Fruit - raw or cooked. A very nutritious food, and possibly the most nutritious fruit that can be grown in temperate climates. It is very rich in vitamins, especially vitamin C, plus minerals and bioflavonoids, and is also a source of essential fatty acids. It comes ripe in late summer, though it can be eaten for about a month before this, and will hang on the tree until mid-winter, by which time the flavour has become much milder, though it has also become very soft and difficult to pick[K]. We and many of our visitors really like this fruit, however the flavour is somewhat like a sharp lemon and a lot people find this too acid for them[K]. It also makes a good salad dressing[K]. The fruits of some species and cultivars (not specified) contain up to 9.2% oil. The fruit is used for making preserves. It is being increasingly used in making fruit juices, especially when mixed with other fruits, because of its reputed health benefits. The fruit becomes less acid after a frost or if cooked.
The plant is very fast growing, even in areas exposed to maritime winds, and it makes an excellent pioneer species for providing shelter and helping to establish woodland conditions. The plant is very light-demanding and so will eventually be shaded out by the woodland trees, thus it will never out-stay its welcome[K]. The trees have an extensive and vigorous root system and sucker freely once established. They are thus excellent for stabilising the soil, especially on slopes, and are often planted in the Himalayas to prevent land slips on the mountain slopes and create conditions for the re-establishment of woodlands[K]. The wood is very tough and hard - it can be used for many purposes including wheel hubs and other applications where toughness is essential[K]. It is also used for fuel.
The tender branches and leaves contain bio-active substances which are used to produce an oil that is quite distinct from the oil produced from the fruit. This oil is used as an ointment for treating burns. A high-quality medicinal oil is made from the fruit and used in the treatment of cardiac disorders, it is also said to be particularly effective when applied to the skin to heal burns, eczema and radiation injury, and is taken internally in the treatment of stomach and intestinal diseases. The fruit is a very rich source of vitamins and minerals, especially in vitamins A, C and E, flavanoids and other bio-active compounds. It is also a fairly good source of essential fatty acids, which is fairly unusual for a fruit. It is being investigated as a food that is capable of reducing the incidence of cancer and also as a means of halting or reversing the growth of cancers.
Seed - sow spring in a sunny position in a cold frame. Germination is usually quick and good although 3 months cold stratification may improve the germination rate. Alternatively the seed can be sown in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe in the autumn. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow on in a greenhouse for their first winter. Plant out in late spring into their permanent positions. Male seedlings, in spring, have very prominent axillary buds whilst females are clear and smooth at this time. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, June/July in a frame. Difficult. This is the easiest method of vegetative propagation. Cuttings of mature wood in autumn. Difficult. The cuttings should be taken at the end of autumn or very early in the spring before the buds burst. Store them in sand and peat until April, cut into 7 - 9cm lengths and plant them in a plastic tent with bottom heat. Rooting should take place within 2 months and they can be put in their permanent positions in the autumn. Division of suckers in the winter. They can be planted out direct into their permanent positions and usually establish well and quickly[K]. Layering in autumn.
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Succeeds in most soils so long as they are not too dry. Grows well by water. A fast-growing and very wind-resistant tree, it is an excellent pioneer species for re-establishing woodlands[K]. This species is not hardy in the colder areas of the country, it tolerates temperatures down to about -10°c. Members of this genus are attracting considerable interest from breeding institutes for their nutrient-rich fruits that can promote the general health of the body (see edible and medicinal uses below). The deeply cleft bark favours the growth of epiphytes. Plants in this genus are notably resistant to honey fungus. This species has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria, these bacteria form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby. Dioecious. Male and female plants must be grown if seed is required.
Problems, pests & diseases
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