Strange Fruits, part 2. Tough Ones.
Following on from last week’s article, Strange Fruit, Citrus, I thought we´d take a look at some more unusual types of other fruits. Once you get past the peach, nectarine, apricot, fig, pomegranate etc. stage, it is good to be able to plant something a little out of the ordinary that, perhaps, you won´t find so easily at your local markets/supermarkets. Next week we can look at the more tropical for sheltered coastal positions but, today, I’ll give you some ideas for toughies that will grow up in more exposed hilly positions with difficult conditions.
Acca sellowiana, pineapple guava, Sp. feijoa. This South American native is a great all-rounder of a shrub/small tree, to 5m high x 4m wide, not commonly seen. It´s for a full sun position, or some lightly dappled shade, becomes very drought resistant, is hardy and stands up well to wind, salt-laden too. Evergreen sage-green tough leaves, backed with silver on toffee-coloured bark are quietly attractive. You have two crops with this shrub; the edible flowers appear in the springtime and are a very pretty coral-pink colour and waxy looking. They look amazing sprinkled across a green salad.
But, if you can bear to leave them, some 3 to 4 months later you will rewarded with the exotically-flavoured fruits – a cross between pineapple-guava as its name suggests! Try this as an informal hedge; it´s very lovely.
Carissa macrocarpa, Natal plum. A South African native found there in sandy dunes and windswept places, so this is another toughie requiring little water once established. It has dark green, rounded, glossy leaves with jasmine-scented white starry flowers followed by large red plum-like fruits. These can be eaten raw – they have a sweetish cranberry-type
flavour and are stacked with vitamin C - and also make a delicious jam. But restrict yourself to the fruit; other parts of the shrub and the sap are poisonous. The shrub can grow to about 4m high x 2m wide, but can be pruned. Because of its sharp thorns, it makes a very pretty and impenetrable barrier – good, again, for hedging at 1m spacings.
Simmondsia chinensis, jojoba, quinine nut. A native of the Sonoran and Mojave deserts through Arizona, California and Mexico (thus incorrectly named chinensis) the bush usually reaches 2m high with a 1m spread and has leaves very similar-looking to an olive. It is exceptionally tough, drought, cold and wind resistant and long-lived – ideal in arid and semi-arid areas. The yellow-green flowers are small and without petals, developing into green acorn-like fruits. They are edible in small quantities and are highly valued for their oil which is very similar to our skin´s sebum and is intensely moisturising and nourishing. The colourless and odourless oil is much used, nowadays in skin creams and as a carrier for aromatherapy oils, and it also has potential as a bio-fuel. Commercially grown in the south-western states of North America, Australia, Israel and parts of South America. There are also emerging plantations in Almeria, Cordoba and Huelva provinces. Don´t
muddle this plant with jujube or ziziphus jujube which is a more tropical planting – I´ll tell you about that next week.