My previous post garnered some very nice comments. Paula commented that she grew up with chinaberry trees in her yard and that she played house under one. She pretended to can some of the chinaberries while playing house, and "boy did they stink when we opened them up a few days later." I read the comment to Thomas and his immediate reaction was, "Oh no, you don't want to eat them. You can't eat chinaberries." I asked, "Are they bitter?" He said, "They are BEYOND bitter!" But he knew that she meant they had pretended to can them while playing house. He said, "Anybody from down South would know not to really can or eat them."
Worse than that, apparently they are toxic to humans if eaten in quantity. They are also an invasive species.
Thomas says that after they've fallen off the tree and have lain on the ground for a while, they start turning a yellow-brown and look somewhat like the little sugar plums that they had down there. At least, to a five- or six-year-old Thomas they looked like sugar plums. But he said they taste horrible, bad enough to make you want to vomit, and the taste stays with you all day. He said it is better to bite into a green one than to bite into an over-ripe one. I'll take his word for it and not bite into any type.
When he was about 14, he, his brother Ricky, and several other young boys were playing "war" one afternoon, and Thomas climbed up into the chinaberry tree, sat on a limb, and shot chinaberries at the others with a blow pipe. They couldn't get back at him because if they tried to shoot or throw something up at him, the branches and leaves (thick branches, leaves that can be up to 20 inches long) were so thick that nothing could hit him.
He was definitely winning the game, but suddenly he heard a loud crack, and the limb he was sitting on broke. He said he just sort of rode it down to the ground, with the limbs breaking his fall, so that he didn't hit the ground hard.
The picture above is one I got off Google. Thomas says that the tree they had in their yard was large and thick-leaved like that one.