Monday, 28 January 2013

Sweet Tamarind (Tamarindus indica)

Commonly known as Sweet Tamarind, the origins of this tree is unknown but is generally believed to be native to Africa. 

The Tamarind tree is a large, evergreen tree that can grow up to 30m tall. It has a bushy, irregularly-shaped crown. It has greyish brown bark that is rough and fissured. The heartwood is red in colour while the sapwood is yellow. The alternate, pinnate leaves are bright green in colour and elliptic in shape. The petiole and rachis are finely haired with yellow hairs. Stipules present fall off very early. The leaflets close up at nighttime. 

The flowers are inconspicuous and pale yellow or pink in colour. They are about 2.5cm wide, have 4 sepals and 5 petals. The upper 3 petals are well developed while the lower 2 are smaller and have orange or red streaks. Flower buds are pink as the sepals are and fall off when the flower blooms. 

The fruit os the Tamarind tree is an indehiscent pod about 12 to 15cm long. It has a rusty brown shell that is somewhat brittle. The pods contain seeds that are embedded in a sticky edible pulp. Each pod contains about 3 to 12 1.5cm long seeds. The seeds are irregularly shaped, shiny, and smooth. The reddish dark brown pulp is fleshy and sour pulp. The taste of the tamarind is sweet and sour at the same time.

Jambu Ayer (Syzygium aqueum)

Also known as Water Apple or Jambu Ayer in Malay, this tree is native to Southeast Asia.

The Jambu Ayer tree is a medium-sized tree that can grow up to 12m tall. It has a short, crooked trunk and an open crown. Branching occurs closer to the ground. The opposite leaves are elliptic-oblong and heart-shaped at the base, clasping the twig. It is blunt and notched at the apex. The leathery leaves are dull and light green on the upper side and yellowish-green on the underside. They are slightly aromatic when crushed. 

The flowers are borne in a loose terminal or axillary clusters of 3 to 7, and are mostly hidden by the foliage. They are pale yellow or yellowish-white in colour and faintly fragrant. 

The fruit is a pear-shaped berry with a white, light red to deep red colour. The skin is thin and glossy. The apex is concave and has the thick calyx segments and protruding slender style remnants. The flesh of the Jambu Ayer is pale pink or white, juicy, crisp, and mildly fragrant. It has a faint sweet flavour. It contains 1 to 6 small seeds though they are generally fruitless.

Pomegranate (Punica granatum)

Commonly known as Pomegranate, this tree is native from Iran to the Himalayas. It is now cultivated throughout the Mediterranean region of Asia, Africa, and Europe. 

The Pomegranate Tree is a small tree about 6 to 10m tall. It has an attractive crown and many branches that are somewhat spiny. The oblong-lanceolate leaves are opposite or borne in whorls of 5 or 6. They are glossy and entire, about 3 to 7cm long and 3cm wide.

The flowers are bright and showy and borne on the tips of branches singly or in clusters of up to 5. The bright red flowers are about 3cm in diameter and have thick, tubular red calyx that have 5 to 8 fleshy pointed sepals that form a base wheereby 3 to 7 crinkled red or white petals emerge from. 

The fruit is a round berry crowned at the base by the prominent calyx. At about 6 yo 13cm wide, the pomegranate has a tough, leathery rind. The rind is yellow to rich red. The interior of the fruit is separated by membranous walls and spongy white tissue into compartments packed with transparent sacs. These sacs are juicy, fleshy, each containing one seed. A pomegranate can contain between 200 to 1400 seeds depending on the size. It tastes tart, sweet, and tangy.

Guava (Psidium guajava)

Commonly known as Guava or Apple Guava, it is is native to Southern Mexico through to Central America.

Guava comes from a large shrub or small evergreen tree that is about 3 to 10m tall. It has many spreading branches and crooked stems. The smooth and thin bark is light to reddish brown and flaking, revealing the greenish colour underneath. The dull grey to yellowish-green leaves are simple and opposite, and are aromatic when crushed. The wide, leathery leaves have conspicuous parallel veins. 

