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Project: Growing Chinese Toon (toona sinensis)

 
gardener
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Author Dave Kennedy mentioned Chinese Toon (toona sinensis) trees in a perennial greens thread. Supposedly it's a temperate-climate deciduous member of the mahogany family that has edible shoots and leaves, although many people report not enjoying the flavor, which is most often characterized as vaguely reminiscent of burnt onions.

Given that browse pressure from deer (saw a herd of 14 at the back of the property last weed), rabbits, and forest rats is extensive here, I like the idea of greens that grow on trees that could potentially be tall enough to defeat browsers. So I decided to get some seed.

I ordered seed from two different Chinese eBay sellers. One seed packet came in a nice printed foil packet of the "Flower Goddess" brand, although the English description is pretty rough: "The soil must be used by wetness fertilize and loosen. It is good for health by eat as rich of nutritious. Vigorous plant which can grow at a low." Sounds promising!

The other seed packet, by the way, came packaged like prison contraband. Sealed in a tiny wrinkled baggy with a shred of paper inside identifying the seeds, wadded up tight and wrapped with tape and stuck to the middle of a piece of cardboard in an 8x10 (or equivalent cm) envelope.

Today I am putting a lot of seeds in damp medium in my fridge for cold stratification, so I went looking for germination instructions for the Toon seeds. The best I found were from a blog:


These are rather big seeds that are difficult to germinate; they need to be pre-treated. Here is how I sowed the seeds and I prayed to God that it was the right way to do and that the seeds would germinate in a few days time. They did:
1.Soak the seeds in warm water (30C) overnight
2.Spread the soaked seeds on a wet kitchen towel and leave the seeds to germinate
3.Wait with patience
4.Once seeds germinate (took 6-7 days), pot them up with potting compost and water in well



There's a photograph of the germinating seeds, so I know it worked. Yay!

So today I will be soaking. I'll post pictures if I get germination and of the subsequent seedling/tree growth, if I should be so lucky. (I kill a *lot* of seedlings with my black thumb.)
ebay-toon-seeds.jpg
Chinese Toon seeds
Chinese Toon seeds
 
pollinator
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You can also find this tree from mailorder nurseries.....over the years I got two from Forestfarm in OR, and planted them at two different sites in GA where they grew easily. A seedling a few inches high should be up safely out of deer reach in a few years at most.
 
Dan Boone
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Alder sadly I have been forced to avoid ordering tree seedlings from nurseries; the shipping alone tends to exceed my near-zero budget. Seeds are much harder but much cheaper.
 
Dan Boone
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I decided to soak and germinate the contraband-packaged seeds first, saving the sealed seed packet for later in the season. I know the seeds were fresh because as soon as I poured them out on a flat surface a warm savory smell hit my nostrils. It was so appealing I chewed one of the seeds. Toasted onion with chicken-soup notes. Promising!
 
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How did this work out?
 
Dan Boone
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Complete germination failure.

I still have the second packet to try, but my garden kind of got out of control and I got behind on everything. Maybe next year, I guess.
 
Joylynn Hardesty
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bummer
 
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Same, i tried the seeds on the left in the fancy package. Trying to germinate in wet paper towels, no luck 7 days so far... but it sure smells like onions
 
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So... How did it end?
Did any of you manage to get them sprouting?
 
Craig Jewett
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André Troylilas wrote:So... How did it end?
Did any of you manage to get them sprouting?



