U334: Umkokolo or Umkolo or Kei Apple

The kei apple, Dovyalis caffra Warb. (syn. Aberia caffra Harv. & Sond.) is also known as umkokolo in Africa and this is abbreviated to umkolo in the Philippines. Source

I tasted one of these (9/25) when my neighbor brought one from the botanical gardens. What a wonderful taste. It is subtropical – so the ecology is all wrong. Ugh. It is tough to be tempted by the fruit, knowing that the local varieties of native foods have the better chance of surviving drought.

But wait . . . What is this?
The kei apple does well in almost any soil that does not have a high water table. It is extremely drought-resistant and tolerates saline soil and salt spray and is accordingly valued as a coastal hedge in the Mediterranean region and in California.
Now that is interesting.

This reminds me, talking about eating food in season and eating local is still a very foreign concept to many. I forget this. I recently have made statements about buying local and only seasonal food, as I did to the guy who brought it to me, a landscape designer no less and to a neighbor who prides himself on his knowledge of food, I feel like I have just spoken a foreign language or grew a third eye . That was my first impression, but he is gradually becoming a real bearer of good food and feral food locations.

Another fruit I sampled within the same time frame was a Strawberry Guava, a gift from one of the best farmers at my farmer’s market. I loved this little fruit. Oh, and did I mention how really thankful I am? I have such generous neighbors and local farmers. I am one fortunate woman.
Strawberry Guava, Psidium cattleianum, a.k.a. Cattley Guava Source

Dark red skinned guava, closely related to the common guava, with an excellent strawberry like flavor. Fruits are small, to 1.5" around, and the pulp is translucent and very juicy. It some varieties, the flesh can taste pleasantly spicy.

Description: Small bush or tree to 20-25ft, although often much smaller.

Hardiness: Strawberry guava's are hardy to 22F when full grown.

Growing Environment: The strawberry guava is very adaptable and can be grown outdoors throughout much of Florida and California. It will fruit in a container almost anywhere if protected from hard freezes. Trees grow well in full sun and with ample water, although short periods of drought will not harm the plant. Lots of water is needed during fruit development and for proper ripening to occur. The yellow strawberry guava (Psidium cattlenium var. lucidum) is said to be not quite as hardy as the standard red strawberry guava, but seems to survive temperatures to 25F.

Propagation: Usually by seed, sometimes by cuttings.
Uses: Usually eaten fresh or used to flavor beverages, ice creams, and desserts.
Native Range: Native to coastal areas of Eastern Brazil. The strawberry guava is now a weed in many parts of the tropics where it has quickly adapted to a variety of climates. There are major infestations on Hawaii and many Caribbean islands. In tropical climates, the strawberry guava is most often found growing at higher elevations, where the mean temperature is much cooler. The yellow form tends to be a bit less hardy and therefore is found at slightly lower elevations.

It is late for me to be posting about these two exotic fruits as their season passed this fall, but I wanted to include them in this year's food blogging. In the name of biodiversity and learning more about native plants, I’d like to think I might cultivate these fruits one day. Yes, I know that these two are not North American native plants and exotics have already caused real environmental problems as invasive species. This continent has lost thousands of species due to our mono-food culture and the tendency to drag European culinary history into the Americas. These more exotic plants have also been a problem. But, I want to ask around about the viability of these two really tasty alternatives to conventional market offerings.

On the other hand, survival in a changing climate calls for flexibility. Am I right? Native plants that did survive thousands of years have the genes we may need to depend on for resilience. It is Thanksgiving, so besides it being time to respect and honor the real stories of the indigenous peoples of North America and atone for the assault on those peoples, I think it fitting I respect the indigenous foods of the Americas. And I want to continue check out the native species from around the world.

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