|Kousa Dogwood (Cornus kousa)|
|Himalayan Dogwood (Cornus capitata)|
The fun thing about urban foraging is that you have a chance to find plants from all over the world. Recently when I was walking through my neighborhood I spotted a dogwood with huge bright red fruit that reminded me of a tree that I saw 9 years ago in the Himalayan foothills of Central Nepal. I was just starting a year of ethnobotanical work with Langtang National Park and went for a hike on a trail that led out of the village and up into the mountains. I came across two 10th grade boys walking down the trail carrying sacks of wheat. We got to chatting and I followed them to the water powered stone mill and watched them as they ground their wheat into flour. Afterwards we started talking about plants—at least as much as my rudimentary understanding of Nepali would allow—and I asked them about the large fruits that were scattered along the trail. They said they were called gulna (Cornus capitata) and that they could be eaten fresh, but I shouldn’t eat the ones that had fallen on the ground, which was too bad because there weren’t any left on the tree.
|Heavy fruit production on this Kousa Dogwood|
Ever since then I have always wondered what those Himalayan Dogwood fruits taste like. The fruits before me looked virtually identical, but after some botanical sleuthing, I determined that they were Kousa Dogwood (Cornus kousa), which are deciduous whereas those on Himalayan Dogwood are evergreen. Kousa Dogwood is native to China, Korea, and Japan. The fruit looks something like a strawberry, a pink soccer ball on a stick, or a sea urchin skeleton. Kousa Dogwood fruit is made up of 20-40 pinkish-orangish red fleshy carpels that are all fused together in a spherical arrangement atop a 3-4 inch long stem.
|Nice ripe Kousa Dogwood fruit|
Throughout their native range, Kousa Dogwood fruit are eaten fresh or fermented to make wine. The landowner allowed me to sample a few and I found that they have a soft creamy texture and sweet flavor similar to papaya. However, the skins are slightly coarse and mildly bitter, so I have learned to break them open and suck out the pulp.
|A few minutes picking|
Yesterday, Katrina and I picked a couple quarts of Kousa Dogwood to experiment more with and I learned that unripe fruit tend to have more orange colored skin, have pulp that is white and firm instead of orange and soft, and most notably, lack the sweet flavor of ripe fruit. A few fruits had hard seeds that are about the size of a Chokecherry pit, but contrary to my reading about this fruit, we did not find them to be particularly seedy, having found only 3 seeds in the 2 quarts that we collected.
|Fruit mill making nice Kousa pulp|
We started processing our Kousa Dogwood fruit by breaking them in half and scooping the sweet flesh out with a spoon, but soon tired of this and turned to my Squeezo fruit mill for assistance. The raw fruit went through the mill easily, but the few seeds that we came across were too large to fit through the auger and required several hard cranks to break them up and force them through.
|The ground was covered with fruit|
Our Kousa Dogwood pulp is juicy and sweet and a welcomed addition to the daily smoothie. Next time we pick Kousa Dogwood we will lay a tarp under the tree and shake it so that we only collect ripe fruit that are ready to fall off.