Here are some interesting old plum varieties found on a semi-abandoned orchard in Lake County, California along with a wide variety of other fruit and nut trees.
This is a somewhat unique, tree-like shrub, with a short trunk and numerous branches growing upright. When in bloom this species has a spectacular reddish-pink bloom, very bright and in stark contrast to the desertscape. Reportedly the bark is stripped and cooked and used to wash cuts.
Pachira aquatica is a medium size tree native to tropical wetlands of Central and South America. Its native habitat tends to be seasonally flooded lowlands or swamps, however it is adaptable to a wide range of tropical environments. The large, oblong fruit is full of large seeds which taste reminiscent of peanuts, and can be eaten raw, cooked, or ground into flour to make bread. The leaves and flowers are also edible.
Interestingly Pachira aquatica and close relative Pachira glabra are both used and sold with braided trunks as the "money tree", an indoor plant that is supposed to bring monetary wealth. Personally I prefer to plant them in the ground outside.
ORIGIN AND DISTRIBUTION
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.
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.
ORIGIN AND DISTRIBUTION
Native to South America - Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela; C. America - Panama.
Typically found growing as an understory tree in the rainforest, often subject to periodic inundation.
USES AND ETHNOBOTANY
In the Darien region of Panama the bark of Brownea is boiled in water to make tea used to treat diarrhea. The flower is considered to be "from the devil" and infused in water used for ritual baths.
PROPAGATION AND CULTIVATION
Brownea can be grow easily from the large brown seeds. Some literature states that Brownea seed has a semi-hard seed coat and benefits from light scarification before sowing in order to speed up and improve germination, however I have never found this to be the case. Germinate fresh seeds in a compost rich, well drained soil mix and results should be good. Seeds to not have a very long viability.
Brownea macrophylla is native to the moist tropics, it cannot tolerate frosts. Trees prefer a position in partial shade requiring moist soil and dense deep, rich, slightly acid soil. Trees are slow growing and, if happy, will flower when three to four year olds from seed.
M. floribunda is a very slow growing species, rarely found cultivated in its region of origin, although wild trees are typically left in pastures that have been cleared of their vegetation.
I know of a single tree and have harvested fruit once. Bears heavily.
In my experience the small, hard seeds can take a while to germinate. After months of waiting for germination I kind of lost track of them. Eventually I got a few sprouts. A light scarification might prove beneficial in expediting the process. Next season i'll germinate a few dozen, as this is a very uncommon in interesting tree.
Originally from Southeast Asia (East India and Malaya) the Rose Apple has been introduced into tropical regions around the world. It is very common in the Caribbean, brought by English colonizers. Apparently it is being grown in the San Francisco area of N. California. The tree grows with a broad, dense canopy, usually relatively small (5 m), but can reach heights of 20 m. The leaves are long and thin.
The name Rose Apple comes from the scent of the flowers and the taste of the fruit, both of which strongly resemble roses, or rose water. The fruit is round, 3 -5 centimeters in diameter and yellow in color, typically eaten raw, but also used in jellies due to the high pectin content. The fruit contains up to 11% sugar and is considered to be a good source of calcium, iron (2 mg/100 g) and niacin (1.1 mg/100 g).
This species makes a great windbreak due to its low, dense growth habit.
The tree is often wider then it is tall, makes a spectacular ornamental tree, but needs ample space and sun. Although it is somewhat cold hardy, it should be protected from frosts.
The Jaboticaba originates in Southern Brazil where it is one of the most popular fruits, in some parts of the country this is the most common fruit in markets.
Typically Jaboticaba trees grow from 10 - 12 meters high and can take from 6-8 years to bear fruit when grown from seed, and even longer (8-10) when grown in lower, hotter climates.
The variety photographed below is a dwarf, only about two and a half feet tall, bears three times a year, and has larger leaves then the common Jaboticaba. The skin is thin enough to be eaten. As long as it gets irrigated when fruiting, this particular variety seems to do great in the lowland, dry humid tropics.
This is a stem bearing tree. When it is in full bloom the trunk and thicker branches are covered in an almost fuzz like layer of flowers, then the bulbous fruit appear and grow quite rapidly. It seems to take about 15-20 days from flower to mature fruit on this tree.
I'm trying to grow as many as I can. It's bearing right now (end of April).