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Rollinia fruit are heart-shaped or conical and can be anywhere from 5 to 20 centimeters in diameter. They have thick, woody stems that are extensions of the fruit’s core. The skin is covered in small, diamond shaped sections, each with a soft, spiky protuberance. Depending on the environment and the variety, the spines can be slight or quite prominent. The fruits mature from green to yellow, though they are often harvested when still green and will mature off the tree. Once mature, the spikes may turn black with excessive handling. The aromatic flesh is bright white or translucent with a gelatinous texture. It is fibreless with a smooth, almost creamy, consistency and contains small, inedible, dark brown, elliptical seeds. Rollinia fruit has a sweet-tart flavor with nuances of pineapple, banana, coconut, and other tropical flavors.
Rollinia fruit are available in the spring through the early summer months.
Rollinia fruit, also known as Biriba, is a large tropical fruit botanically known as Rollinia mucosa. It is a member of the Annonaceae family, which includes the soursop and cherimoya, two other so-called custard fruits. The unique fruits are often touted for their ‘lemon meringue pie’ flavor and are mostly found in the wild. They are popular in the Amazon region of South America and in Indonesia, especially on the island of Borneo.
Rollinia fruit are high in calcium and phosphorus, as well as vitamin C and iron. Rollinia fruit are also a source of protein and carbohydrates, and contains important amino acids like lysine, methionine, threonine and tryptophan.
Rollinia fruit is usually eaten fresh or used in raw applications. Ripe fruits are easily sliced in half or into wedges. The pulp can be removed with a scoop or spoon, and the seeds discarded. The skin of a ripe Rollinia fruit will peel away easily. Toss Rollinia fruit with other fresh fruits. The pulp can be used to make jams or jellies or pureed for beverages or desserts. In Brazil, the pulp is mixed with milk for smoothies. It can be cooked into pies, cakes, or souffles. Rollinia fruit will keep for up to five days in the refrigerator. The fruits are highly perishable once ripe and yellow and should be used or refrigerated within one or two days.
In its native Amazon, Rollinia fruit has been used for centuries for both medicinal and culinary purposes. In Brazil, the pulp of the Rollinia fruit is fermented to make wine. The fruit was used as a stimulant and to help cool the body when overheated and was consumed to prevent scurvy. The seeds were ground and used as a remedy for digestive issues. The hard, heavy wood of the Rollinia tree was used to make boat masts, boxes, and ribs for canoes.
Rollinia fruit is native to the western Amazon region of Peru and Brazil in South America, and grow at higher elevations. Their native range extends to Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay and Argentina, and north to Mexico. They were introduced to the United States from Brazil in 1908, and to the United States Department of Agriculture in 1914. They were taken to the Philippines sometime before 1915, though now they are mostly found in Borneo and Sumatra in Indonesia. Rollinia fruit can be found in Australia and Hawaii and may be found in parts of the Caribbean and at farmer's markets in the southernmost parts of Florida.