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Japanese Raisin Tree

Hovenia dulcis
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This species comes from a wide distribution range in China, Japan and the Himalayas and it appears there are several sources for the material in New Zealand as we have had reports of very bitter forms. The material under the incredible edible brand is raised from trees with very palatable and sweet "raisins". The plant was introduced to the West in about 1920.

Landscape Value

Great specimen tree or ideal as a shade tree that will add interest to any garden. This tree will reach a height of 10m fully grown.

Nutritional Value

Mainly in the extract of the raisin, recent research has shown it may help to lower blood-sugar levels and may be used in future as an anti-diabetic product. The Chinese have used the stalks to make a drink to help relieve hangovers.

How to Eat

The swollen stalks can be eaten fresh or added to dishes where you use dried fruit. They can be stored for 2 months where the flavour improves. The swollen stalks taste like crunchy raisins. Stalks can be hand picked from the tree or left to naturally drop.

Generic Fruiting Time

J F M A M J J A S O N D

Growing

Sun

They prefer the full sun which induce flowering and the ripening of the stalks and increases the sweetness of the raisin. However they will grow well in semi-shade.

Wind

Will grow in most conditions although some protection from heavy winds while young is recommended They do not grow particularly well in salty marine conditions.

Climate

Japanese Raisin Tree is very cold hardy as it is deciduous. However late frosts can damage new shoots. Although somewhat tolerant of drought, raisin trees do best with a regular supply of moisture. They can not handle water logged situations.

Soil

The raisin tree tolerates a wide range of soil conditions including sandy loam but prefer a fertile, moist loam. These trees are not particularly nutrient hungry trees but an annual application of general fertiliser is a benefit.

Planting

In the open ground all this tree will need is a stake for support for the first couple of years. It can also be grown in a container for a few years.

Fertiliser

Little is known about the fertilisation needs of the tree, but a light to moderate fertilising in mid-spring is probably useful.

Pruning

The tree tends to prune itself, dropping the lower branches as the tree grows.

Pests

Raisin trees are apparently free of any significant pests and diseases.

Hardiness

-30°C

Special Conditions

If hand picking, select the clusters where the little spherical seed pods have turned brown or greyish, as these are more mature and have sweeter stems. If storing the "raisins", gather freshly dropped bunches in a paper bag and store in the hot-water cupboard.

 


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