Violet Flowers Violets - Order Malpighiales

Malpighiales is a huge order, containing some 16,000 species, almost 8% of all flowering plants, but for edibles, it isn't that big, and it's a bit odd. The family Viola includes the Violets and Pansies, familiar house and garden flowering plants. Except for this photo of Early Dog-Violet (Viola reichenbachiana) we don't discuss Viola here, because there's nothing to eat.   Photo by H. Zell distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported.

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Spurge Family   -   [Euphorbiaceae]
Red and White Poinsettia Flowers

The Euphorbia are a truly vast family with over 8,000 species, almost all of which are slightly to extremely toxic, or at least allergenic, yet the family includes one very important edible plant (edible so long as you eat only the right parts) and some others with significant culinary and industrial uses. Many have significant medicinal value. The Spurge Family has its own page.   Photo © i0115 .

Mangosteen Family   -   [Clusiaceae]
Whole & Cut Fruit

Clusiaceae is a modest size family of 14 genera containing about 595 species, a fair number of which bear edible fruit. Because the mangosteen fruit is exotic, expensive and loaded with antioxidants, it is being heavily promoted by the "health food" industry as a "miracle fruit". When that wears out, there's other members of the family to take its place. The Mangosteen Family has its own page.

Willow Family   -   [Salicaceae]
This is a sizeable family of at least 59 genera, many species within are well known trees and shrubs with very wide distribution, but not much to eat.

Willows   -   [Genus Salix]
Willow Tree

This is a large genus of between 350 and 400 known species - but, sorry, there's nothing at all to eat here. The only culinary application for willows has been for weaving baskets to carry food in. They are, however, noted medicinals, some species containing significant amounts of salicin, source material for the salicylic acid in aspirin. Back in the days of my childhood we made whistles from willow branches. The bark could be pushed off, the wood carved as needed and the bark pushed back into place.   Photo by Ugur Basak distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported.

Wonder Tree   -   [Chinese Wonder Tree; Igiri (Japan); Idesia polycarpa]
Wonder Tree Leaves & Fruit

This large tree (to 50 feet), often planted as a decorative, is native to East Asia, including China, Korea, Japan and Taiwan. Female trees are heavy producer of long panicles of edible red fruit between 0.2 and 0.4 inch diameter. The fruit is a bit seedy, but edible either raw or cooked. Both male and female trees must be together to produce significant amounts of fruit. This fast growing tree is listed by Plants for a Future.   Photo by Henry Hartley distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported.

Bruguiera   -   [Family Rhizophoraceae, Genus Bruguiera:   Black Mangrove; B. gymnorrhiza   |   Upriver Orange Mangrove; B. sexangula   |   B. cylindrica & others]
Bruguiera Leaves & Flowers

All members of this of this genus inhabit mangrove swamps, generally on the sea side of the swamp. B. sexangula is native to Southeast Asia, Australia and New Caledonia. Developing fruit pods are soaked, then cooked as a vegetable. B. gymorrhiza is native to southeast Africa and the Maldive islands southwest of India. In the Maldives, developing fruit pods are peeled, then boiled in water as a vegetable, changing the water at least four times. B. cylindrica is native from the Maldives through India and Southeast Asia to Papua New Guinea and Queensland Australia. In Thailand the root tips are much liked, the bark is used as a spice and leaf shoots are cooked as a vegetable. In the Maldives, developing fruit pods are used the same as those of B. gymorrhiza, which is preferred. Fruit pods of these plants can be up to 4-3/4 inches long and an inch in diameter and contain embryos rather than seeds. Ripe pods drop into the mud and quickly develop roots.   Photo of B. sexangula by Ulf Mehlig distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 Generic.

Indian Gooseberry Family   -   [Phyllanthaceae]
This is a sizeable family of at least 54 genera, many species within are well known trees and shrubs with very wide distribution.

Star Gooseberry   -   [Otaheite gooseberry, Tahitian / Malay / West India gooseberry, Grosella (Puerto Rico), Phyllanthus acidus]
Pickled Star Gooseberries

This tree-like shrub, thought native to Madagascar, was formerly listed as a Spurge (family Euphorbiaceae). It is completely unrelated to actual gooseberries which are in a totally different order Saxifragales.

