Unusual & Old Fashioned Fruit Trees

 


 

 Oak Tree - Quercus

One traditional English tree that is often not given much consideration, is the Oak tree. Most people think there is only one variety and that is English, but there are many and some are not very hardy coming from warmer climates. Another point that is not often considered is the edible quality of its seeds, or Acorns. Most, including the English Oak, are unpalatable, but some can be processed before use, some are edible after cooking and some are even edible in their raw state straight from the tree! The Holm Oak, or the Holly Oak, Quercus Ilex is a case in point. It isnít a native, but comes from South Western Europe and is also unusual because of its leathery leaves that are evergreen. The Holm Oak is smaller than many other Oaks and the acorns that it produces, when mature, have less tannins in than most varieties - therefore have very little astringency and so are edible. This means that the seeds can be washed and eaten raw, or cooked, made into fine flour and even roasted and used to make a coffee. Indeed during the Second World War Acorn coffee was quite popular.
Quercus Agrifolia is another small, evergreen tree that comes from Californian and is only hardy to about Ė10 degrees C, but it bears very large, long acorns that were widely used as food by native Americans in years past. 

The Cork Oak - Quercus Suber, produces Acorns that are large and fairly low in tannins as well, so they can also be eaten fresh, or with a minimum of processing. This tree is a well-known Mediterranean tree that has another major use as cork was traditionally harvested from its bark. In years gone by the cork was used to produce all the wine bottle corks until they were largely replaced by things made from the dreaded plastic. Coming from the Mediterranean region this tree isnít very hardy as it will only stand temperatures down -10įC without damage, but the Forestry Commission are experimenting with growing some on Cannock Chase as an alternative tree to our native Oaks, the Pendunculate Oak. With our supposedly warming climate and hotter, drier, Summers, the Forestry think they will survive better.
The Pendunculate Oak is a bigger, hardier variety and along with the similar Sessile Oak, is a more common species. The two varieties are very similar apart from the way the Acorns grow. On the English, or Pendunculate Oak, the Acorns are carried on stalks but on the Sessile Oak they are produced directly on the outer twigs. As far as I am concerned the most important thing about these two Oaks is that the Acorns are full of tannins and inedible to nearly all except Pigs who love any Acorns.

The Turkey Oak, or to give its proper name Quercus Cerris, is a more ornamental variety as it has deeply dissected, or lobed leaves and even the squirrels arenít fond of the Acorns from this tree as they are particularly bitter and full of tannins.

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