Try growing these amazing delights!
Here is a look at varieties of fruit suitable for cultivation in Pakistan, with some of the more unusual and amazing species you could try growing at home.
Ananas comosus – Pineapple
A relative newcomer to cultivation in Pakistan and easily grown from Karachi northwards as far as Lahore provided, winter protection is given in the latter. Should also be suitable for the Multan area but may require winter protection there too. This popular fruit is best planted during the summer months as it fruits two years after planting and ripens best in hot weather. Enjoying a slightly acid soil with lots of organic compost mixed in, pineapples are both very heavy feeders and thirsty plants. Some enterprising nurseries have begun selling pineapple plants, quite a few in Pattoki for example, but all you need to do is purchase a ripe pineapple, twist off the top part with attached leaves and plant this. They are suitable for cultivation either directly in the ground or in plant pots.
Cornus mas- Cornelian cherry
Some claim to be growing this fruit very successfully in Karachi, but it would be more at home in northerly, temperate climes. A small tree or large bush, it gets absolutely smothered in spring blossom and the fruit, reddish in colour and the same size as an olive, tastes like a very sour cherry and can be used as such.
Cydonia oblonga – Quince
An attractive small tree with white or pink blossom in the spring, which is quite at home in hilly areas and grows well in Abbotabad. Autumn fruiting, the often pear-shaped quinces turn yellow when ripe and are covered in wooly fluff which, some uninformed people, think is a fungal growth! Native to the Middle East they may do okay in the Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Peshawar and Lahore areas although, to be honest, I am not 100% certain of this although they are cultivated in Baluchistan, Chitral and Azad Kashmir. The apple-sized fruit has numerous uses and can be consumed either raw or cooked. Chaeonomeles species, often called ‘Japanese Quince’ and grown as an ornamental in many parts of the country, does particularly well in the plains of the Punjab and N.W.F.P. where it is grown for its vermillion red/orange flowers that dec-orate its bare branches in early spring. These also bear small size, quince-like fruits, which are perfectly edible. Another variety, Chaeonomeles cathayensis, the ‘Cathay Quince’, is quite a large shrub with largish fruit and the ‘Chinese Quince’, Pseudocydonia sinensis, is another related species with dark pink blossom and greenish-yellow fruit. All of the above benefit from cross-pollination so it is best to plant them in groups of at least three.
Diospyros kaki – Japanese Persimmon
A medium to large tree, can be pruned and kept as a bush if preferred, suitable from the Lahore region northwards. Prefers reasonably rich soil, not sandy conditions, and needs lots of water when flowering and fruiting. Quite an attractive tree, the fruit hanging like enormous Christmas decorations when ripe, at which stage they need protection from birds otherwise they will eat the entire crop over a matter of days. Male and female trees are usually required to obtain a decent harvest. These trees also pro-vide excellent autumnal colour.
Feijoa sellowiana – Pineapple guava
An attractive shrub from New Zealand, which should be eminently suitable from Lahore northwards, but definitely worth a try in Karachi, it has interesting red and white flowers followed by egg shaped and sized berries which are claimed to resemble guavas in taste. However, if you do not want to wait for the berries to form, you can eat the flowers instead!
Fortunella sp. – Cumquat
Closely related to citrus these very small trees, great in large clay pots by the way, bear elongated orange-type fruits, often in very large numbers. The very acidic fruit is used completely, including the rind, mostly in preserves, pickles and marmalades. If you live in citrus growing country but do not have the luxury of a garden, this is a definitely ‘must have’ pot plant.
Mespilus germanica – Medlar
A small to medium sized tree climatically suited to apple growing locations. The only drawback is that the fruit must be ‘bletted’ before it is fit to eat. Bletting involves storing/ burying the fruit in clean sand/earth until it starts to rot, by which time is should resemble a soft apple and can then be eaten raw or cooked. Un-bletted med-lars tend to be highly astringent and rock hard. ‘Battungi’ a variety of med-lar with tiny fruit, grows wild in some upland areas of the country and is of-ten used in ‘achar’. Cultivated varieties bear much larger fruit.
Opuntia ficus-indica – Prickly pear
Otherwise known as ‘Cactus fig’ and ‘Indian fig’. A species of cactus, native to Mexico but widely grown through-out the Mediterranean and South Africa. Now, on a very small scale, here in Pakistan, it eventually pro-duces small, edible fruits which, like the parent plant, are covered in spines so need handling with extreme care! Can be grown from Karachi northwards to Peshawar but not suit-able in the hills.
Passiflora edulis – Passion fruit
Happy anywhere from Karachi to Peshawar as long as soil or pots are well drained. Beautiful vines with clinging tendrils, they should be provided with a trellis of some kind to climb up. Very fast growers, they should begin fruiting in their second year at the latest. Flowers are gloriously perfumed pale blue and white cartwheels. ‘Purple Granadilla’ has white flowers banded with purple and bears purple fruit. P. incarnate or ‘Maypops’ has pale lavender blooms and egg-shaped fruit and P. mollissima, the ‘Banana Passion Fruit’, a recently discovered Brazilian species suitable for Karachi only, has pretty pink flowers and fluff covered fruit.
Physallis peruviana – Cape Gooseberry/Chinese lanterns/Chinese cherries
This easily grown fruit will take over your garden if it gets the chance as, although only an annual, it self seeds like mad! Growing approximately three feet tall, although even five feet is distinctly possible in rich ground, the branching plants bear green fruits, which turn golden orange when ripe. Needs netting against birds and can be cultivated just about anywhere in the country.
Prunus salicina – Japanese plum
Far more heat tolerant than other species, this should crop very well in Lahore provided it is fed with natural gypsum and the roots kept heavily mulched during hot weather.
Sometimes classified as a fruit, others as a vegetable, this popular European plant can be grown as a true perennial in cool, upland areas but is well worth a try as an autumn/winter sown annual in locations where humidity is low. You might not get much of a crop but, what you do get will be delicious!