This berry is now grown mainly in Southeast Asia, and judging from the number of brands of pickled ones available in my local Asian markets it is quite popular there. Some are grown in Hawaii for local consumption. Since introduction to Jamaica, it has managed to spread through the Caribbean and to Central and South America. The photo shows pickled ones up to 7/8 inch diameter, 5/8 inch high and weighing 8 to the ounce. They are crisp, quite tart but tempered with sugar, and have a single stone (shown to left in photo). They are also cooked with sugar until they turn red and are used to make jelly, or can be crushed for juice used to make beverages.

Bignay   -   [Bignay, Bugnay, Bignai (Philippines); Queensland Cherry, Current Tree, Wild Cherry (Australia); Antidesma bunius   |   Hame, Ha'a, Mehame, Hamehame, Mehamehame, Ha'amaile (Hawaii) Antidesma platyphyllum & many others]
Bignay Fruit on Leafy Branch

This genus of about 100 species is endemic to Southeast Asia, Queensland Australia, southern China and as far east as Hawaii, with at least one species in Nigeria (probably introduced through trade with South / Southeast Asia). They range from short shrubs to trees nearly 100 feet high. The fruits, about 0.4 inch diameter, are edible but a little hard to harvest because bunches don't ripen evenly. They are sour and astringent when white, sour when red, and sweet-tart when fully ripened to black.   Photo of A. platyphyllum by Forest and Kim Starr distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported, attribution required, notification appreciated.

Bishop's Wood   -   [Toog Tree, Koka, Tiger Tree (English); Urium (Asam); Qiu feng (China); Thondi, Milachityan (Tamil); Nili, Cholavenga, Thiruppu, Mlachethayan (Malayalam); Bischofia javanica]
Bishop's Wood Fruit and Leaves

This substantial tree (to 75 feet) is native to South and Southeast Asia and to Australia and Polynesia as well as Taiwan and the southern half of China. An attractive shade tree, it has become invasive in southern Florida, Southern California, and Caribbean Islands. Female trees bear clusters of berries about .35 inch (9 mm) diameter which can be brown, reddish or blue-black when ripe.

The fruit is fermented into wine. The seeds are edible and contain about 40% oil, but that oil is used mainly as a lubricant rather than in cooking. Young leaves are eaten in Laos, dipped in chili sauce, or cooked as a vegetable or used in salads. Roots and bark are used medicinally.   Photo by Wie146 distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported.

Indian Gooseberry   -   [Amla (India); Ma kham pom (Thai, Laos); Kam lam, kam lam ko (Cambodia); Bong ngot (Viet S.), Chu me (Viet N.); Nelli (Philipine); Melaka, Asam Melaka (Malay); Phyllanthus emblica syn Emblica officinalis]
Indian Gooseberry Fruit and Leaves

Native to tropical South and Southeast Asia, this medium size tree (up to 59 feet) bears greenish yellow spherical fruit, between 1 and 2 inches diameter with a single small stone in the center. The fruit is firm, sour, somewhat bitter, astringent and fibrous, and very high in vitamin C. It is not available fresh in Southern California, but Indian markets here have it as dried pieces and dried powder, under the name Amla.

To eat this fruit fresh, it is steeped in salt water and turmeric or chili, but it is more commonly salt pickled with oil and spices, particularly in southern India where the preserves are popular with dal. In northern India the fruits are given a very long soak in sugar syrup, then incorporated into deserts. The fruit, fresh or dried, is used as a souring agent, sometimes as a substitute for Tamarind. In Indian recipes it is also a common standard descripter for the size of a lump of Tamarind pulp. Various parts of this tree are also of significant medicinal value, with research ongoing.   Photo by Chong Fat distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported.

Baccaurea   -   [Genus Baccaurea:   Tampol; B. macrocarpa   |   B. racemosa   |   Rambai, Rambi; Mafai-farang (Thai); B. motleyana   |   Burmese Grape; B. ramiflora & others]
Baccaurea Fruit on Tree Trunk

These mid-size trees (40 feet or so) are native from India through Malaysia. They bear fruit on long strings that sprout directly from the tree trunks and branches. Fruit can range from 3/4 inch to 2 inches diameter and is usually orange when ripe, but Burmese Grape fruit may be yellow through bright red to purple and between 1 and 1.4 inches diameter.

