Every now and then, I get lazy. It happens. Then suddenly a reader will send a note and get me moving again. Henry asked about the moringa and katuk, both widely grown in Costa Rica. Thanks, Henry.
The problem with katuk and moringa is that neither is native to Costa Rica. The word moringa is from the Tamil language and both plants originate in Southeast Asia. Still, they have been introduced into just about every area where the climate permits and the leaves and fruits are frequently found in local markets so they are definitely worth discussing.
The thing I really like about both these plants is that the leaves can be used in a mixed vegetable dish. In this disguise, Metric Man doesn’t notice them. He also doesn’t notice them in salads and, since he avoids veggies whenever he can, this is a great way to get him to eat them. And they are so good for you: High in vitamins, especially A and C, plus B complex, plus trace elements, and protein.
Wow, not bad for a fast growing nice looking little plant. Did I say little? Katuk grows to 2.5 meters (9 feet) and moringa can grow to 10 meters (33 feet). Katuk is usually grown as an annual but moringa? Trim it to size or let it grow to a tree.
Enough about tall things, what about vines? The Passiflora genus (passion flower), with over 500 species and flowers of many different colors, also produces a great fruit. The three most common are the sweet granadilla, giant granadilla and purple passion fruit.
The first has a hard rind and is usually sipped from the rind or split and the pulp spooned out. The giant granadilla has an edible rind and can be eaten fresh from the vine or made into jams. It is also a terrific addition to smoothies. The purple passion fruit is also great in smoothies and other beverages although the seeds can be an astringent.
And how about cacti? The hylocereus cosarricensis, or pitaya, is a native of Costa Rica. If you have a cacti or succulent garden, this night bloomer is highly fragrant and then you can harvest and eat the fruits. Oddly this cactus is a tree climber so you will need to provide it with the support of a trellis as it grows. You may be able to harvest the dragonfruit four or five times a year, depending on your climate. The pitaya likes a nice hot dry place to live.
So there you are, local and introduced plants that are both interesting and edible. I promise not to neglect them in the future.