Georgia is well known for its agricultural riches. Many of these are fruit-bearing trees that are native to the region and continue to grow wild in the landscape. A walk through a hardwood forest, along a roadside or through an abandoned field may reveal a treasure of fruit from any number of native species with fruit that can be eaten fresh or preserved in a number of ways.
The fruit of the American persimmon, a deciduous tree found in hardwood forests of Georgia, is very astringent when unripe, making the mouth pucker. The ripe fruit is two to three inches across, round and yellow to red in color. The fruit often stays on the tree after the leaves are gone in fall and will be at its ripest after the first frosts of winter. The taste is sweet and slightly spicy, with a jelly consistency inside.
This native to Georgia is covered with tiny white flowers in spring and is quite beautiful. The tree is rounded in form and grows to around 30 feet. The fruit is similar to other plums, and is yellow to red in color, when ripe. The taste is rather tart and the fruit can be eaten fresh or can be canned or made into jelly.
The black cherry tree is an important food for animals, especially birds. The tree can grow to 60 feet tall and bears clusters of fragrant white flowers. The berries that result are red to dark purple in color, around 1/2 inch in diameter and have a fairly bitter flavor. The fruit is sometimes eaten raw, although it is usually made into jelly or jam.
Chokecherry is another shrubby tree that produces small white flowers and clusters of bright red, translucent berries. The fruit is rather tart and astringent. The juice is sometimes used as a medicinal herb for coughs and colds and other ailments. The fruit can also be used for jelly and wine.
Crabapple are indigenous to the eastern United States, including Georgia. They can be very ornamental, with many attractive blossoms in the spring and round, yellowish-red fruit in the fall. The fruit is can be somewhat bitter at times, but is often sweet. It can be used to make jelly, or can be pressed for a cider.
Mayhaw, members of the Hawthorne family, are small trees that are frequently found in hardwood forests in flood plains along creeks or rivers in Georgia. They bear a small, red, tart, apple-like fruit that ripens in late spring. Mayhaw are frequently used for jellies.
The Pawpaw tree grows in hardwood forests and can become quite large. The fruit resembles a short, fat banana with a custard-like consistency and a flavor reminiscent of banana and mango. The short shelf life of pawpaw fruit makes it rare to find other than in the wild.
Red mulberry are impressive trees that can grow to 50 feet tall. The berries are a collective fruit that resemble blackberries, when ripe. Red mulberries ripen in early spring and have a tart, berry-like flavor and a pithy center. The fruit is often used in jams and jellies and to make wine.
Also known as serviceberry or saskatoon, juneberries are small trees that grow well in Georgia. They are often used as landscape plants for their attractive white flowers. The reddish purple, berry-like fruit is small and forms in loose clusters. It ripens in mid-summer. The fruit is sweet, juicy and likened to a mixture of blueberry and cranberry.