Thursday, April 24, 2014

U is for Ugniberry: Yummy Fruits A-Z

Ugni shrubs are 3-15 feet tall.
Berries are 1 cm in diameter.
Ugni (also known as Chilean guava or strawberry myrtle) is an
evergreen shrub native to Chile, Argentina, Central America, and southern Mexico. The ugniberry is quite edible and tastes like a spicy strawberry. It is often used as a replacement for strawberry flavoring in processed foods

There are ten species of this shrub. In New Zealand it is called "New Zealand Cranberry," and in Australia, "Tazziberry," however neither are native to the region. The shrub is smaller than the taller South American version. 
Juan Ignacio Molina
1740-1829

Historically, ugni shrubs were first described in 1782 by a Chilean Jesuit priest, Juan Ignacio Molina, who was also a botanist and naturalist, among other, and later a professor of natural sciences in Italy. His writings were the first to describe the natural history of Chile. Molina's contribution to science also explains the complete name of this plant - Ugni molinae.

Ugnifruit was then introduced to England in 1844 and became a favorite fruit of Queen Victoria. It was also enjoyed as an ornamental plant, prized for its flowers and evergreen foilage. The ugni flower is quite beautiful with its drooping pale pink petals. 

Ugni Matador Liqueur
Today the fruit is used on a rather small scale in New Zealand, Australia....and Chile, where traditional Matador liqueur is made. The fruit is also used to make jams, cakes, and other desserts, and eaten fresh or added to salads.

The popularity of this berry is growing. Some claim it has five times the taste of a blueberry, so home gardeners are beginning to plant this shrub more, as it does well in most soils. The only catch is probably the climate. Ugni shrubs thrive best in a subtropical, temperate climate, although they can handle light frost and withstand some dry conditions. I would love to see a variety that could be grown in the Pacific Northwest, east of Washington's Cascade range where I live.  

Do you grow this shrub? Do you eat the berries?

Cake with ugniberries
Nutritionally, ugniberries are high in dietary fiber, vitamin C, and vitamin K. Native people used this berry to treat diarrhea, dysentery, and urinary tract pain. Antioxidant levels are comparable to blueberries, but information is sketchy, as studies appear to be ongoing. 

Ugni Recipe

"Ugniberry Oatmeal Muffins"

1 cup quick-cooking rolled oats
1 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 egg
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup ugniberries

Preheat oven 375 degrees F.
Directions:
--In medium bowl, mix together oats and buttermilk. Let stand 5 minutes. Add oil, brown sugar, egg and mix.
--In second bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir flour mixture into batter and fold in berries. Grease muffin tins with vegetable oil. 
--Fill tins 3/4 full and sprinkle tops with extra rolled oats. Bake 20-25 minutes, until centers are cooked. Remove from oven, cool ten minutes on rack, and remove from tins. Yield: 8 muffins. 





 
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ugni; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juan_Ignacio_Molina
http://www.daleysfruit.com.au/newsletter/october2001.htm; http://www.edible.co.nz/fruits.php?fruitid=18

18 comments:

  1. Hi Sharon .. I'd never heard of Ugniberries - but great to read about them, and I'd like to try them .. interesting descriptive flavour - they sound a real find ... and I'm sure will be hitting our shelves in the near future. And yes - if they grow where you are .. so much the better - cheers Hilary

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    1. I wonder just how popular they will become. They sound so good. Thanks for commenting, Hilary!

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  2. I've never heard of this fruit before, and they do look a lot like cranberries.
    We're nearly there, Sharon. You're doing well.

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    1. Thanks, Fanny. It's been a very long month! You're doing a good job, too!

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  3. They look like a rose hip. It would be fun to try one.

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    1. I thought the same. I wish I could taste one. Thanks for visiting, Cathy!

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  4. I have never heard of this fruit and wish i could try it as it sounds great to eat and the flowers are so pretty-almost like a bleeding heart look to them

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    1. That's what I thought about the flowers. Would love this shrub in my yard.

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  5. I've never heard of the ugniberry either but it sure sounds tasty, and nutritious :-) I'll have to ask my son-in-law about it. He's from north-central Mexico, though, so maybe not...

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    1. Hi Kenda. That would be neat if your son-in law could find some. Let me know :)

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  6. I grow blackberries and quince, but I've never heard of these. They look darned scrumptious.

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    1. You must have more land than me. Lucky you! Thanks, Lee!

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  7. I've never heard of these either, so thanks for sharing! Very pretty, though

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    1. Thanks....for stopping by, Joyce. We're almost done with the A-Z!

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  8. I've never heard of it either. Kinda cool. It might work growing around here.

    Liz A. from Laws of Gravity

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    1. I hope you find one....let me know if you do!

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  9. I almost missed this.
    Now, here is a berry I never heard of. How in the world do you keep coming up with these amazing facts? And recipes? Love it!

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    1. Hi, Inge. It's been fun searching for fruits. Basically doing this one day at a time!

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