The taste of these fruits is sweet and tangy, with Tampol being similar to tangerines in flavor. Rambai is cultivated for fruit in Thailand and Malaysia. The fruits are fairly perishable and are often salt pickled for storage. They are also fermented into wine or made into jams. Bark, roots and wood are used medicinally.   Photo of Tampol distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported.

Passion Fruit   -   [Family Passifloraceae, Saowarot (Thai); Chanh Day (Viet); Passiflora edulis]
Passion Fruit, whole and cut

This vine is native to Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and northern Argentina, but is now grown in the tropics and subtropics of most of the world. The fruits are eaten fresh in some regions, but its main uses are for juice, used in many beverages (alcoholic and non-alcoholic alike) and in deserts. There are two varieties, the normal purple, and the much larger (up to grapefruit size) yellow var flavicarpa which is not so popular due to being more acidic and less aromatic. The yellow is, however, sometimes used as vigorous rootstock with the purple grafted on.

The photo specimens, grown in USA, were purchased from a multi-ethnic market in Los Angeles (La Crescenta) for 2016 US $1.99 per each (about $14.15 per pound). The largest was 3 inches long, 2-3/8 inches diameter and weighed 2.5 ounces. Yield was 60% with seeds - sorry, I ate the seeds along with the pulp so I can't give you a yield for just the pulp. The shell is not particularly edible, but the pulp was attractively sweet-tart, aromatic and flavorful, a bit more tart than tamarind. At the going price, I'd recommend just cutting them in half and eating the pulp with a spoon, rather than diluting them in some recipe. They are also available at a lower price in some Asian markets, frozen from Vietnam. The frozen taste about the same.

Barbados Cherry Family   -   [Malpighiaceae]
This is a sizeable family of at least 54 genera, many species within are well known trees and shrubs with very wide distribution.

Nance   -   [Nanche, Nance, Nancite, Chacunga, Changunga, Craboo, Kraabu, Savanna Serrette, Savanna Serret, Golden spoon; Byrsonima crassifolia]
Nance Fruit, whole and cut

This medium size (to 33 feet) drought tolerant tree is native from central Mexico down to Brazil, and on most islands in the Caribbean. It is found from sealevel to 6000 feet. This fruit is eaten raw and cooked in desserts. It is also used as a flavoring in various alcohohlic and non-alcoholic beverages, and is cooked in sugar and water to make a candy. They are somewhat sweet, not tart, and have an unusual aromatic flavor. The photo specimens were between 0.7 and 0.9 inch diameter and weighed about 5 to the ounce.

Barbados Cherry   -   [Acerola; West Indian Cherry; Phyllanthus emblica]
Barbados Cherry Fruit on Leafy Branch

This small tree, native to Andean South America from Columbia to Peru, including Venezuela and western parts of Brazil, can grow to 20 feet, but is usually less than 10 feet high. It is now grown in the tropics and subtropics in many countries around the world, and as far north as southern Florida and the lower Rio Grande valley of Texas. The bright red fruit ranges from 0.4 to 1.2 inches diameter and contains three triangular seeds. It is very high in vitamin C, manganese and antioxidants. They range from sour to sweet depending on growing conditions. The fruit is eaten fresh and as juice and pulp in it's native range, and grown for vitamin C in most non-native regions.   Photo by Mateus Hidalgo taken in Brazil distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 Brazil.

Peanut Butter Fruit   -   [Bunchosia armeniaca, Bunchosia argentea, Bunchosia glandulifera]
Peanut Butter Fruit on Leafy Branch

These three very similar Bunchosia species are small to medium size trees native to Andean South America, commonly growing to about 25 feet high. The orange fruits are about 1 inch long, with dense flesh resembling dried figs or peanut butter, with an unmistakable peanut butter scent. Most are eaten fresh, but they can be made into preserves. Apparently B. glandulifera is often mislabeled as B. argentea and is the most commonly grown species in North America and much of South America.   Photo of Bunchosia argentea by Asit K. Ghosh distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported.

Common Flax   -   [Family Linaceae; Linum usitatissimum]
Flax Seeds

Common flax is native from the eastern Mediterranean east to India, and has been planted in many other regions of Europe and North America. It is well known as the source of fiber to make linen cloth. The oldest spun, dyed and knotted flax fibers found are from the Republic of Georgia, dated as 30,000 years old.

