By Corey Elliott
Have you ever encountered a plant adorned with unusual berries, fruits or seed pods? Did you find yourself wondering if they might be edible? Well, we have, and in this article, we will introduce you to a handful of our favourites and provide uses for their out-of-this-world fruits.
Korean Dogwood (Cornus kousa)
Heralded for their magnificent pink and white flowers, Dogwood trees have long been a staple in ornamental landscaping. While most people are familiar with their flowers, few are familiar with the
berries that follow. With a quick glance, you might not think these fruits (which resemble a cross between a raspberry and a sea urchin) would be edible, but they are surprisingly delicious. The flesh
has a tropical, mango-like flavour and makes a great jam.
Tip: Mash and strain to remove seeds, this puree can then be used to make a delightful, bright coulis that can be served over a wide range of desserts.
Strawberry Tree (Arbutus unedo)
These spiky fruits are a far cry from strawberries, despite what the common name of this plant might suggest. Do not let their daunting exterior fool you; they have a delicious sweet-tart flesh comparable to a sour peach. Not only can these fruits be eaten fresh, but they also make a lovely jam.
Tip: Pick your favourite hot peppers and make a spicy jam that can be served with a soft cheese and artisanal crackers.
Chocolate Vine (Akebia quinata)
This peculiar vine produces chocolate-scented flowers, which develop into large, purple sausage-like fruits. When ripe, the fruits will split open, revealing a cluster of seeds encased in a sweet jelly that tastes
like dragon fruit. Once the jelly and seeds have been removed, the rind is treated as a vegetable comparable to eggplant in texture and flavour. In Japan, the rinds are typically stuffed with meat, miso and vegetables.
Tip: Separate seeds from jelly and freeze in an ice cube tray as a way to add a tropical twist to your morning smoothie.
Sumac (Rhus typhina)
These large, fuzzy clusters of berries are a delicacy in the Middle East, where they often prefer their tart flavour to that of lemons or vinegar. These berries are also packed with Vitamin A, C and antioxidants, making them a healthy addition to your diet.
Sumac berries boast a wide range of uses; they can be ground and mixed with other herbs and spices to make a dry rub for meats such as chicken, lamb and fish and also make a refreshing, crimson red lemonade that is sure to be a favourite at your next summer gathering.
Tip: To make a refreshing, bright crimson lemonade – crush Sumac berries and steep in cold water for 10-15 minutes, add sugar to taste and enjoy!
Adults only! Add gin, sparkling water and a sprig of fresh rosemary to make a refreshing summer cocktail.
Try these petite options
English Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
This favourite of many gardeners has quickly become a favourite of pastry chefs worldwide. Lavender can be used in various desserts and pastries, including cookies, scones and ice creams. The floral aromas are well balanced with bright citrus flavours like lemon.
Tip: You can bury dried lavender buds in sugar or steep in cream to infuse the flavour into your desserts without sacrificing texture.
Daylilies (Hemerocallis x ‘Stella D’Oro’)
Daylilies are an incredibly easy-to-grow plant that produces an abundance of beautiful blossoms all summer long; what more could you ask for? What if I were to tell you that they can be treated like zucchini blossoms and taste delicious stuffed with cheese and fried?