I think a few of them sprouted, but nothing became of them.  I broke down and bought a Toona from Forestfarm, came as a 1 foot pencil and exploded into a 6 foot staff in a year.  


toona.JPG
Toona plant
Toona plant
 
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How resilient have you found your Toona to be? i have read that it resists insect damage? What about slugs and snails?
I have a seedling from this spring's sowing that is now 3' tall and I'm itching to plant it out.( I do have one other seedling that is half that size if it dies!) I feel if I plant it now it should have time to get its roots in before winter. I'm in the UK , usda 8 and we're having a wet, cool summer. But I could keep it in the polytunnel until after spring frosts if its wiser!

thanks
Cesca
 
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cesca beamish wrote:How resilient have you found your Toona to be? i have read that it resists insect damage? What about slugs and snails?
I have a seedling from this spring's sowing that is now 3' tall and I'm itching to plant it out.( I do have one other seedling that is half that size if it dies!) I feel if I plant it now it should have time to get its roots in before winter. I'm in the UK , usda 8 and we're having a wet, cool summer. But I could keep it in the polytunnel until after spring frosts if its wiser!

thanks
Cesca



Cesca, this site has some information plants for a future   I have seeds on the way and hope to stratify over the winter and plant in the spring.  Sounds like they might be cold sensitive for a winter or two.  

Propagation
Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame[200]. Stored seed germinates better if given a 3 month cold stratification[113]. When large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out in late spring or early summer and consider giving them some protection from the cold in their first winter outdoors. Root cuttings, 4 - 5cm long, taken in December and potted up horizontally in pots in a greenhouse[78].

 
gardener
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So Craig, do you like how it tastes? How are you using the leaves?
 
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William Bronson wrote: So Craig, do you like how it tastes? How are you using the leaves?


To me it tastes like beans with onions and black pepper.
Has the aroma of a complex food not just onions.

As fot the germination,from my experience the seeds need to be really fresh and they also need cold stratification.
The australian Toona Cilliata seeds loose viability in just 2 weeks and Toona Sinensis has a longer viability of seeds but its still short.
 
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Interested in practical hardiness info on this tree.  I have long wanted to try getting a few going here in zone 6b. Has anyone successfully got trees going in climates this cold or colder?  Will try my hand at germination.  Failing that, before springing for a nursery-raised tree I'd to find some precedent of them surviving winters like we have often had -though this winter seems to be largely a no-show so far.  
 
John Skaggs
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Germination attempt update:

I ended up purchasing a packet of seeds from Sheffield’s Seed Company.  Listed as Chinese Mahogany, Chinese Toon, Red Toon, Toona sinensis.  It contained around 70 seeds.  I soaked half of them in carbon-filtered tap water for about 24 hours and planted in peat pellets.  Kept at about 85F under a domed tray for 7 days so far.  On the sixth day, germination was evident in about half the pellets.  

In these photos, you see some of the most advanced seedlings today.  I have potted a couple as roots had penetrated the bottom of the pellets.  I put these under an LED grow lamp as it is still a little too cool to place them anyplace else to get enough light to avoid legginess.  

I am cautiously optimistic!  I soaked the remainder of the seeds yesterday and committed them to pellets this evening.  Great luck sprouting at one week.  Hopeful that we will end up with lots of little trees to pot up by summer.  
toona1.jpg
[Thumbnail for toona1.jpg]
toona2.jpg
[Thumbnail for toona2.jpg]
 
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Contrary to everything I read everywhere; I had absolutely no trouble germinating my Toona Sinensis seeds purchased from my Canadian supplier! Almost 100% germination! (Link- https://www.agrohaitai.com/others/chinesetoon/north_red.htm )

nice folks at AgroHaitai Ltd., very responsive to my questions sent by email!


Probably because I used the method suggested by my supplier, or maybe my seeds were fresher?;
1) Soak seeds in room temperature water for 24 hours water, changing the water at 6 hour intervals
2) Germinate on moist paper towels, covered by layer of moist paper towels
(I found the roots grow quickly before the first leaves appear so avoid using cloth towels as the roots get trapped and break off)
3) My tray of germinating seeds was left for 7 days under my grow light in my plant room which tends to be warm and moist;
4) Wow almost 100% germination- now I have lots of little trees to transplant outside in the spring; until then I will keep them under my
LED grow light, as others have reported success with this method,
 
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