Saturday, December 13, 2008


Among the unaccountably undercelebrated members of the many species of edible North American flora, here is a photograph of a fine example of the Bagel Tree (Rotundus deliciosus), distant relative of the breadfruit plant of the southern Pacific islands (family Moraceae).

A native of Central America, this large (25-30m.) flowering tree bearing large (10-12cm.), round, spongiform, edible fruits, is very hardy and is thought to have had a range up to at least 45 degrees N. latitude in pre-Columbian times. The subject photographed is located in Columbus, Ohio, at 40 degrees N. Indeed, based on recent research into 16th and 17th Century Spanish and Dutch New World expedition documents, it is now thought that the Bagel Tree once flourished in tremendous numbers throughout the Americas across a wide range of climates.

Evidence of its popularity among explorers and colonists alike is rife in the literature, once translations of the plant's many colloquial names are teased out. The great popularity in part accounts for the comparative rarity of the tree today; the fruits were harvested in such great numbers that the species was unable to replenish itself (the seeds being edible and frequently appearing on the outer surface of the fruit, they were typically consumed with along with the fruit). Today most agree that, outside of New York City, it's hard to find a good Bagelfruit.

The fruit pictured here has clearly been subjected to the attentions of a Great Northern Knifebill, another American species in decline.


At 12/13/2008 4:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If I recall my college archeobotany correctly, the Bagel Tree also produces a creamy, viscous white sap, known to the Native Americans as schmear, which is excellent as an ingredient in a number of dishes, but is especially delicious when spread on the Bagel Fruit.

I am surprised that there is not yet an entry in Wikipedia on this important subject.


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