We first learned about the Cudrania tricuspidata aka Che several years ago and decided to grow it. We planted a tree and after a few years we harvested a tasty crop. It is related to Osage Orange, Mulberry, and Figs. It has several other names including Che, Chinese Che, Chinese Mulberry, Cudrang, Mandarin Melon Berry, Silkworm Thorn.
It is native to Eastern China and is common in Japan. In China, the leaves of the Che serve as a backup food for silkworms when mulberry leaves are in short supply. The tree was introduced into England and other parts of Europe around 1872, and into the U.S. around 1930.
The deciduous tree have the potential of growing to 25 ft. tall, but it can easily be trained as a bush or a small tree. The tree in our garden survived cold temperatures reaching -10º F. I’ve heard reports of it surviving -20º F. The fruit requires good amount of heat to ripen, in our Pennsylvania garden fruit begins ripening around the end of October. Areas with short summer season may not get the fruit to fully ripen. It's also drought tolerant.
The che is dioecious with male and female flowers on separate trees. Which means a male and a female tree has to grow side by side to bear. However there is a variety known as Seedless Che, which bears fruit with out the help of a mate. We grow the Seedless che in our garden. Some of the differences between the seedless and seeded Che is that the size. Seeded Che tend to have bigger fruit and tend to have 3-6 seeds per fruit.
while the seedless Che variety tend to drop most of its crop when tree is still young.
The flavor of the che is somewhat like watermelon, cotton candy, or mulberry. The fruit is ripe when it’s it’s deep red/maroon color and a somewhat soft. Unripe fruit contains a milky sap, resembling an unripe fig.