Benefits Of: PERUVIAN PEPPER TREE, MOLLE

Anacardiaceae (Cashew family)

Description. Medium-sized evergreen tree, 1015 m (33-50 ft) tall, monoecious, with pendent branches and a deeply fissured bark. All plant parts contain a transparent, sticky sap. Alternate, silvery, compound leaves with 20-40 linear leaflets, 2-5 cm (0.8-2 in) long. Leaves exude a spicy smell when crushed. Small yellow or whitish flowers are borne in pendent panicles 25-35 cm (10-14 in) long. Fruits are small reddish-pink drupes, 5-7 mm (0.20.28 in) wide with tiny, hard seeds; the fruits are produced in long, showy clusters that contrast with the silvery foliage.

Benefits Of: PERUVIAN PEPPER TREE, MOLLE Photo Gallery



Origin and Distribution. Native to dry regions of northern and western South America, where it grows between sea level and 3,000 m (9,800 ft) on sandy, well-drained soils. The drought-resistant tree is very common in the Andes from Colombia south to Argentina and Chile and was already widely cultivated in pre-Columbian times. Often planted as an ornamental.

Food uses. The ripe seeds, which have a sharp, pepperlike taste, are used as a condiment similar to black pepper (Piper nigrum, p. 300). The red flesh of the fruits, which has a fairly sweet taste, is fermented to make chi-cha, a traditional alcoholic, beerlike beverage made in the Andean region. The pulp also serves to make a sweet, nonalcoholic drink popular in Andean countries, called upi. In South America, the fruits are cooked with sugar to make a thick syrup called miel de molle. In Peru, the fruits are fermented to make vinegar.

Comments. Peruvian pepper has been used in traditional Andean medicine for its antibacterial, antiseptic, and antirheumatic properties. The leaves provide a yellow dye. In the wild, the ripe fruits are eaten by various bird species.

Description. Evergreen tree with a dense, conical crown, 10-20 m (33-66 ft) tall. Opposite, lanceolate to oval leaves, 8-12 cm (3-5 in) long, leathery, glossy, aromatic when crushed. Yellowish-white flowers are borne in terminal triparous cymes. Unopened flower buds, which consist of an elongated calyx, 12-18 mm (0.5-0.7 in) long, 4 spreading sepals, and 4 unopened petals that form a small sphere in the center, are bright red or pink in color and very aromatic. Fruits dark red with reddish pulp and a single seed.

Origin and Distribution. Native to the Molucca Islands of Indonesia. The tree is ultratropical, requiring constant high temperature and humidity.

Originally, cloves were grown almost exclusively on the so-called Spice Islands of Indonesia. During Roman times and in medieval Europe, cloves were a highly prized spice. For centuries, European seafaring nations like Spain, England, and Portugal fought to control the spice trade. Today cloves are grown commercially in many tropical countries, especially in Indonesia, by far the largest producer (and consumer), but also in Madagascar, Tanzania, and Sri Lanka.

Food uses. Cloves are the unopened and dried flower buds. They are used in a wide variety of dishes, especially of Southeast Asian, Indian, and Sri Lankan origin. Cloves are an important ingredient in Indian spiced tea, and they are used as a spice in bakery goods, sweets, marinades, liqueurs, soft drinks, and many other food products.

Comments. Cloves are used in incense and for the manufacture of Indonesian cigarettes called kretek. About 50% of the world clove production is used to make cigarettes. Essential oil of cloves is used in the perfume and cosmetics industry. Cloves are used as an anesthetic to relieve toothache pain, as an antiseptic, and as a stimulant of the digestive tract, among other applications. Cloves contain up to 21% of the essential oil eugenol, which is mainly responsible for the intense, spicy aroma. The English name for the spice has its origin in the Latin word clavus, or nail, describing the form of the flower bud.

Description. Medium-sized tree 25-30 m (80-100 ft) tall. Simple, opposite leaves glabrous, elliptical to lanceolate, 8-16 cm (3-6.3 in) long by 3-7 cm (1.22.8 in) wide. Fragrant yellowish-white flowers are produced in panicles 4-8 cm (1.6-3 in) long. Flowers, which are cup-shaped with 4 petals, are pollinated by beetles and butterflies. Fruits are dark red to purplish-black globose berries containing a single seed.

Origin and Distribution. Native to southern Myanmar, southern Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, the Malay Peninsula, and western Indonesia. Very rarely cultivated elsewhere. It grows naturally as an understory tree in lowland and premontane rainforests with tropical monsoon climates.

Food uses. Fresh or dried leaves are used as a spice in many Southeast Asian meat dishes and to a lesser extent in rice, fish, and vegetable dishes. The spice is essential to Balinese cuisine. The leaves, which have a slightly sour but aromatic flavor, are slowly cooked with the food to release their full flavor.

Comments. In Indonesia and Malaysia, the spice is known as daun salam. The leaves, which are commonly sold in Southeast Asian markets, are usually dried for a few days to produce a stronger aroma. The bark provides a reddish-brown dye that is used for dyeing fishnets and bamboo mattings. The durable wood is used in construction and furniture making.

Description. Slender, erect, evergreen tree with drooping branches and light brown to gray fissured bark, 15-25 m (50-80 ft) tall. Alternate, oblong to ovate leaves, 12-16 cm (5-6.3 in) long by 8-12 cm (3-5 in) wide, with whitish-green, pubescent undersides. Deep red flowers with 5 sepals and 5 petals are produced in axils of leaves on younger branches. Large, ellipsoid, greenish-yellow to yellowish-brown woody fruits with longitudinal ridges and a fissured surface, 20-25 cm (8-10 in) long. Soft, cream-colored, sour-sweet-tasting pulp with several round, brown seeds.

Origin and Distribution. Native to Central and South America, where the tree grows naturally in tropical lowland rainforests. In pre-Columbian times the macambo was almost equal in importance to cacao (Theobroma cacao, p. 308). Today macambo is rarely cultivated except for a few small orchards in Peru and Mexico.

Food uses. The sweetened pulp is used to make milk shakes, ice cream, marmalade, and desserts. In South America, a bottled soft drink is made from the pulp, which is blended with water, ice, and sugar. In traditional Mexican cuisine the pulp is blended with sugar and red achiote seeds (Bixa orellana, p. 277) and made into a colorful dessert. The roasted seeds are used in pastries or used to make hot or cold chocolate-like drinks. In Peru, the boiled seeds are roasted over a charcoal fire and eaten like beans. A nutritious traditional drink called chorote, based on macambo fruits, maize, cassava, honey, and spices, has been popular in Mesoamerica since Mayan times.

Comments. The seeds contain about 34% fat, 13% protein, and about 14% fiber. In the wild, the fruits are eaten by monkeys, peccaries, squirrels, and other rodents.

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