Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Binomen Art – Sorbus domestica

Sorbus domestica spelling out genus nameSorbus domestica fruit
Left: Sorbus domestica spelled out with fruits. Right: Sorbus domestica (apple-shaped) fruits cut in half.


Has it been that long since a binomen art piece? Yes, it has. It was in 2017 that we posted our last entry in the series called Binomen Art – Posidonia oceanica. That was on a beach in the south of Sardinia in mid winter. In this entry of the series, we are back in Bergamo and autumn is in the air.

Recently, we wanted to make our fall-themed, moderately-famous-in-Bergamo sweet potato pie and went on the hunt for sweet potatoes. We found the potatoes and these strange fruits, Sorbus domestica, at our local fruit and vegetable seller (fruttivendolo or ortofrutticolo) We couldn’t pass up the opportunity to taste and play around with them.

Sorbus domestica is part of the Rosaceae (Rose family) and are commonly called service tree or sorb tree. Sorb trees and fruit look very similar to the mountain-ash tree S. aucuparia – a rowan tree, commonly used in landscape planting and seen in the wild. The sorb fruit are much larger than the rowan fruit.

Perhaps the oldest and largest living sorb tree specimen is near Strážnice, Czech Republic. The tree is called called “Adamec’s service tree” and is estimated to be 470 years old (2012). There is a web site for this tree: www.treeforeurope.com. Okay, it’s not only about that particular tree; the web site also has the larger goal of raising awareness of the “almost forgotten and rare tree species” of Europe of which the sorb is one. Intense cultivation of apple and pear trees helped drive the service tree to be less and less used and kind of forgotten. According to the European Forest Genetic Resources Programme guide on S. domestica, the tree is very rare and threatened in many European countries. In Italy, they sorb fruits can be found in some markets in early Fall.

The shape of our fruits here are apple-shaped but they can also be pear-shaped. The red tinge of the fruit is the side exposed to sunlight. And the taste? Very astringent, at least the ones pictured here. It is recommended that you leave them to overripen (blet) and then eat them.


Sorbus domestica fruit and stemsSorbus frutis with dried leaves
Sorbus domestica fruit and stems.

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