You’ve probably seen kousa dogwood trees before and didn’t even realize that their berries were edible, right? Same here. We’ve had a kousa dogwood in our front yard for years before I heard that you can eat the fruit. I must admit, I was a little skeptical at first, because the berries look like nothing I had ever seen before. One day, though, I was brave enough to pop one of the berries into my mouth and was astonished by the sweet, exotic flavor! If I had to compare it to something, I’d say it’s a mix between a persimmon, a fig and a peach.
Kousa berries taste great off the tree, but if you want to turn them into something really special, try my Asian-inspired compote recipe. The compote is great just by itself, but it is amazing when paired with some cheese and will make a great addition to a cheese platter (it’s also fantastic on a Gruyere grilled cheese sandwich – which I came to find out yesterday.) Other than that, the compote can be used as a base for any sauce, from a salad dressing to a curry.
The texture of the fruit is a bit grainy, kind of like a fig. This is why I added a little bit of peach into the compote. The peach also gives off some natural pectin, which helps thicken up the sauce a little.
1 lb kousa berries, fresh or frozen, skins on
¾ cup sugar
1 cinnamon stick
4 cardamom pods
½ tsp grated ginger
The zest of ½ lemon
Place all the ingredients into a medium-sized pot and bring to a simmer on medium heat. This will take some time, because the fruits will break down very slowly. Once the mixture has turned into a liquid and begins to bubble, turn down the burner to low and let it simmer for an hour. When the fruit has broken down completely it is time to separate the seeds with the help of the food mill. If you don’t have a food mill you could use a stock strainer or a cheese cloth, but it will likely take longer.
When finished straining the fruit through the food mill it is finished. It can be kept in the refrigerator for up to a month. Or, you could do what I do, which is to fill the compote into small jam jars and keep it in the freezer, where it keeps for over a year.