What trees are the highest yielding in terms of calories per unit area when grown in a dense, mixed species, backyard sort of setting?
This is mostly for curiosity’s sake, and also because I do streetside tree planting and would like the trees to provide high nutrition for the community. (While caloric content isn’t the only important metric, fruits generally have a variety of vitamins so I think calories is a fine metric for now.)
For simplicity I’d like to consider two types of locations – tropical and subtropical. I assume that for most species tropical yields will be higher than subtropical yields, perhaps by a factor of 2-4x, but that’s just a guess. (I’m particularly interested in trees that have high yields even in subtropical locations like mine, but I’d like to learn about the truly-tropical side of the question as well.)
The two leading contenders are Banana and White Sapote, at least from what I’ve read. But I don’t have good data either based upon different growing locations, or on other possible trees that could unseat them as the top-yielding trees, and it could even be the case that certain trees yield heavily in subtropical settings and poorly in tropical settings (and vice versa). (And there’s a separate question about whether bananas even count here since they’re not trees and require more management.) I guess we can open it up to non-tropical fruits if there are any that have comparably high yields, though I’m doubtful about that.
You are not taking into accounts enough factors. Have you seen a wild mango or even a wild avocado tree? They are massive monsters with monster crops but you can’t harvest more than a fraction because the fruit is inaccessible 50 feet up in the air. Bananas and plantains are like giant weeds; on the side of a hill where you could not grow anything else you can plop them, they will out fight naive growth 6+ feet tall, require no care at all, and produce fruit. But harvesting them out of those tracks of land can be a challenge. Heck even if mullberry trees were the highest yielding they have no shelf life leading to most of it being wanted. Then there is tree maintenance, from 0 to needing all sorts of care, nuisance factor (bushels of falling rotten fruit) plus much more.
When i was I the military I remember in Texas collecting pecans by the sack full from trees in the park. I literally had the sack in the closet and kept refilling the bowl in the table from where everybody just kept munching day in and day out. Measuring the yield not by production but by scoring ease of care, maintenance, ease of harvest, transport, storage, shelf life, spoilage, and end consumption caloric yield, those were very good trees.
here in the north of course the apples, if disease resistant varieties are planted need almost 0 care. sour cherries are also so far bullet proof high producing shrubs and trees that most take little room. bush fruit like most currants and gooseberry are relatively maintenance free other than a pruning every few years on older wood. newer serviceberry and honeyberry cultivars are starting to be good producers and are no spray here. for a quick crop the currants/gooseberry would be my 1st choice followed by the apple/ sour cherry for much more production about 3 yrs later. rhubarb though not technically a fruit can produce a huge amount of food but must be mixed with other fruit and sugar to eat and grows like a weed here. i have all of these and many others interplanted in my food forest/ yard.
when i was stationed in Korea, there was a hill in the park that was covered with about 20 mature chestnut trees. when they started to fall, we would go with our ruck sacks and fill them up. you would have to be quick before the Koreans that worked on base noticed or you wouldn’t get any. those trees must have produced nuts in the thousands of lbs.
I have found that without bug and bird protection there is practically no fruit that is practical for your purpose. Pears sometimes can be pest free, but there is the issue of when and how to harvest them. Maybe nuts. My nut trees have barely grown in the 7 or 8 years since I planted them, so I can’t say if they will have pests. And as mentioned above, fallen fruit can be very messy.
Yes,the White Sapote is suppose to have the highest amount fruit per area,of any tree.There is also the Jackfruit tree,which produces the largest in the world,with some over a hundred pounds.A cousin of Jack’s,the Breadfruit can put out close to 500 pounds a year.
Jackfruit is not a good tree to forget about on a populated area. If left to their own devices they will grow BIG and the wood is not that hard, big branches come down from time to time. Heck papaya will grow wherever those grow, are incredibly prolific, take less square footage, and when they get too tall (and they can get stupidly tall) you can top them harshly and the spring right back.
My vote is for nuts. Hazelnuts plus a year around open season on squirrels could produce a ton of calories. No open season on squirrels and you would just explode their population. I guess you could produce both nuts and meat…
Hmmm. Possibly not the best street tree, then, from a public safety/liability perspective.
Yeah as Don mentioned there are several things you should consider:
- Years to maturity - do you need these calories soon or are you willing to wait 10-20 years
- Level of maintenance - are these trees going to be watered, fertilized, managed for pests/disease or are they going to have to survive onto their own
- Space and height restrictions - can you grow and manage a 20 ft / 10 meter tree?
If you are interested in a true community tree that can be picked in a street setting, all of the above about actually being able to pick the fruit etc. is pretty important.
What about figs, which in a warmer climate would produce fruit for a long period of time and are low maintenance, along with being able to be trained to remain low to the ground? The leaves can be used in tea along with eating the fruit so you actually have a multi purpose crop.
I’d also look into the most prolific warm climate berry bushes you can find, along with citrus like kumquat which would be relatively easy to keep small as some varieties are dwarf anyway.
Another bit is that some trees are more resilient to be harvested by uncaring/untrained strangers. For example neither apples nor cherries do well if you rip the fruit bearing spurs.
A mature White Sapote has the highest calorie per unit area output of any fruiting plant.
I believe mango is second. Typical output is 2k fruits.
You got alot of good answers when you asked the same thing 7 years ago.
Jujubes can produce massive quantities of small fruits on very small trees.
I don’t know how they compare in terms of weight of fruit produced versus size of tree.