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Carissa fruit grows on a bushy shrub that can grow up to 18 feet (5 1/2 metres) tall, and as wide.

An evergreen, hardy down to 26 F (- 3 C), it has dark green, glossy leaves, and double thorns up to 2 inches (5 cm) long.

The bush flowers throughout most of the summer with very fragrant, small white, waxy, five-petalled flowers. Consequently, the bears fruit year round, though mainly May through to September. The fruit is ready to pick about 2 months after the flower.

The fruit is slightly longer than it is wide, 2 1/2 inches (6 cm) long by about 1 1/2 inches (4 cm) wide. The skin ripens from green to dark red streaked with lighter red. Inside, the flesh texture is slightly granular, and very juicy. A latex comes out of them when they're cut open. There will be anywhere from 6 to 166 small brown seeds in the centre.

The taste is mildly sweet, sometimes astringent. Some think they detect a slight strawberry taste, or sweet cranberry.

Carissa are only good to eat when fully ripe. The fruit should yield to a soft squeeze. Once ripe, it bruises easily.

Carissa is often grown in the southern US as an ornamental shrub or hedge,

Cultivars include Fancy, Torrey Pines, Gifford, Extra Sweet, Alles (aka "Chesley") and Frank.

Cooking Tips

Carissa can be eaten out of hand, or used fresh in fruit salads.

It can also be cooked with in many ways. It can be simmered down into a sauce, canned in a sugar syrup, or used for jellies and pies. Jellies made from it probably won't need additional pectin.

Don't cook it in aluminum pots.

The latex in the fruit will form a ring around the inside of any pot you cook it in. Clean off afterward with dry paper towel with some cooking oil on it.


High in Vitamin C.

Storage Hints

You can freeze Carissa whole or sliced, peeled or unpeeled. After freezing, use for cooking.

You can also can them in a sugar syrup.

History Notes

Carissa is native to South Africa.

Introduced into America by Theodore L. Meade in 1886, and re-inforced there by seeds brought in by David Fairchild in 1903.

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Also called:

Natal Plum; Carissa grandiflora, Carissa macrocarpa (Scientific Name); Natalpflaume (German)

Exotic Fruit

Abiu; Acerola; Ackee; Atemoya; Bread Fruit; Caimito; Canistel; Carissa; Chempedak; Custard Apple; Durians; Feijoa; Jaboticaba; Jackfruit; Java Apples; Jujube Fruit; Karanda; Longan; Lychee Fruit; Malay Apples; Mangosteen; Marang; Pawpaw; Pitahaya Fruit; Prickly Pears; Pulasan; Quandongs; Rambutans; Rose Apple; Soursop; Star Anise Fruit; Sugar Apples; Tamarillos; Tejocotes; Water Apple; Ximenia; Yellow Mombin


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Bon mots

"Always eat grapes downward - that is eat the best grapes first; in this way there will be none better left on the bunch, and each grape will seem good down to the last. If you eat the other way, you will not have a good grape in the lot."

-- Samuel Butler (English novelist. 4 December 1835 - 18 June 1902)

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