The white flowers with 4 to 5 petals are faintly fragrant. They are borne singly or in clusters in the leaf axils. The petals are shed quickly, leaving behind a prominent tuft of around 250 stamens tipped with pale yellow anthers. 

The Guava is an ovoid berry about 5 to 12cm long and weighing up to 500g. It is green and hard when unripe. The skin turns light yellow when ripe, occasionally with a pinkish blush. It has 4 to 5 remnants of the sepals at the apex. The flesh of the guava is somewhat granular, crunchy, and thick. It is pale yellow to creamish in colour. At the centre of the flesh is a seedy pulp that contains numerous small and hard seeds.

Strawberry Guava (Psidium cattleianum)

Commonly known as Strawberry Guava, this tree is native to Eastern Brazil.

The Strawberry Guava Tree is a slow-growing small tree or large shrub that grows to about 6m. It has a smooth brown bark and smooth branches as well. The evergreen leaves are alternate, dark green, glossy, and slightly leathery. 

The fragrant flowers are white with prominent stamens about 2cm long. They are borne singly or in 3s in the leaf axils. Each flower has 4 to 5 white petals and numerous white stamens.

The fruit is round and up to 4cm in diameter. The skin of the Strawberry Guave is red, with whitish and slightly yellowish flesh. The flesh is aromatic and thick, surronding a translucent pulp filled with flattened triangular seeds. The fruit tastes like a combination of a passionfruit and a strawberry.

Fragrant Pandan (Pandanus amaryllifolius)

Commonly known as Pandan, this plant is native to countries in Asia such as Vietnam. 

Fragrant Pandan is a shrub that grows to 1 to 1.5m tall. It has sword-like tapered leaves that are spirally arranged. Mature leaves are about 80 to 110cm long and 6 to 8cm wide and acute tip. The apple green leaves lack a spine in the midrib, and have only a few minute spines present at the extreme apex. Male flowers are extremely rare whilst female flowers are not sighted as the Fragrant Pandan rarely flowers. 

The leaves of the Fragrant Pandan are frequently used in cooking due to its characteristic fragrance. It has a pleasant nutty, sweet-smelling fragrance that is able to enhance the flavour of food like breads, curries, and rice. 

Rambutan (Nephelium lappaceum)

Commonly known as Rambutan, this fruit tree is native to Indonesia and Malaysia. 

The Rambutan Tree is a medium-sized evergreen tree that grows to a height of about 12 to 20m tall. It has an open crown of large branches. The bark is greyish or red in colour. The leaves are alternate and pinnately compound, and the underside has small, crater-like hills located in the axils between the mid and secondary veins. The rachis are reddish and usually hairy when young.

The small flowers are borne in terminal panicles and are whitish, greenish, and yellowish in colour. Rambutan trees are either male, female, or have mostly female flowers.

Rambutans are a spherical or ovoid drupe that are borne in clusters. The skin is a bright to deep red colour and is covered with fleshy pliable spines. The name Rambutan is derived from the Malay word rambut which means hairs. The juicy flesh of the fruit is whitish and translucent, tasting sweet with a mild acidic taste. Each fruit contains a single seed that are light brown and about 2 to 3cm long. They are mildly poisonous when raw but can be eaten after cooking. 

Nutmeg (Myristica fragrans)

Commonly known as Nutmeg, this tree originated from Moluccas and Spice Islands of Indonesia.

The Nutmeg Tree is a medium-sized evergreen tree about 5 to 10m tall. It has a smooth bark that is greyish-brown in colour. The branches spread out in whorls, carrying with them alternate leaves about  4 to 6 inches long on 1inch petioles. The aromatic leaves are elliptical in shape, dark green and glossy on the upper surface and paler on the underside. Flowers are small and dioecious, and borne in axillary racemes. 