Flax seeds, about 1/4 inch long, hard and shiny, are pressed for linseed oil, which has been much used in oil based paints, varnish and in the manufacture of linoleum. When water based polymer paints took over, the linseed oil industry looked for another market, and they found - yes! you guessed it! - "health food". The main selling point is that the oil is 52% Omega 3. Health practitioners are urging people to increase their uptake of Omega 3, but plant Omega 3 is not usable by the human body. Whether it can be usefully converted by the body into the fish oil form of Omega 3 is still very controversial. Some recent studies indicate large amounts of plant Omega 3 may be harmful to health.

In any case, while whole flaxseed is very stable, once ground or pressed for oil, it goes rancid in a week at room temperature, and goes rancid almost instantly if heated for cooking. Some products of rancidity are suspected to be carcinogenic. Another market has been animal feed, but again, rapid rancidity has been a major problem, so a low Omega 3 variety has been developed, trade named "Linola". Rancidity can be delayed for months by immediately vacuum packaging milled flax seed and storing it in the dark.

Flax seed is very high in dietary fiber, but overconsumption can result in intestinal blockage. Flax seed sprouts are edible and have a slightly spicy flavor, but, again, overconsumption with inadequate water can result in bowel obstruction.

Coco   -   [Family Erythroxylaceae (Coco Family); Erythroxylum novogranatense]
Coco Fruit on Leafy Tree

This plant is not actually edible - it is the source of the drug cocaine. It is listed here because it is such a high profile plant and to show the breadth of the Violet family. It is native to the drier highlands of South America, but is now also farmed on the island of Java, Indonesia.   Photo by Dbotany distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported.

St. John's Wort   -   [Tipton's Weed, Chase-devil, Klamath weed; Hypericum perforatum and other Hypericum species of family Hypericaceae]
Yellow St. John's Wort Flowers

This famous medicinal herb is not used in culinary practice, but is included here for perspective.   Photo by Michael H. Lemmer distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported.

Cocoplum Family   -   [Chrysobalanaceae]
This is a modest size family of 17 genera containing about 460 species of tropical trees and shrubs.

Cocoplum   -   [Paradise Plum, Icaco; Chrysobalanus icaco]
Cocoplum Fruit on Leafy Branch

Native to the tropical Americas and Caribbean, including southern Florida and the Bahamas, this large shrub can grow over 20 feet tall. Fruit of the coastal variety can be as large as 2 inches diameter, and is usually light yellow with a pink blush, but it can also be dark purple. Fruit of the inland variety is usually 1 inch diameter and dark purple.

The fruit is eaten raw and made into preserves. The seed kernels are also eaten, either raw or roasted. Opinions on the raw fruit vary from sweet-sour and cottony to soft and sweet. The seed kernels are about 21% oil, which can be pressed and used in place of almond oil, or to make soap and the like. The photo was take in southern Florida.   Photo by Forest and Kim Starr distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported, attribution required, notification appreciated.

Mobola Plum   -   [Mupundu; Parinari curatellifolia]
Pile of Whole Mobola Plum Fruit

Native to sub-Saharan Africa from Senegal in the west to Chad and Kenya in the east, and in central Africa south through Zambia and Zimbabwe, this tree grows to 72 feet high. The fruit has traditionally been gathered in the wild, but the tree has potential for cultivation. The fruit is quite delicious and the seeds have a high oil content suitable for cooking. Aside from being eaten out of hand, the fruit pulp is crushed for use in various beverages, and is fermented into alcoholic beverages.   Photo by Hans Hillewaert distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported.

Others   -   [of family Chrysobalanaceae]
There are a number of fruit bearing trees in this family, but since the information available to me comes from botanists, and botanists don't care a bit about the edibility of fruit, they care about leaves and flowers, I have neither photos or good descriptions.

