[permaculture] Che, eh? Mmmm. Nom nom.

Keith Johnson keithdj at mindspring.com
Mon Sep 28 16:29:38 EDT 2009

      Che, eh? Mmmm. Nom nom.

An odd fruit, /Cudrania tricuspidata/, is presently (Fri Sept 5, 09) 
yielding (finally) beautifully, abundantly and deliciously in my USDA 
Zone 6a-b ridge-and-valley landscape in Southern Indiana (a quarter 
century ago it used to be Zone 5) in heavy clay and (this year) a wet 
season (with a three week drought in late Aug through recently). It 
seems to be resistant to pests, the birds have tasted it (must observe 
more) and there are at least 200, inch-to-inch-and-a-half, fruits with 
about half of them ripe at the moment. About 50 taste testers at recent 
party said it reminded them "melon", "mulberry" and "fig" (it is related 
to the latter two) and generally enjoyed it. It's six years old, was 
transplanted here from W. NC, three years ago, and it lived at least its 
first year in a pot. I'd say that indicates sturdiness.My thornless 
cultivar is grafted onto an Osage orange seedling. I recommend it 
highly. You can buy it (where I did) at Edible Landscape 
<http://www.eat-it.com/plants.php?func=view&id=75> in VA. :

Moraceae; Common Names: Che, Chinese Che, Chinese Mulberry, Cudrang, 
Mandarin Melon Berry, Silkworm Thorn.

Distant Affinity: Breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis), Jackfruit (A. 
heterophyllus), Fig (Ficus spp.), Mulberry (Morus spp.), African 
Breadfruit (Treculis africana).

Origin: The che is native to many parts of eastern Asia from the 
Shantung and Kiangson Provinces of China to the Nepalese sub-Himalayas. 
It became naturalized in Japan many years ago. In China, the leaves of 
the che serve as a backup food for silkworms when mulberry leaves are in 
short supply. The tree was introduced into England and other parts of 
Europe around 1872, and into the U.S. around 1930.

Adaptation: The che requires minimal care and has a tolerance of drought 
and poor soils similar to that of the related mulberry. It can be grown 
in most parts of California and other parts of the country, withstanding 
temperatures of -20° F.


Growth Habit: The deciduous trees can eventually grow to about 25 ft. in 
height, but often remains a broad, spreading bush or small tree if not 
otherwise trained when they are young. Immature wood is thorny but loses 
its thorns as it matures. Female trees are larger and more robust than 
male trees.

Foliage: The alternate leaves resemble those of the mulberry, but are 
smaller and thinner and pale yellowish-green in color. The typical form 
is distinctly trilobate, with the central lobe sometimes twice as long 
as the lateral ones, but frequently unlobed leaves of varied outlines 
are also found on the same plant. As the plant grows, the tendency seems 
towards larger and entire leaves, with at the most indistinct or 
irregular lobing. The general form of the leaves comprise many 
variations between oblong and lanceolate. The che leafs and blooms late 
in spring--after apples.

Flowers: The che is dioecious, with male and female flowers on different 
plants. Appearing in June, both types of flowers are green and 
pea-sized. The male flowers turn yellow as the pollen ripens and is 
released, while the wind-pollinated female flowers develop many small 
stigmas over the surface of the immature fruit. Male plants occasionally 
have a few female flowers which will set fruit.

Fruit: Like the related mulberry, the che fruit is not a berry but a 
collective fruit, in appearance somewhat like a round mulberry crossed 
with a lychee, 1 to 2 inches in diameter. The ripe fruits are an 
attractive red or maroon-red color with a juicy, rich red flesh inside 
and 3 to 6 small brown seeds per fruit. The flavor is quite unlike the 
vinous quality of better mulberries. While still firm they are almost 
tasteless, but when fully soft ripe they develop a watermelon-like 
flavor that can be quite delicious. The sugar content is similar to that 
of a ripe fig. In colder areas with early leaf drop the bright red fruit 
are an attractive sight dangling from smooth, leafless branches.


Keith Johnson
"Be fruitful and mulch apply."
Permaculture Activist Magazine
PO Box 5516, Bloomington, IN 47407
(812) 335-0383
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