Have you ever tasted a Candle Fruit? … I grew up in a tropical climate with all kinds of trees in my Grandparents backyard. Though, I have to admit that I’ve never tried this fruit before. But, when a friend told me how much she liked it and gave me a sample, I thought what the heck; I’ll give it a try. I was pleasantly surprised. I actually liked the flavor! The taste is sweet, resembling a blend of sweet bell peppers mixed with sugar cane. This is one fruit you have to try if you’re ever in Florida.
Many tropical trees have flowers that grow abruptly from the wooded trunk. In addition to Cacaosome other trees you may be familiar with – at least from their fruit – include Papaya and Jaboticaba. Outside the tropics cauliflory is not as prevalent, but one cauliflorous tree from temperate climates most gardeners know is redbud. The North American redbud (Cercis canadensis, family Fabaceae) occurs in the eastern United States. The western redbud (C. occidentalis) grows in California, Arizona and Utah.
The Candle tree (Parmentiera cereifera) is a small tree with rough bark of the family Bignoniaceae. Candletree fruit is not related to the candlenut, but is related to the ‘midnight horror’ and ‘sausage tree fruit’. Candle tree fruit are produced by a twenty-foot tree grown in Panama which bears white or yellow funnel-shaped flowers directly on the trunk or larger branches. The leaves are winged petiole with three-ovated leaflets. White, bell-shaped flowers to 8 cm long. These flowers develop into dangling yellow fruits up to three feet in length, and greatly resemble bunches of yellow wax candles hanging from the tree. The fruits and seeds of this tree are considered to be edible and are generally safe for human consumption.The fibrous fruit is juicy with a sweet flavor similar to sugar cane. It is eaten either raw or cooked. The fruit is sometimes made into pickles or preserves. It is reported to be a good remedy for colds, and the roots are used as a diuretic. The tree is adapted to a wide range of climatic conditions but is most frequently found in high-rainfall forests where it grows spontaneously.
Its Latin scientific name comes from the military pharmacist Parmentier, who was responsible for introducing the potato in France Medicinal, anti-diabteic and for chest complaints. “Turi” has been part of traditional medicine of indigenous Mexican communities since ancient times. The Aztecs used it for Renal Diseases, Dropsy, Gastric Indigestion, Colds, and Ear infections. They drank daily a tea made from 50 grams of Arbol de Velas leaves in 1 Liter of Water. For Ear infections they soaked a Cotton ball in this mixture and inserted in the Ear. I didn’t find any more information about this tree. Except that it is another case of mistaken identity. After a bit of poking around, I have found that Candle Tree (Parmentiera cereifera) is often mistakenly confused for Guajilote (Parmentiera edulis) also known as Cow Okra. They may come from the same family but are definitely two different fruits.
*Cauliflory is a condition found in trees and woody vines where flowers and fruit are borne directly on the trunks and older branches. This term may be literally translated into “stem-flower.”