Three years ago we planted a Pitanga, a sub-tropical shrub that grows really easily in Israel and produces LOTS of very pretty berries.
This year we are allowed to eat the berries (following the 3 year orlah wait). I was so excited to try one!
Well, I was in for a suprise!
But before I discuss what happened when I ate one, let’s ask some more fundamental questions:
Why grow an exotic fruit like Pitanga at all?
Why not instead grow standard popular fruit, like apples or mangos?
3 reasons to grow Pitanga in Israel:
1. Pitanga produces a ton of fruit while staying a smallish attractive shrub, unlike standard fruit trees, most of which want to grow to 15 or 20 meters tall and wide and require massive pruning or they will become unweildy. This makes Pitanga ideal for a small city garden or even a balcony.
2. Pitanga is not prone to infestation or disease, nor is it a favorite of birds. Standard fruit trees tend to have major prolems of this kind and require a lot of intervention if you want significant quantities of good fruit.
3. Pitanga is a nuritional powerhouse and superfood. So many vitamins, minerals anti-oxidants etc. packed into one bite-sized berry!
But How do They Taste?
I’ll be honest, if you PROMISE TO READ TO THE END!
This story has a happy ending!
So the first time I ate pitanga a few weeks ago, I was horrified.
It had an overpowering, unpalatable flavor, which the textbooks describe as “resinous.” Many blogs say that Pitanga are not good eaten fresh at all, and are only tasty when processed with lots of added sugar!
OH NO, I thought, we waited three years to get this????
However, we have a bumper crop of ripe Pitangas right now and my husband didn’t want to give up on them so quickly.
After some experimenting he found that it if you eat them in the right way, Pitangas are actually really yummy.
After learning his easy method, I agree!
In fact, after a few weeks of eating them daily, I now find them to be the most refreshing and delicious way to start my day – by the handful!
They have the perfect balance of sweet and sour.
Here are some tips for learning to enjoy pitanga berries.
How to Enjoy a Pitanga:
1. Only eat completely ripe berries. They are fully red and come off the tree with the slightest nudge.
2. After satisfying halachic requirements and checking for bugs (*see footnote), pop the fruit into your mouth but DO NOT BITE IT! The offensive resinous flavor is only contained in the soft outer skin and is only released if you grind it with your teeth. Instead, mash the inner flesh of the fruit with your tounge and gums. Delicious!
3. After you’ve enjoyed eating the flesh, you can swallow the skin whole, or spit it out with the cherry-like pit.
A few words about halachic considerations:
1. Pitangas are attractive, easy-care bushes that are often grown as ornamentals in Israel. If you are picking berries from a bush grown primarily for looks, many poskim rule that there is no obligation to wait 3 years of orlah or seperate trumos and maaseros. In our case, we waited 3 years since we planted the bush primarily because we wanted the fruit.
2. Regarding infestations, Pitangas are particularly clean. Maybe bugs and birds also dislike that resinous flavor? Still, you must be careful to inspect nevertheless.
Note: I am not a rabbi. Don’t rely solely on my opinion on this or any other halachic matter.
I am now loving the abundant, attractive Pitanga fruit on my tree BH! I’m so glad we planted this attractive, easy-care bush!
My name is Naomi and this is my tiny little farm in the heart of the rapidly growing city of Beit Shemesh, Israel. I enjoy growing, making and processing as much of my family's food and household essentials as possible, while nurturing a biodiverse ecosystem filled with beauty and life.