The fruits are a pendulous, globose drupe consisting of a succulent pericarp.  When the fruit is mature, it splits into two to expose a crimson-coloured edible pulp surrounding a single seed. Nutmeg refers to the seed of the tree. The seed is egg-shaped about about 2 to 3cm long and has bright scarlet arils surrounding it. These arils are called mace and and is also a valuable spice. The red mace turns brittle and yellowish-brown when dry. Nutmegs have a strong, musky, characteristic aroma. 

Mulberry (Morus alba)

Commonly known as the White Mulberry or Mulberry, this tree is native to China. 

The Mulberry is a tall tree which can reach over 20m but often pruned to a low-growing bush when cultivated. This is to facilitate harvesting of fruits or leaves. The tree has a pyramidal to drooping form. The simple, alternate leaves are light green in colour and have variable form, even on the same tree. Some leaves are unlobed while some may be palmate. The mulberry tree is deciduous in temperate and sub-tropical climates but evergreen in tropical upland conditions.

Flowers are dioecious but may also be monoecious, sometimes changing from one sex to another. They are held on short, green pendulous catkins and small and greenish in colour. After pollination, the flowers will transform into a berry-like, collective fruit. 

The fruit are drupelets formed by individual flowers on the catkin that combine to form a sorosis. The mulberry fruit is commonly black but can vary from white to light purple. The white in the plant's name refers to its leaf buds. The juice of the fruit causes staining that is difficult to remove from cloth.

Mango (Mangifera indica)

Commonly known as Mango, this fruit tree is native to Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, and Malaysia. 

The Mango Tree is a large, evergreen tree that can grow up to 35m tall. It has an umbrella-shaped crown of dark green foliage. The bark is brown and smooth with many thin fissures. It becomes thicker, rougher, and darker with age. A whitish latex exudes from cut twigs while a resin exudes from cuts in the trunk. The leaves are alternate and simple with a oblong-lanceolate shape. They are leathery and dark green in colour, growing up to 30cm long. When young, the leaves are an orange-pink colour.

Flowers are greenish-white or pinkish in colour and produced in terminal panicles about 10 to 40cm long. Each flower is only about 5 to 10mm long with five petals. The flowers have a mild, sweet fragrance. 

The fruit is an irregularly-shaped drupe about 8 to 15cm long. It is attached to the stalk at the broadest end. The skin of the mango is smooth and greenish-yellow or reddish when red. The flesh is a yellow-orange colour and is soft, sweet, and juicy. It may sometimes have a sour tinge when eaten before it is fully ripe. Mangoes also produce a strong sweet smell when ripe. It contains a single seed that is fibrous on the surface. It is hard to separate the seed from the pulp.

Leptospermum brachyandrum

Commonly referred to as Tea Tree as with other species in the same family, this tree is an Australian species.

The Tea Tree is a small tree or large shrub, growing up to about 5m. It has exposed trunks and a flaky bark. The flaking barks will peel in strips, revealing smooth bark of grey and soft pink colours below. The leaves are narrow-lanceolate in shape and approximately 5cm in length.

Flowers are white and fragrant and have a diameter of 7mm. They are borne in clusters around the ends of the branches. They occur in spring and early summer. 

Shortly after flowering, woody fruits of about 4mm in diameter appear. Most Tea Trees retain their fruits but this species sheds the seeds as soon as they reach maturity.

White Dragonfruit (Hylocereus undatus)

The Dragonfruit is said to have originated in Central America. It is now cultivated throughout the tropics. 

The Dragonfruit is obtained from the Nightblooming Cactus, a sprawling and creeping cactus. They are terrestrial or epiphytic and climb using aerial roots. They can reach of height of 10m or more growing on rocks and trees. The stem is green and 3-winged, ranging from a few cm to up to 5m long in mature plants. The entire stem is able to photosynthesize as it contained photosynthetic pigments. 

The large flowers are 25 to 30cm long and 15 to 17cm wide. They are white to pale yellow in colour. It is scented and nocturnal, only blooming at night and lasting just one night. In tropical climate, the cactus can have up to 4 to 6 flowering and fruiting cycles a year. In temperate climate the bloom in late spring to early summer. 

