Eaten a dogwood yet?

I grew the fruit for years—and never tasted it—and never even imagined that I could eat it.

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.”

22 Comments on “Eaten a dogwood yet?

  1. Wendy, the flavor and texture aren't objectionable, just nothing you'd want to blog about or recommend. And Erica, I think a dried dogwood would be one challenging piece of fruit to chew on. I think the canine food equivalent would be a rawhide bone. But then…. 🙂


  2. That thought never crossed my mind, Anonymous. The drupes are so blah I doubt anyone would beat a path to the door of someone who makes wine from them.


  3. just curious is all dogwood edible?
    or is there a certain type that isn't?


  4. Chipmunks, squirrels, birds, and many other animals eat the little bits of flesh on American dogwood seeds, but that's not a good indication of safety for humans. The only one good for humans that I've seen is the drupe or seed of the kousa dogwood, which comes from eastern Asia.


  5. is there a certain way to tell what kind of dogwood it is?
    cos one of the neighbours has a dogwood tree and compared to the picture above (top) they looked more flat with shorter stems…
    I ate one the other day and that tasted disgusting
    they are worse than prickly pears no flesh at all only Pips PIPS pips… must not be the right kind…
    not sure if i want to try one again… lol
    thanks 4 the info


  6. You must identify the tree before you eat the fruit. I can't think of a dogwood variety that has ripe seeds in May. Kousa dogwood seeds ripen in August and are about the size of a dime, as you can see in the blog photo. American dogwood seeds ripen in the fall and are small–and bitter. Perhaps you found one of them. Better leave the next one for your favorite chipmunk.


  7. ok well the 1 that I tasted is (for the amount of flesh) sweetish
    are you in america or Australia?
    Is the american type a tropical variety or not Because if it is then we would not have them around here cos it is pretty COLD!!! (Victoria)
    because I have seen plenty of them but not the kind that u are talking about, so what I am thinking is the american variety is not common in Australia.


  8. Yes, I'm in the U.S., so the dogwood you're talking about could well be one I'm not familiar with. No, the American dogwood is hardy and grows all along the east coast and up into New England, where winters are very cold.


  9. how long would it take to grow one from seed,
    cos if i can get some seed over here i think i will try growing some if it dont take to long…..


  10. A seedling would grow about 12 inches or so a year, so I suppose it would be 10 years or so before you got significant seeds/fruit.


  11. wow that is very slow…
    dont think i will grow any then
    do u no how much thier worth as seedlings???


  12. A first-year seedling probably has no commercial value. 4-foot young trees are sold in nurseries for US$30 plus or minus and then take several years before you would like to show them to friends.


  13. wow
    Hm I think I would rather something more fast growing…. And that i can eat off some day sooner!!!!!
    :-/ thanks for all that info though!!! 🙂
    Have you ever tried making Wine with them like Anonymous said in 2011??
    If you did how did it turn out??
    thanks again


  14. kk
    Hmm.. I think that is all the questions I had in mind!! thanks for all the help/info…


  15. You might be amazed! Choke cherries aren't so delicious off the limb, but when the locals make jelly and wine from 'em… It's superb.
    I've also seen locals pick up acorns and eat those, too.
    I personally use cactus fruit for my wine and jelly-making.
    #AllAboutPerspective 🙂


  16. I read in a google post that the flowers are edible. Have you tried them? If so how was that and what part do you discard?


  17. Sorry, I haven't tried them. I've not read in kousa literature that flowers are edible, but maybe I haven't read all information available.


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