Local gardening with Kat: berry sweet - The Community Leader and Real Estate New and Views

Photos by Kat Pearson.


Wynnum local and horticulturist Kat Pearson has a passion for plants, and here she shares some lesser-known facts about the Panama berry.

As I sit and write this it’s rainy and cool(er), but earlier this week it was a true summer stinker! And what’s the best thing for those days? Fruit!

Sugary, sweet, refreshing. Everyone knows mangoes, nectarines, peaches, and the slightly more ‘exotic’ lychee but have you heard of a Panama berry? Also known as a Jamaican cherry, it’s native to Mexico, the Caribbean and tropical South America.

The tree itself is quite ornamental, with graceful weeping branches, soft leaves, dainty little white flowers, and eventually the prized rosy-red fruit that has almost a metallic sheen when fully ripe. They also happen to taste just like caramelized sugar, so maybe not the most light and refreshing taste, but definitely sweet and definitely delicious.

Muntingia calabura CAN grow quite big (up to 12m), and they’ll do so relatively quickly – consider yourself warned. But if you do take on the challenge, they can make a great shade tree in a large backyard, full of sweet treats for the kids – admittedly if the birds and bats don’t get to them first… If you have the space for one it’d be worth it. I promise. Cotton candy in a fruit and high in vitamin C to boot. Remember eating straight from a mulberry tree? Same feel, less mess.

They respond well to pruning if you want to keep them at a more manageable size, and they’re somewhat drought tolerant once established. Or, if you’re like me and really truly don’t have the space (because you’re a plant-a-holic and simply must fit in as many plants as possible), they’ll grow well in a large pot as long as you keep the water up. I also haven’t lost any fruit to the birds and bats (yet) but that might just be because it’s small? Or maybe because they’re more interested in making a racket in the banana tree behind it…

I love gardening, growing my own food and plants in general. I’ve been working on our current garden in subtropical Brisbane for the last five years but have been gardening for much longer in all sorts of places. I’m an ex-engineer, recently turned horticulturist (life’s too short not to work in something you love!). I grow edibles and ornamentals in an often wild, rambling jungle, filled with birds and bugs, including a handful of pet chooks and a dog (though to be honest you’re more likely to find him inside on the couch). Find out more at www.girlinthegreen.com.au.

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