The fruit of the Nightblooming Cactus is called the Dragonfruit which is consumed. The dragonfruit is oblong to ovoid, about 6 to 12cm long and 4 to 9cm thicl. The rind is a purplish-reddish colour with fleshy green scales. The flesh is white and juicy and contains many small, edible seeds. It has a plain to sweet taste. 

Mangosteen (Garcinia mangostana)

The Mangosteen is native to Southeast Asia but widely cultivated throughout the tropics such as in Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Brazil.

The Mangosteen Tree is a slow-growing, medium-sized tree that can grow up to between 9 to 20m. It has a straight trunk and dense, round crown. The bark of the tree is bright green and smooth when young and turns turn brown and nearly black and rough with age. All parts of the plant produce a yellow, gummy latex when wounded. The bright green, opposite leaves are thick, leathery, elliptical, and about 8 to 15cm long.

The fleshy flowers are bout 4 to 5cm wide. They are borne in clusters of 3 to 9 at the tips of branches. It has 4 sepals and 4 fleshy petals. The petals are thick and green in colour with red spots on the outside and yellowish-red on the inside. 

The fruit is capped by the prominent calyx at the stem end with 4 to 8 triangular, flat remnants of the stigma in a rosette form at the apex. The fruits are round, dark purple to reddish-purple in colour and have a thick, smooth rind. The rind is about 1cm thick, red in the cross-section, and purplish-white on the inside. It contains a bitter yellow latex and a purple juice that stains. Within the fruit is 4 to 8 triangular segments of white, juicy, soft flesh. The fruit may be seedless of have 1 to 5 seeds. The seeds are oval and oblong, somewhat flatted, and clings to the flesh. The fragrant flesh has a distinctive tangy, sweet-sour taste. 

Flacourtia inermis

Also known as Batoko Plum, or Rukam Masam in Malaysia, this tree is cultivated throughout India to Malaysia to Britain for its fruits and ornamental foliage.

The Rukam Masam tree is a medium-sized tree that may grow up to 15m. The mature leaves are oblong and elliptic in shape and glossy on the upper side, with a toothed margin. They are about 8 to 20cm long and 3 to 15cm wide. The attractive young leaves are a bright orange, reddish colour, turning green as it matures.

The attractive fruits are produced in bunches and resembles cherries. The fruit is round and shiny, turning from light green to a deep red colour upon ripening. Each fruit measures about 1 to 3cm in diameter.  The flesh of the Rukam Masam is crunchy but sour and acidic in taste. The fruits are generally not eaten fresh but made in jams, preserves, and syrups.

Longan (Euphoria longan)

Commonly known as Longan or Dragon's Eye (longyan in Chinese), this fruit tree is native to China, India, and Sri Lanka.

The Longan Tree is an evergreen tree that grows up to about 10m tall. It has a dense crown of spreading and slightly drooping, thick branches. The erect trunk has a rough bark. The alternate, pinnate leaves are leathery, glossy green on the upper side and slightly hairy and grayish-green on the underside. New leaves are a striking reddish colour. 

The pale yellowish-green flowers have 5 to 6 petals, and are borne in upright terminal panicles.

The globose fruits are borne in drooping clusters and resemble cherries at about 1/2 to 1inch wide. They have a thin, yellow-brown rind that is slightly rough to touch. The flesh of the longan is whitish and and translucent. The juicy and moist flesh has a sweet and refreshing taste. The jet-black seed is a spherical shape, shiny, hard, and has a circular white spot at the base. The name Dragon's Eye for the longan is derived from the fruit itself whereby the black seed embedded within the whitish flesh resembles the eye of a dragon.

Friday, 25 January 2013

Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus)

Lemongrass is native to Indonesia and introduced and cultivated in most of the tropics including Africa, South America and Indo-China.