  • Nonda Plum:   [Nunda Plum; Parinari nonda] Native to northern Australia and New Guinea. Fruits are harvested in the wild.
  • Guinea Plum:   [Parinari excelsa] Native to mountains of Africa (Guinea and Liberia) between 3000 and 6000 feet, this tree grows to 170 feet. Fruit are yellow, ovoid, very aromatic and about 1-1/2 inches long. The pulp is used to make alcoholic beverages, jams and jellies, and may be boiled with peanuts to make a sauce. Considered not quite as good as Mobola Plum (see above).
  • Castanha-de-cutia:   [Aciola edulis] This tree grows in only a small region of Amazonian Brazil, but is prolific in that region. The fruit is edible as well as the kernel. Oil is pressed from the kernel.

Souari Nut Family   -   [ Caryocaraceae]
This is a small family of 2 genera containing about 25 species of tropical trees and shrubs. There are more edible species than I have listed here, but I have no information on them.

Pequi   -   [Souari nut; Caryocar brasiliense]
Pequi Fruit on Branch

This small tree (to 30 feet high) is native to west central Brazil, where the fruit it bears is quite popular. The fruit are round to oval and about 3 inches diameter, turning bright orange when ripe. They contain 1 to 4 segments in which the same number of seeds are surrounded by an edible pulp. The pulp has a strong taste and aroma described as sweet, fruity and cheesy. It is both eaten raw and cooked as an ingredient in recipes, particularly with rice and chicken. It is also used as an ingredient in beverages.

The seeds have a lot of prickly spines, which can be scraped off after drying for a few days. The nuts are cracked open and the kernels are roasted with salt and eaten as a snack. Unfortunately this tree is now under pressure due to land clearing for logging, and the planting of eucalyptus, so it is becoming scarce.   Photo © Denis A. C. Conrado. Permission granted for use provided it is properly attributed.

Pecia Nut   -   [Butter-nut of Guiana; Caryocar nuciferum]
Illustration of Pecia Nut Flower and Leaves

This large tree (to 115 feet high) is native to Costa Rica, south through Columbia and Venezuela to northern Brazil. It bears large round or pear shaped fruit up to 6 inches diameter and weighing over 6 pounds. These contain 1 to 4 large nut-like seeds, the kernels of which are considered very fine eating with a flavor similar to almonds but sweeter. They are eaten both raw and roasted. An edible non-drying oil can be pressed from them.   Drawing copyright expired.

Mamea Family   -   [ Calophyllaceae]
This is a new family of 14 genera created by the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group (AGPIII), found necessary from results of genetic evaluation. The included genera were moved from other families where they had been placed by traditional taxonomy.

Mammee Apple   -   [Mamey, Mamey Apple, Santo Domingo Apricot, South American Apricot; Mammea americana]
Mammee Apple Fruit, whole and split

Not to be confused with the Mamey Sapote (Pouteria sapota) the fruit of which is also called mammee or mamey, this tree is native to tropical South America and Central America as well as the West Indies. It is now also grown in West Africa, Southeast Asia, Hawaii and Florida. The roughly spherical fruit is up to 8 inches in diameter with 1 to 4 seeds depending on size. The fruit can be eaten in fruit salads but is commonly made into beverages, including alcoholic beverages. In some cases the fruit flesh is soaked in salt water to remove bitterness.   Photo by Fibonacci distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (attribution required).

Nag Kesar   -   [Nagkesar, Nagkeshar; Mammea longifolia]
Dried Nag Kesar Flower buds

These flower buds are used as a spice in Korkani and Maharashtrian cuisines in India. It is not a strong spice, but has a slightly woody aroma with a vague hint of citrus in the taste. The photo specimens, purchased from an exporter in India, were about 0.15 inch diameter. 2014 US $9.99 per 100 grams (3-1/2 ounces).

Keluak   -   [Keluak, Keluwak (Indonesia); Kepayang (Malay); Pangium edule of family Achariaceae]
Seeds from Keluak Fruit

This large tree (to 80 feet high), native to Indonesia, Papua New Guinae and Malaysia, bears large round fruit up to 10 inches diameter, sometimes called "football fruit". The fruit contains soft yellow pulp that is highly aromatic and highly toxic (cyanide), in which are embedded seeds about 3/4 inch long, which are also highly toxic.

Fruit are gathered in the wild. The seeds are boiled, then buried in ashes, banana leaves and soil for about 40 days to ferment and turn black. They are then washed and ground into a black paste called rawon, an essential ingredient for a number of popular Indonesian recipes. The paste may be dried and ground to powder for longer storage.   Photo by Midori distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (attribution required).

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