Japanese Raisin Tree

Photo from www.britannica.com

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Hovenia dulcis

An attractive upright tree of variable height to around 10m. Showy white flowers in early summer with a pleasant fragrance. Grown as an ornamental for its nice shape and striking glossy green leaves, but chiefly grown for its fascinating ‘fruit’.

The edible fruit is actually the swollen peduncles from which the true fruit (not eaten) hangs. These swollen fruit stalks (25-50% sugars – glucose/sucrose/fructose) are eaten fresh, cooked, or most commonly dried, when they look and taste very much like a raisin. Commonly describes as having a pear flavour with cinnamon and clove overtones. An extract of the seeds and young leaves is used as a honey substitute.

Once the tree starts fruiting it is prolific, but harvesting is labour intensive. Harvest is late summer to autumn. You won’t find these in supermarkets.

Seedlings will flower after 3 years, but will not set any useful fruit for another 3-6 years. Self-pollinating. Copes with frost, and almost any soil except waterlogged soil. Full sun to part shade. Surface roots are not problematic.