw or boiled in salads by the locals. The plant is also traditionally consumed by ethnic Albanians (Arbëreshë) in the Vulture area (southern Italy). Chondrilla juncea may have an anti-oxidant activity and some potential for medicinal use. XO-inhibiting activity shown by extracts of the aerial parts of the plant with potential benefits for hyperuricaemia and gout.

PROPAGATION AND CULTIVATION

In the wild the plant reproduces by seed but also by cloning itself at the root; tilling of soil and chopping up plants actually help this species disperse by sectioning and distributing root parts.

Dillenia indica - Elephant apple, hondapara

BACKGROUND, ORIGIN AND DISTRIBUTION

Dillinia indica Elephant apple fruit.jpg

Dillenia indica, commonly known as elephant apple or chulta, is a species of Dillenia native to southeastern Asia from India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka east to SW China and Vietnam and south through Thailand and Indonesia. 

USES AND ETHNOBOTANY

The fruit pulp of Dillenia indica is sour and acidic, traditionally used in Indian cuisine, including  curries, jam, and jellies. It is often mixed with coconut and spices to make chutneys. It is extensively used in Dal and fish curry in Assam.

In India, it is not commercially cultivated, but is found wild.

Dillenia indica, Elephant apple leaf.jpg

The fruit is a main source of food for elephants, monkeys and deer and collection of fruit from the core areas of the forest are prohibited. Commercial sale of the fruit is also prohibited in an effort to help the food-chain system of the forest from dismantling totally. However no law has been implemented so far (source)

PROPAGATION AND CULTIVATION

Dillenia indica can be propagated from seeds or cuttings. 

 

Averrhoa carambola - Starfruit, carambola

ORIGIN AND DISTRIBUTION

The Starfruit is from Malaysia and Indonesia, now common throughout tropical Asia and the neo-tropics. Most of the world’s commercial cultivation occurs in Brazil, the West Indies, and Malaysia.

USES AND ETHNOBOTANY

Averrhoa carambola.jpg

The fruit, as the name would suggest, is shaped like a star. There are multiple varieties of Starfruit, both sweet and sour. Sweet varieties tend to be lighter in color and smaller, about five inches long and three inches wide. Sour varieties are larger and more orange in color.

Starfruit is especially rich in Vitamins A, B, C, phosphorus and calcium. The vitamin C content is comparable to that of an orange. Each fruit contains between 8 – 10 % sugar.

In addition to the fruit the flower and leaves are edible. 

PROPAGATION AND CULTIVATION

Averrhoa carambola flower.jpg

Starfruit can be propagated easily from seed. Germinate seeds in a well drained soil mix. Trees are often grafted to preserve selected varieties. The grafted carambola can be quite small, compact and heavily bearing, usually no larger then 12 m high. Grafted trees will begin to bear fruit when just a few feet tall. Grafted trees can be managed at four meters and, in favorable conditions, bear so much fruit the branches will break if they aren’t harvested.

 

 

Averrhoa bilimbi - Bilimbi

ORIGIN AND DISTRIBUTION

Averrhoa bilimbi ripe fruit.

Averrhoa bilimbi ripe fruit.

The Bilimbi originated in Indonesia and is now dispersed throughout the tropics although still not very common.

USES AND ETHNOBOTANY

In the Philippines, where it is commonly found in backyards, the fruits are eaten either raw or dipped in rock salt. It can be either curried or added as a souring agent for common Filipino dishes such as sinigang and paksiw. The uncooked bilimbi is prepared as relish and served with rice and beans in Costa Rica. In the Far East, where the tree originated, it is sometimes added to curry. Bilimbi juice (with a pH of about 4.47) is made into a cooling beverage. In Indonesia, it is added to some dishes, substituting for tamarind or tomato. 

Additionally, the fruit can be preserved by pickling, which reduces its acidity. The flowers are also sometimes preserved in sugar.

Leaves of young Bilimbi seedling.

Leaves of young Bilimbi seedling.

In another part of Indonesia, Aceh, it is preserved by sun-drying. The sun-dried bilimbi is called asam sunti. Bilimbi and asam sunti are popular in Acehnese cuisine. It can replace mango in making chutney. In Malaysia, it also is made into a rather sweet jam.

