Sunday, December 9, 2012

Feijoa sellowiana, it loves the Mediterranean

Feijoa sellowiana, Acca sellowiana, Orthostemon sellowianus, these are some of the scientific names of this South American plant whose adaptability, hardiness, beauty and delicious fruits have led to conquer the Mediterranean by the hand of man. It is grown primarily as an ornamental for its spectacular bloom and for its green fruits the size of a hen's egg whose exotic flavor reminiscent of pineapple. Its most widely popular name is Brazilian guava.

Feijoa sellowiana covered with flowers in late May. When the sun rises these striking flowers are an irresistible to bees are the main pollinators in the Mediterranean, but also in its native South America are visited and pollinated by hummingbirds, attracted by the sweet nectar droplets at the base of the stamens.

The flowers are spectacular with numerous stamens arranged in a brush typical of all Myrtaceae. (I recommend enlarge photos with a double click).

The filaments of the stamens are bright red blood and the pollen-laden anthers ends a soft yellowish white. The female pistil is slightly longer and darker than the stamens and it ends with a stigma pointed. The four petals are pink on the top and a bright pure white on the underside. Its revolute edge upward more visible white undersides pink beam. Below the petals are four much smaller sepals reddish-brown on the top and green on the underside.

 Sprouting spring at early April. We can see some emerging floral buds that will open in late May. This shrub is evergreen, although sometimes in the middle of summer it rains almost lost enough leaves. The same is true in winter when it's cold.

Feijoa leaves of gray-green and bright beam by early December. In spring and summer the leaves are darker.

Flowers freshly fertilized initiating growth of the ovaries. It shows the underside of the leaves whitish and the four sepals of the flowers that persist in the end of the fruit when ripe.

Brazilian guava fruit variety "Mammuth" with the remains of the sepals at its end, detail typical of all the fruits of the Myrtaceae.

Feijoa sellowiana fruits of the variety "Triumph", oval and smaller than the previous range.

Brazilian guava fruit of "Triumph" variety cut longitudinally.

The pulp juiciness best seen closely. Some seeds are immersed in the central part of the pulp which looks more hyaline to contain more sugars and water. This juicy pulp surrounding the seeds is a strategy of the plants that rely almost exclusively on birds for seed dispersal. Birds pierce the fruit with their beaks in search of sugar-rich juicy center where the seeds. Once digested pulp, the birds excreted the seeds well scarified by digestive acids away from the mother plant.

Another feijoa pulp cut transversely. Besides being an excellent table fruit, with its pulp rich in vitamin C and antioxidants can prepare juices, jellies, jams, ice cream and cakes.

The four compartments of the ovary of the flower is transformed into this beautiful juicy cross. The seeds are at the ends of the four arms of the cross.

Feijoa sellowiana 15 years old born from seed. It belongs to the variety "Mammuth". To the left is a lucumo of Peru 26 years old and right an avocado fruit laden grafted about 10 years ago.

The Brazilian guava shrub usually have no more than 4 meters high with trunk branched from the base. This fruit grows naturally in the mountains of southern Brazil, northern Argentina, Colombia, Uruguay and eastern Bolivia. It is moderately resistant to cold, but dies struck at temperatures below -12 º C. Not suitable to be grown in hot and dry areas. It lives very comfortable in Mediterranean climate near the sea. In Europe it is cultivated for many years in the south of France.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Kiwano of the Kalahari, a delicious treat for elephants, rhinos, giraffes and ... humans.

The kiwano, prickly melon, African cucumber, kino, milu, gaka or gakachika is a cucurbitaceae plant of scientific name Cucumis metuliferus, adapted to capricious rainfall cycle of Kalahari Desert.

The fruit of Cucumis metuliferus when ripe acquires a nice green orange color with curious geographical drawings reminiscent of Australian Aboriginal paintings. It is oval and covered with thorns as rhino horn. Therefore used as a decorative element in the centerpieces and mixed with other fruits in fruit baskets. It consumes peeled and diced or sliced ​​in salads especially. It also can be squeezed like a lemon getting a delicious juice very rich in vitamins and antioxidants that can be eaten fresh or freeze and make it a refreshing summer sorbet.

The pulp of the Kalahari kiwano looks appetizing. It is very juicy, very acid with a refreshing point that makes people laugh because forcing the diners to make grimacing when chew. No need to remove the seeds, arduous task difficult, given its small size and low consistency. In fact this is how this plant gets to disperse their seeds, traveling in the intestines of desert animals that eat its fruits, especially elephants, rhinos and giraffes, for which is a little treat, a juicy delicacy that refreshes them and soothes the throat of the dry and coriaceous weed that is their food in the desert.

The original wild plant is rich in cucurbitacins, extremely bitter and irritating substances to the digestive tract of mammals, causing nausea, vomiting, cramps and diarrhea. For the elephants, giraffes and rhinos this purgative effect is good. Eating a few kiwanos not only no hurts them, but gives them vitamin C and will irritate their digestive tract that facilitates intestinal transit and evacuation of many vegetable fibers stuck in the folds of their lengthy colon.

 In return the kiwano gets that their seeds are scarified with digestive juices of these large herbivores and subsequently defecated away from the mother plant, falling on the sand wrapped in a magnificent natural compost that serves as a fertilizer. So can remain for months or even years, until finally a sporadic rain so typical of deserts allowed to germinate, bloom and fruit in just three months, making the most the ephemeral moisture of sandy soil. Its long branches typical of cucurbits extending radially on the sand or climbing on a near bush or tree and every internode develops a fruit that mature takes on a striking orange color and gives off a scent that attracts irresistibly back to elephants, rhinos and giraffes and so repeats the cycle of its life.

The fruits that are grown for human consumption are a mutant selected from the antiquity that lacking cucurbitacins, so are neither bitter nor purgatives. In Africa especially salad grown in Zimbabwe, where they are called gaka or gakachika. Outside its home continent its cultivation has spread to every country in the world with a favorable climate, especially Israel, Chile, United States, New Zealand, Australia, Brazil, Italy and southern Spain (Almunecar). The name kiwano would put by the New Zealand farmers in allusion to their other best-known crop, the kiwi. Both fruits, one African and one Chinese, are widely grown in this southern country where they have been selecting cultivars growing juicy and aromatic.

Cucumis metuliferus female flower with its ovary covered with bumps that mature transformed into conical spines.

Kiwano male flower. The stems and petioles of the leaves are covered in trichomes.

And finally here you have a delicious salad whose acid taste whets the appetite. It can be eaten as a first course or accompany veal steaks, lamb chops or pork, a rabbit, a quail, sardines, squid or a few grilled cuttlefish. It also combines well with a few shrimp skewers or kebabs.

Kalahari Kiwano Salad.
Refreshing salad made from the pulp of two ripe kiwanos sliced, accompanying with tomato, olives stuffed with anchovies and red curly lettuce leaves, all seasoned with extra virgin olive oil, thyme and salt powder. I assure you that is so delicious and is so appetizing that knows little.