Then one day I was researching in Michael Dirr’s “Manual of Woody Landscape Plants” and read this about the fruit of Cornus kousa, the tree we commonly call Kousa Dogwood: “Drupe, pinkish red to red, borne in a ½ to 1” diameter, globose syncarp (resembles a raspberry...) … late August through October; edible but somewhat mealy….”
Dogwood drupes—fruit—“edible”? I apparently wasn’t impressed. I ignored Dirr’s statement. But last year I was sitting on the front porch reading one early-fall evening when I heard a loud “cough” nearby. I looked down the sidewalk and saw two does fighting over kousa drupes that had fallen to the ground. One doe had slammed her head into the other’s side—to warn her off, I imagined.
Dirr’s passing reference to edibility of the drupes and the does’ food fight suddenly added up in my slow gray matter: kousa fruit is edible. I walked to the tree, selected a dark red-pink drupe, looked it over, removed the long stem, and bit into it, albeit slowly and with curiosity.
What was it like? Outside: tough, like studded leather, raspberry-red color. Inside: smooth, yellow-orange flesh with “fresh,” nondescript flavor, but not sweet or juicy. Dirr was pretty much right on: “mealy,” but, I’d add, not offensive, not gritty or seedy.
I don’t think we’ll be lining up to buy kousa fruit at local fruit & veggie stands. The name, kousa drupe, isn’t a great marketing term. Pick a fruit from an apple tree, and you’ve picked an apple. Pick a fruit from a pear tree, and you’ve picked a pear. Pick a fruit from a dogwood tree, and you’ve picked—a dogwood. Makes great sense to me, and it’s definitely two-thumbs up over “globose syncarp.”
So the next time you walk near your kousa, pause, select a ripe dogwood, and sample it. And when you’re happy with this fruitful experiment, you have my permission to spit out the remains, which is what I did when I recently sampled Dogwood Vintage 2010.
But we're optimists, right? When someone asks about our fall gardens, we’ll reply with a smile, “Great. The dogwoods are coming on strong—good color, good size, good flavor too this year.”
We just won’t add, “Just ask the deer.”