Cornus Kousa Fruit is Edible | The Kousa Dogwood
This article, titled Cornus Kousa Fruit is Edible | The Kousa Dogwood, provides information on how to grow, harvest, and propagate this beautiful plant. The Cornus Kousa (Benthamidia kousa) also known as Kousa Dogwood, Japanese Dogwood and Chinese Dogwood, is native to Japan, Korea, and China arriving in the United States around 1875. The Kousa Dogwood is a deciduous tree that survives well in USDA zones 5-8 and is self fertile. It is one of my favorite unique edible plants. It likes full sun and will tolerate a little shade, likes acid, moist and well drained soils.
The Kousa Dogwood pictured to the left is at my mother’s house in Maryland. It was planted when I was a growing up about 25 years ago. When small the trees have a vase shape but will grow larger into more of a round shape. Kousa Dogwoods are known to have multi-trunks as show by the one in this picture.
It has opposite simple leaves that are 2 to 4 inches long and about 1 inch wide. In late May to mid-June, after the leaves are fully out, it flowers and has four white petal like leaves around a yellow green flower. In my experience I have noticed that on more mature trees the flowers point up and you can walk right under a tree in full bloom and not even notice the blooms.
In the summer the trees produce fruit that is a greenish color. As the summer progresses it almost seems like the fruit are not growing at all. They seem to stay the same size.
Starting in late August and lasting until late October the Kousa Dogwood fruit ripens. As you can see in the picture to the right, all of the fruit does not ripen at once. The fruit actually starts ripening in August and and you continue to have fresh fruit ripen until the end of October. The ripening fruit is a spectacular display on the tree as they change from green to yellow to blush to a raspberry color.
The fruit is about the size of a quarter in diameter and looks like an over-sized raspberry in both shape and color. The skin of the fruit is green/yellow when unripe. It turns raspberry red as it ripens. Unripe fruit is firm when you squeeze it in your fingertips, but becomes very soft as it ripens. The picture to the left are 3 fruit from my mother’s tree.
The outer red skin of the fruit is very mealy/gritty and is a bit astringent. Inside the red skin is an amber colored pulp with a custard consistency. The picture to the right shows the fruit cut open and placed on a paper towel. Within the center are 8 to 12 seeds the size of apple seeds.
I tried some of the fruit Thursday night so I could describe to you exactly what the culinary experience was like. As I bit into the fruit I noticed that the skin had a kind of papery consistency. I did not care much for the outer red skin so decided that I would focus on the pulp of the fruit. I found that if you break the fruit in half and suck the pulp out it had a pleasant taste. It was very sweet with a slight apple taste with a hint of mango to it.
I can see how a person who is creative in the kitchen could come up with a number of uses for the pulp. I don’t know if the seeds are edible or not. They seemed very hard and I did not try extremely hard to bite into them so I just spit them out during my samplings. The picture to the left show what the seeds look like.
The fruit can be used for wine making. I also found a blog post online where they add the pulp to a smoothie and another blog where they made jelly out of whole kousa dogwood fruit. The fruit is also a favorite of squirrels and birds (and my rat terrier, Murphy).
The Cornus Kousa can be propagated by seeds or by cuttings. You must stratify the seeds for a minimum of 12 weeks for best germination. Stratification involves rinsing the seeds well, putting them in moist sand or peat moss in a bag and putting them in a cool environment (35-40 degrees Fahrenheit) for a period of time (12 weeks recommended). After the 12 weeks, plant the seeds in the ground in a warmer environment and they should germinate. I will have a blog post dedicated to stratification in the future. Propagation by cuttings does not have a high success rate. I saw this in my propagation experiment (click link to see that blog post) this summer where I only had a 5% success rate on the cornus kousa.
So the Cornus Kousa is a hardy beautiful plant that also provides edible fruit. What more could you ask for? I have about 6 of these growing on my farm!