It is very rare to find a fruit shop in Kerala that does not stock this exotic Southeast Asian fruit. The birth place of this tree that requires hot climates to thrive is Thailand. But, small saplings that have been grafted are widely available now. When using seeds, it will take around 8 years for the tree to mature. If you are purchasing the grafted plant, it should be atleast 2 years old. A fully grown tree bears fruits in 2 years time. There are both male and female Rambutan trees. It is only the female trees that gives fruits, so ensure this before you buy. The grafted plants stay in medium height and don’t grow into large trees. To prevent bats or squirrels, use a net to cover the tree. It is not enough to put manure just at the foot of the plant, this should be done all around in 1 meter distance so the roots grow sturdy. 5 cents is ample space to grow a Rambutan tree. The native Rambutan trees bear small sized fruits. It is the larger King variety fruit that is in much demand.
The outer skin of Rambutan is covered in spikes, whereas that of the Pulasan fruit is full of small mounds. The taste of both fruits is quite similar. The method of care is same too. When the Rambutan is bright red, this fruit has more of a yellowish tint. Like the Rambutan, the Philosan requires sunny weather to grow.
3. Sweet Hog Plum
Locally known as the sweet Ambazham, this is a compact plant that is ideal for small spaces or for flats. This is unlike its sour counterpart, and is really sweet. This plant can be grown in a pot for 4 to 5 years. The fruits are borne throughout the year and it grows in big bunches. The fruits should be plucked before the fibers sprout and when it turns dark green. The fruits can be used to prepare pickles, chutney or even fish curry.
4. Sapodilla / Sapota
Popularly known as the Chikkoo fruit, the gum required for chewing gums comes from this tree. If layering has been done, fruits are borne in one year time. The pulp of the fruit tastes like custard and has a velvety texture. The fruits are either cricket-ball or oval shaped. The oval shaped fruits are sweeter. To keep squirrels or birds away, each fruit should be covered separately. Diabetics are advised against consuming this due to the high sugar content of the fruit. Fruit bearing happens all through the year and it is rich in fibre and vitamins.
These big sized, extremely sweet fruits are native to Indonesia. Slight sloped areas where there is plenty of water is ideal for Mangosteen cultivation. The water should be drained off well and not form puddles in the holes around the small saplings. The best time to plant these trees is between June to October. The manure treatment can start when the small plants sprout and it begins to mature. Organic manure or Sterameal fertilizers can be used. Avoid chemical fertilizers. The growth of Mangosteen is slow comparatively and it requires shade in the beginning stages. The plant needs watering at intervals. The flowering period is from December to January normally. Fruits are borne in 120 to 150 days time.
6. Thailand Rose Apple Tree
There are many varieties of Rose Apple / Chambakka trees and this is a fairly recent entry. If layering or grafting has been done, it is easy to grow these trees. From Rs.500 per plant, the price has come down to Rs.100 for a plant. 1 kilo Thailand Rose Apple are about 8 fruits. The fruit resembles an elongated apple. There are no seeds for this plant and fruits are borne all through the year. Usually Chambakka trees could be given a good shake to get the ripe fruits down, but Thailand Rose Apple is not like that. This fruit is ideal for juices. The Thailand Rose Apple Tree is smaller than the common Rose Apple Tree.
7. Lemon drop Mangosteen
The tropical American Lemon drop Mangosteen tree is small sized and apt as a garden tree. Fruits appear after January time. The size of a gooseberry, the Lemon drop Mangosteen belongs to the Gambooge or Malabar Tamarind family. The white pulpy area around the seed is the edible part of this egg-shaped fruit. A pretty looking tree, it is also used as a decorative tree in the garden.
8. Gujarat Gooseberry
The usual variety Amla does not thrive too well in our climatic conditions. But a new variety that is native to Gujarat adapts quite well here. This variety of gooseberry is also called NA7. There are some guidelines to follow before grafting the Gujarat Gooseberry plant. The process basically involves attaching a wild plant with a better Plant and in the case of the Gujarat Gooseberry, there are chances of the wild strain growing better. The solution for this is to identify the point of grafting and cutting away the branch right below this point. The fruit bearing period is from September to January. These fruits are excellent to make wine. The bigger ones taste better but small gooseberries are more nutritious.
9. Jambul Tree
The fruit of this tree is available in plenty here. But a sweeter and seedless version of the Jamun fruit now comes from Andhra Pradesh. Rich in antioxidants, the Jamun fruit is excellent as a cure for diabetes or heart ailments. This can be grown as a big tree or as a potted plant too. The fruits are borne during the rainy season and hence most fall off to the ground. In a pot, this problem is not there and it will flower faster.
10. Star Gooseberry
The Star Gooseberry tree was once very prevalent but has almost vanished now. The fruits that grow in large bunches look like serial lights. The leaves look just like those of curry leaves but is bigger. The tree does not require much sunlight and grows well in the shade of a larger tree. The fruit bearing time is after the rainy season. Especially used in the coastal areas, this is a great fruit to season prawn curry and sardine curry. According to Ayurveda, the Star Gooseberry is perfect for blood purification, for improving appetite and digestion related issues.
Things to remember
A 2 feet deep hole should be dug and the mud from this removed. Fill this with some top soil, red d, mud from the river bed & oil cakes made from neem seeds. This neem mix helps to keep termites out. You can also add any other bio manures or a mixture of bone meal with the neem cakes. Small holes of 2 feet deep should come near this to ensure that the root branches out well enough. Filling this with soil from the river bed is good for optimal root health. Not much pruning is required for grafted trees. The trees should be spaced at a distance of atleast 10 metres from each. Trees grown from seeds take time to flower and bear fruits, atleast 8 years minimum. But they have better longevity. Grafted trees bear fruit in 2 years time but will not have much life span.
Information Courtesy: Dr. Jacob Varghese Kunthara, Home-grown Nursery & Farm, Kanjirapally