Diversity is Nature’s will. Wherever left undisturbed by humans, diversity will flourish to create resilient ecosystems. The more diverse an ecosystem, the more stable and resilient it is. With many species of animals and plants, even if climate conditions change or anything else threatens life, diversity ensures that there is always some species surviving and refilling the niches abandoned by their cohabitants. But even after severe disturbances like vulcano eruptions, meteor strikes, and nuclear accidents and explosions, Nature immediately sets out to restore the site and recreate diversity.
This is why we collect and tend as many species of plants as possible – which consequently allows the largest number of animals to live here, too.
We have been influenced by Charles M. Peters’ stories about indigenous Kenyah and Dayak swiddeners in Malaysia, who create extremely diverse forest orchards that look like natural forests to the untrained eye, and harbor the same level of diversity.
We currently plant dozens of species of fruit from all around the world, even though most trees are still too young to give fruit. A lot of the rare trees come from friends who bring us seeds from other countries. Some foreign fruit trees are from our friend Birdee, who plants all kinds of fruit for over ten years already, meaning he already harvests a lot.
We believe that the healthiest way to eat is if your diet includes as many different foods as possible, so that your body can choose itself what it needs. Another positive aspect of planting a wide variety of fruit trees is that almost at any time of the year some fruit is in season.
Safou (also known as butterfruit) is native to West and Central Africa, where it is included in agroforestry and planted widely as a means to prevent hunger and malnutrition.
It is calorie-dense and high in fats, making it very nutritious. The pulp is creamy and slightly sour, the taste can be described as being a mixture of avocado and potato. When roasted or boiled, the pulp takes on a buttery substance (hence the name butterfruit), but, unlike butter, safou is high in amino acids (the chemical building blocks of proteins), the high concentration of essential amino acids such as lysine and leucine is comparable to eggs and meat, making it ideal for a vegetarian/vegan diet. Moreover, safou is high in micronutrients and minerals (potassium, calcium, magnesium).
The wood can be used for making tool handles, and the bark produces a resin that makes a glue for mending pottery. Resin, leaves and roots have many medicinal benefits ranging from dysentery to joint pain.
Annona-family (Custard apple family)
Rollinia, also called biriba, is native to tropical South America. It has sweet, white, creamy flesh that is eaten with a spoon, the texture is similar to yogurt.
The custard apple (also called wild sweetsop or bull’s heart, in Thai น้อยโหน่ง ‘Noi Nong‘) is native to South America
Other Annona varieties in our garden include soursop and sugar apple (native to the tropical Americas) – photos follow once the fruit is ripe.
The word sapote is a generic term for a couple of mostly unrelated, edible fruit species and comes from the Aztec word tzapotl, which was a Nahuatl word for all sweet, creamy fruit.
The yellow sapote (native to Central America) is also called canistel and is one of the strangest fruits in our garden. The flesh has the color of cooked egg yolk and, funny enough, the exact same texture. The taste is similar to an egg-custard.
Although very uncommon in Thailand, there are different names for this fruit: Lamut Khamen (ละมุดเขมร=”Khmer Sapodilla”) or Tho Khamen (ท้อเขมร=”Khmer Peach”).
The black sapote, also called chocolate persimmon, is most likely the original tzapotl, and one of our most-loved treasures. It is native to Central America, but can easily be cultivated in Thailand. The texture, color and taste somewhat resembles chocolate pudding, while some people compare the taste to that of Nutella. While green and tomato-like when unripe, the fruit turns black once it is fully ripe.
Although very common in Thailand, this fruit originated in Middle and South America. The fruit is brownish-orange on the inside; the flesh has a grainy texture (similar to a pear) and is very sweet.
The trees can be tapped to obtain a latex called chicle, which in turn can easily be made into chewing gum through the simple process of boiling the latex until it reaches the right thickness. Traditionally it was chewed by the Aztecs and Mayas to stave off hunger, freshen the breath and clean the teeth. Until synthetic butadiene-based rubber was produced, chewing gum was exclusively made from chicle.
Other varieties of sapote we cultivate include mamey sapote and star apple (Chrysophyllum cainito).
Chaya (Cnidoscolus aconitifolius, also called tree spinach) is a fast-growing shrub native to Mexico, where it is a popular leaf vegetable similar to spinach. Since the leaves contain toxic hydrocyanic acid, it is recommended to eat not more than five leaves per day raw – if eaten in larger quantities, the leaves have to be boiled to destroy the toxins. The young leaves and tender, green stem tips can be boiled or fried as a tasty vegetable. Chaya is a good source of protein, vitamins (especially vitamin A), calcium and iron, and contains antioxidants, the leaves gave a possible antidiabetic effect. Levels of chaya leaf nutrients are two- to threefold greater than any other land-based leafy green vegetable.
Perhaps one of the biggest treasures in our garden are the Jabuticaba trees. They are still very small, so it will take another five years until we can harvest large quantities of fruit.
This photo is (sadly) not from our garden – it just shows how much fruit an adult tree can yield.
Our largest jabuticaba tree gave fruit last year: