Acerola / Malpighia glabra
Native to the West Indies and tropical America, it is now cultivated throughout the tropics and in subtropical areas around the world. Acerola strongly resembles the cherry, giving it the nick name Barbados cherry and West Indian cherry and is known to have one of the richest natural sources of vitamin C.
Although commonly called a cherry (due to the size), the odour and flavour of cooked acerola are similar to tart apples or crab tree apples.
The fruit is a natural source of vitamin C which is used as an antioxidant and to:
- Support healthy immune system function
- Reduce free radicals formed in the body
- Support wound healing
- Support collagen formation and healthy connective tissue important for skin health
- Support skin integrity, repair and regeneration
The Amazonian Indians were the first to notice the beneficial potential of this fruit. The Spanish conquistadors also developed a keen interest in the properties of acerola upon their arrival in South America.
Amla / Phyllanthus emblica
Native to India and now grown throughout the world, this tropical tree is also referred to as Indian Gooseberry and Amalaki in Ayurveda.
It is said that the Amla berry comes from the first tree to appear on earth, manifested out of the tears of Brahma while he was meditating.
A much-beloved staple of traditional Ayurvedic medicine, this plum-sized berry is considered a cooling ‘pitta’ herb (aids metabolism and digestion), and is said to possess five of the six tastes (sour, bitter, pungent, astringent, sweet), although sour is its main taste.
The fruit is a rich source of vitamin C which is used to:
- Support connective tissue production important to maintain healthy skin elasticity, integrity, structure and firmness
- Support collagen health and formation
- Support skin healing and repair
- Provide as an antioxidant support to protect against free radical damage
Its fruits possess multiple benefits and are of immense use in folk medicine. It is considered the “Mother” because it is considered as the ultimate healer due to its restorative properties
Baobab / Adansonia digitata
Native to Africa and Australia, and now introduced to tropical and subtropical regions, this iconic tree of African savannahs has a lifespan of several hundreds of years.
With social and economic importance, it is known to be one of the most important indigenous fruit trees of sub-Saharan Africa. The tree provides food, medicine and fibre, and almost all tree parts including the fruit pulp and shells, seeds, leaves, flowers, roots and bark can be used. Baobabs contribute significantly to economy of many rural communities. Mainly leaves and fruits are collected for food and sold as raw or processed into a variety of products.
The tree is different from any other, when bare of leaves, the spreading branches look like roots sticking up into the air, rather as if it had been planted upside-down, which is where its nickname, Upside-down tree, originated. The trunk is also smooth and shiny, not at all like the bark of other trees, and usually grows as a solitary individual.
An old Baobab tree can create its own ecosystem, as it supports the life of countless creatures, from the largest of mammals to thousands of tiny insects. Birds nest in its branches; baboons devour the fruit; fruit bats drink the nectar and pollinate the flowers, and elephants have been known to chop down and consume a whole tree.
Along the Zambezi, the tribes believe that when the world was young the Baobabs were upright and too proud, lording over the lesser plants. The gods became angry and uprooted the Baobabs, thrusting them back into the ground, root upwards.
Camu Camu / Myrciaria dubia
Native to the Amazon river region, Camu Camu is now grown throughout the world in tropical and subtropical climates. This water-loving shrub prefers growing on banks of streams, lakes or in swamps, where the lower part of the plant is often submerged.
The cherry-like fruit contains one of the highest recorded amounts of natural vitamin C known on the planet (2800mg of vitamin C per 100 grams), second only to the Kakadu Plum (3100 mg of vitamin C per 100 grams).
Camu Camu is a very juicy berry but has a sharply acidic flavour, which is why it’s rarely eaten in its natural state, except by the indigenous people who inhabit the fruit’s natural territories. Rather, it is generally consumed in the form of juices, purees, ice-creams and more. It is often used medicinally for its high vitamin C content and a variety of other reputed benefits.
Camu Camu fruit was not widely eaten as a traditional food, rather it was used by the Amazonians to treat a variety of health ailments. Very occasionally the local people would suck the fruit, usually when they were very thirsty, because at times, the flooded black waters where Camu Camu grows weren’t drinkable. More often the fruit was used as fish bait for Gamitana fish.
1. Langley, P., Pergolizzi, J., Taylor, R. and Ridgeway, C., Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, accessed 7 Dec 2020, Antioxidant and Associated Capacities of Camu Camu (Myrciaria dubia): A Systematic Review
Finger Lime / Citrus australasica
Originating in Australia, this plant is native to the Bundjalung region, growing in the tropical to subtropical rainforests of NSW and QLD.
Known as Gulalung in the Bundjalung language, this fruit is prized for its unique caviar-like pulp and various colours which can vary between yellow, green, pale pink and crimson.
Lime finger can be boiled up added to drinks, meals and also eaten raw.
The botanical name Citrus is derived from the Greek word citron which in turn is derived from the word kédros, as cedar and citrus fruit and leaves share a related scent. Australasica is reference to the plant’s Australian origin.
The small fruits were originally used by Indigenous tribes as a food source; the limes were foraged in tropical jungles for their tangy pulp.
Green Banana / Musa
One of the most cultivated fruit in the world, the banana belongs to the Musaceae family of flowering tropical plants and is distinctively recognised by the banana fruit clustered at the top of the plant.
Not really a tree by true definition, the banana plant is a giant clumping tropical herb. Even more confusing, bananas are botanically a berry, making them a fruit and a herb.
The plant is a natural source of resistant starch used for its prebiotic fibre to help keep the gut happy by maintaining bowel regularity.
Buddha named the banana to be the symbol of the futility of earthly possessions.
Guava / Psidium guajava
Guava has been cultivated for so many centuries that its place of origin is uncertain. Believed to have originated from Mexico through to Central America, this small, resilient, evergreen tree is now cultivated throughout the world for its medicinal and food value.
The fruit of most varieties is round, though some types are pear shaped. They have white to salmon-pink, juicy seedy flesh and an aromatic fragrance aroma.
Various parts of the plant, including the leaf and the fruit are used for medicinal purpose.
Guava is a natural source zinc which is used to:
- Support skin health
- Reduce free radicals formed in the body
- Maintain hair health
- Support nail health
The fruit, leaf, stem and bark of this berry fruit has been used from ancient times for various ailments.
Lucuma / Pouteria lucuma
A delicately flavoured fruit, native to the Andean valleys of Peru, Chile, and Ecuador, Lucuma is now grown throughout the world in subtropical and humid climates.
Its appearance is similar to an avocado or unripe mango with a green outer skin and dry flesh. Its texture is not soft or slimy, but instead dry, which is why it’s often added into smoothies, ice cream and other sweets rather than eating out-of-hand. The fruit is so popular in Peru, it is said to be one of their best-selling ice-cream flavours.
Due to its high nutritional value, it was once referred as the ‘Gold of the Incas’ and been used in sacred Inca ceremonies since ancient times. This is shown by the many ceramic remains from the Moche and later Inca cultures.
Zizyphus / Zizyphus Spinosa
Native to China and now grown throughout the world, this perennial woody plant is also commonly known as Chinese Date, Date Seed, Red Date or by its Chinese name Suan Zao Ren.
In Chinese, suan means ‘sour’, zao means ‘date’ and ren means ‘seed’ in other words “seed of the sour date”. The medicinal part is the seed, also called the jujube kernel.
Traditionally used in Traditional Chinese Medicine to:
- Nourish heart-yin and balance spirit
- Relieve sleeplessness
- Reduce symptoms of mild anxiety
- Relieve excessive perspiration
From a Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective, it is commonly known to nourish the heart (yin) and calm the spirit (shen).