In Kerala and Bhatkal, India, it is used for making pickles and to make fish curry, especially with Sardines, while around Karnataka, Maharashtra and Goa the fruit is commonly eaten raw with salt and spice. In Guyana, it is made into achars/pickles too.

In Seychelles, it is often used as an ingredient to give a tangy flavor to many Seychellois creole dishes, especially fish dishes. It is often used in grilled fish and also (almost always) in a shark meat dish, called satini reken. It is also used to make a delicious sauce for grilled ,that consists of chopped onion, chopped tomato ,chopped chili and cooked on low heat. It is a must in our local white fish broth " bouyon blan" When in season we also curred them with salt to be used when it is not available. (Source)

For most people, the Bilimbi is too acidic to be eaten raw, it is more commonly used in the preparation of marmalades, jellies, cooked with meat and fish, and used to make vinegars and juices. Many medicinal properties are attributed to Bilimbi (for colds, inflammation of the eyes and intestines, among others). The fruit can also be used to clean copper and iron due to its high content of calcium oxalate.

Bilimbi is a good source of vitamin C, calcium, phosphorous and iron.

PROPAGATION AND CULTIVATION

The Bilimbi can be propagated easily from seed. As with Averrhoa carambola (starfruit), and many other tropical species, the seed can benefit from 24 hrs in their lightly fermenting fruit prior to sewing for germination. Bilimbi is less resistant to cold and drought than Starfruit. It is not particular to soil type but it won’t grow well higher than five hundred meters above sea level.

The Bilimbi typically begins to produce after four years of growth and continues to bare fruit year round, although I have gotten fruit from two year old seedling trees. 

Elaeagnus x ebbingei - Silverberry, Oleaster

BACKGROUND, ORIGIN AND DISTRIBUTION

Elaeagnus x ebbingei, commonly called oleaster or Ebbing's silverberry, is from temperate / subropical Areas of Asia. It is a cross between Elaeagnus macrophylla x Elaeagnus pungens. It is a large, bushy, rounded shrub that typically grows to 8-10' tall and as wide. Branchlets lack spines. Leaves are evergreen in warm winter climates, but semi-evergreen to deciduous near the northern edge of its growing range.

USES AND ETHNOBOTANY

Elaeagnus fruit

The seeds can be eaten raw or cooked and are a good source of protein and fats. The fruit is edible, somewhat astringent until fully ripe (almost falling off), then very good and produced in large quantities. Fruits ripen in the middle of winter when few other fruit are available. Fruit will grow to be 3 cm long by 1 cm wide when ripe.

The fruit of all Elaeagnus species are a rich source of vitamins and minerals, especially vitamins A, C and E, flavinoids and other bio-active compounds. The fruit is also a good source of fatty acids, which is unusual for fruit. 

Reportedly, current research indicates that consumption of the fruit greatly reduces the incidence of cancer in humans. Not only that but the compounds in the fruit are possibly capable of slowing or even reversing the growth of cancers that are already in the body.

Flowers are inconspicuous but emit a very agreeable aroma.

PROPAGATION, CULTIVATION AND USE IN SUSTAINABLE FOOD SYSTEMS

The plant is nitrogen fixing, meaning its roots have a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria which form nodules on the roots of the plant and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is used by the plant itself for its own growth, however some of the nitrogen is also available for plants growing nearby. Thus, planting E. ebbingei near other food crops can improve growth and increase productivity.

Due to the versatility of this plant, it has a wide range of uses for use in regenerative agriculture, permaculture, and agroforestry systems. It can grow in full sun or shade and can handle hot dry summers. 

Elaeagnus can have a vine-like growth habit, especially when growing in the understory of a larger tree. Prune back annually to keep the plant contained as a dense hedge or shrub, the plant can take heavy pruning and produces abundant biomass.

Elaeagnus is very wind tolerant and can be utilized as a superior windbreak. It is also highly salt tolerant. It can be heavily pruned as a hedge or let to grow freely, reaching 5 m in height.

I have planted this species in temperate Europe and the Mediterranean Basin, as well as in California, its a tough shrub with with many diverse uses. I believe Elaeagnus ebbingei has major potential for use in sustainable agriculture systems and deserves further investigation, selection and development of superior fruit / seed varieties.