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.