Lemongrass is a tall, perennial grass that can grow up to 2m tall. Its linear leaves are 1m long and 2cm wide, tapering towards the sheath. It is white on the upper surface and green on the under side. Lemongrass grows in dense clusters, appearing as a clump of tall grass.

The inflorescence is a loose panicle about 60cm long and reddish in colour. The pedicels are tinged purple. 

Lemongrass has a aromatic fragrance that makes it popular for culinary uses. It has a refreshing smell and taste when added to dishes. 

Lemon (Citrus limon)

The origin of lemon is unknown but believed to be originated in Asia.

Lemon is a small evergreen tree which can grow to 6m tall. The tree has stout spines. The leaves are dark green, leathery, and evergreen, oblong, elliptical, or oval and up to 14 cm long. Flower buds are purplish but flowers open to have 4 to 5 white petals, up to 5 cm across. The flowers are fragrant and borne singly or in clusters of 2 to 10 in the leaf axils. The prominent stamens are white with orange anthers.

Fruits are globose to oblong, 7.5 to 12.5 cm long, and ripen to yellow, with smooth to bumpy rinds dotted with oil glands. The fruit is used for culinary and non-culinary purposes throughout the world, primarily for its juice, though the pulp and rind (zest) are also used in cooking and baking. The juice of the lemon is about 5% to 6% citric acid, which gives lemons a sour taste. The distinctive sour taste of lemon juice makes it a key ingredient in drinks and foods such as lemonade.

Wine Palm (Borassus flabellifer)

Commonly known as Wine Palm or Sugar Palm, this palm is native to India, Sri Lanka, Southeast Asia, and New Guinea. 

The Sugar Palm is a tall, robust tree that can live more than 100 years and reach a height of 30m. The cylindrical trunk is ringed with leaf scars. It has large fan-shaped fronds that can be as wide as 3m across. The fronds are a bluish-green colour. The Sugar Palm is often skirted with a layer of brown dead fronds below the fronds. Sugar Palms are slow-growing, especially when they are young, but grow faster with age.

The male inflorescence at up to 2m long is massive, while the female inflorescence is unbranched and covered with sheath-like bracts.

The fruit is a globose drupe that resembles a coconut. They are three-sided when young, becoming more rounded with age. It has overlapping sepals capped at the base of the fruit. The outer covering is smooth, thin, leathery and dark purple, turning almost black after harvesting. Inside the fruit is a juicy mass of long, tough, and course white fibres coated with yellow or orange pulp. Within the mature seed is a solid white kernel which resembles coconut meat but is much harder. When the fruit is very young, this kernel is hollow, soft as jelly, and translucent like ice, and is accompanied by a watery liquid, sweetish and potable. 

The palm produces a sweet sap known as toddy which is obtained from tapping the tip of the inflorescence. The fruits, kernels, seeds, and seedlings can all be eaten.

Starfruit (Averrhoa carambola)

The Starfruit tree is native to Sri Lanka and the Moluccas, and has been cultivated in Malaysia and Southeast Asia for almost 1000 years. 

At only about 5m, the Starfruit tree is a small, slow-growing evergreen tree or tall shrub. It has a short trunk and drooping branches, giving it a bushy shape and a broad crown. The wood is white and turns reddish. The leaves are ovate and slightly oblong in shape. The upper surface of the leaf is smooth while the underside is whitish and has fine hairs. The leaflets are sensitive to light and tend to fold together at night.

Small clusters of red-stalked lilac flowers are produced in the axils of leaves at the end of twigs. The perfect flowers are bell-shaped and produced in loose panicles.

The Starfruit derived its name for its fruit. The cross-section of the fruit is a star shape. The fruits are oblong and about 15cm long. They have a thin, waxy, greenish, yellow-orange skin. The fruits are juicy and yellow on the inside when ripe and have a crisp texture. The fruits taste sweet and mildly acidic. Each fruit contains up to 12 flat, thin, and brown seeds.

The juice of the fruit can be used to clean and polish metal as it dissolves tarnish and rust.

Breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis)

The Breadfruit tree is native to the Western Pacific, then spread to the Caribbean, Central and South America, Africa, India, Southeast Asia, Madagascar, Maldives, Seychelles, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Northern Australia, and South Florida.

The Breadfruit tree is a fast-growing tree that can reach a height of 25m tall. It has a dense, spreading crown of large and thick leaves. The leaves are pinnate and entire at the base but deeply lobed. They are bright green and glossy on the upper surface and have conspicuous yellow veins but dull yellow and coated with minute, stiff hairs on the underside. They have thick, yellow petioles. All parts of the tree produces latex which can be tapped. 

The flowers are monoecious, with male and female flowers growing on the same tree. The males flowers emerge first followed by the female flowers. The compound false fruit develops from the perianth and originates from 1500 to 2000 flowers. These are visible on the skin of the fruit as hexagon-like disks.

The Breadfruit is generally round, oval or oblong, about 20 to 30cm wide. The skin texture varies from smooth to rough to spiny. The fruit turns from green to light green, yellowish green, or yellow when ripe. The flesh is a creamy white to pale yellow colour. When unripe, the fruit is hard and the interior is white, starchy, and somewhat fibrous. When fully ripe, the fruit is softer, with a creamy yellow colour. It also has a sweet fragrance. The seeds are irregularly oval and rounded at one end while pointed at the other.

Custard Apple (Annona reticulata)

The Custard Apple tree is native to the Caribbean and Central America.

The Custard Apple tree is a medium-sized, semi-evergreen tree that reaches about 10m tall. It has an spreading and irregularly-shaped trunk. The alternative leaves are oblong and narrow with conspicuous veins. They have a foul smell. 

The flowers are fragrant and yellow-green in colour, growing in drooping clusters of three or four. They have 3 small inner petals and 3 fleshy and narrow outer petals that are light green externally and pale-yellow with a dark-red or purple spot on the inside of the base. 

The compound fruit may be spherical or or irregularly shaped. The skin is thin but tough and can be yellow or brownish when ripe, with a pink or reddish blush. The juicy flesh is surrounded by a creamy-white layer of custard-like flesh. The juicy segments within each contain a single, hard, dark brown or black seed. The seed is oblong, smooth and glossy at about 1cm long. The ripe fruit tastes sweet and pleasant.

Soursop (Annona muricata)

The Soursop is native to the West Indies and Southern America. 

At about 4m, the Soursop tree is a small and upright evergreen tree. It is low branching and bushy,   with hairy young branchlets. The oblong leaves are glossy and dark green on the upper side but paler and slightly hair on the under side. The flower stalks are stout and woody, appearing opposite the leaves near the petiole with about one or two yellowish conical-shaped flowers. The 3 inner petals are pale yellow in colour while the 3 outer petals are yellow green. They also emerge anywhere on the trunk, branches or twigs. 

The Soursop fruit is slightly lopsided and sometimes irregularly-shaped. It can be up to 30cm long. The fruit is a compound fruit with a rough-looking yet tender skin that has stubby soft spines. The skin is dark green when unripe but turns light yellowish-green when ripe. The white flesh is juicy and aromatic with a slight acidic taste. The fruit may contain a few dozen up to a few hundred seeds depending on the size. The black seeds are oval in shape, smooth, and hard, about 1 to 2cm long each.

Pond Apple (Annona glabra)

The Pond Apple is native to Florida, the Caribbean, Central and South America and West Africa.

The Pond Apple tree often grows in clumps and has an irregularly-shaped crown. It has thin, grey trunks and grows to a height of about 12m. This tree can adapt well in swampy areas and is tolerant to salt water. The leaves are ovate to oblong in shape and have a distinct narrow tip at the end. 

The spherical fruit is is shaped like an apple though larger at about 7 to 15cm long. It falls from the tree when it is green or ripening yellow. It can float in water. The pond apple tastes slightly sweet though it is not as popular as related fruits such as the Soursop. The pond apple can be made into jam and jellies.