Fruit Facts from the
California Rare Fruit Growers, Inc.

Fruit of the Month: Che
Cudrania tricuspidata Bur. ex Lavallee

Che fruit Fruit on the bush
Che fruit

The che is native to many parts of eastern Asia from the Shantung and Kiangson Provinces of China to the Nepalese sub-Himalayas. It became naturalized in Japan many years ago. In China, the leaves of the che serve as a backup food for silkworms when mulberry leaves are in short supply. The tree was introduced into England and other parts of Europe around 1872, and into the U.S. around 1930.

The che requires minimal care and has a tolerance of drought and poor soils similar to that of the related mulberry. It can be grown in most parts of California and other parts of the country, withstanding temperatures of -20° F.

Che are deciduous trees which can eventually grow to about 25 ft. in height, but often remains a broad, spreading bush or small tree and can be kept to a height of 6-8 feet with pruning. Immature wood is thorny but loses its thorns as it matures. Female trees are larger and more robust than male trees. Osage orange is sometimes used as a rootstock because che on its own roots can sucker badly. Osage orange as a rootstock for che gives you a plant that is more easily trained as a standard, single-trunked shrub or small tree.

Male flowers Female flowers
Male  Female 

The che is dioecious, with male and female flowers on different plants. Appearing in June, both types of flowers are green and pea-sized. The male flowers turn yellow as the pollen ripens and is released, while the wind-pollinated female flowers develop many small stigmas over the surface of the immature fruit. Male plants occasionally have a few female flowers which will set fruit.

Like the related mulberry, the che fruit is not a berry but a collective fruit, in appearance somewhat like a round mulberry crossed with a lychee, 1 to 2 inches in diameter. The ripe fruits are an attractive red or maroon-red color with a juicy, rich red flesh inside and 3 to 6 small brown seeds per fruit. While still firm they are almost tasteless, but when fully soft ripe they develop a watermelon-like flavor that can be quite delicious. The sugar content is similar to that of a ripe fig. The fruit have a fairly long season ripening in October and into November.

Sweet-Hot Che Jam

Spicy jams are all the rage today, with one of them winning the Grand Prize at the 2003 Scovie Awards. The recipe below is great on biscuits, toast and pancakes, and you can even use it as a glaze on grilled meats or as a topping for vanilla ice cream.

3 cups Che
2 cups water
1 package powdered fruit pectin
1 tablespoon red chile powder
1 cup sugar (or more to taste)

Crush the Che berries thoroughly in a bowl and then transfer to a saucepan. Add the water and fruit pectin. Stir until the pectin is dissolved. Add the chile powder and stir. Heat to boiling. Boil 5 to 10 minutes. Add the sugar and stir until dissolved. Boil 3 to 5 minutes, stirring frequently, or until thick. Allow to cool, place in sterile jars, and refrigerate.

Yield: About 1 1/2 cups
Heat Scale: Medium

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© Copyright 1997, California Rare Fruit Growers, Inc.

Del Hota, Tom. "Fruit of the Month, Che." Dec. 2012 Newsletter. Web. 17 Jan. 2016. 

Published 17 Jan. 2014 LR
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