I know that Summer just got here, but part of being a farmer is planning for the seasons ahead…
With the sun at its apex for the year, the apples are hanging thick and green on the boughs and the bees are buzzing among the blackberry blossoms, and I’m thinking a
bout…planting trees! There’s no better inspiration than sitting, on a hot summer afternoon, in the cool shade of a fruit tree to start planning the bare root fruits you want to plant in your garden as the weather cools, so you can enjoy them in the next season – and for decades to come!
And while we’re dreaming, why not try something out of the ordinary? While the pippin and the plum will always have a place in our hearts, there’s something to be said for exploring the more exotic varieties available to us now. Uncommon Fruits for Every Garden—Expand Your Palette with Pawpaws, Shipovas, Jujubes, Maypops, and More! by Lee Rich is another excellent book from Timber Press (electronic version available on Amazon) to assist in this exploration! The great content and author’s eloquent style is enhanced by line art and wonderful color photos. This edition emphasizes the practicalities of plant selection with a good source list, plus cultivation, propagation and maintenance instructions.
And you may find that unusual fruits provide more than just a delicious new flavor – they may actually work better in your micro-ecosystem than some of the more “popular” varieties: “Reich proves that plants slightly off the beaten path are flavorful solutions in tough landscape problems.” – Easy-Care Landscaping.
The crops covered in this book include (with my observations about the ones I’ve enjoyed so far):
Alpine and Musk Strawberries (Alpine varieties are tiny and very sweet, have an especially intense strawberry flavor that you will want more of.)
Pawpaw: Banana of the North
Raisin Tree: Candied Fruit for the Picking
Mulberry: A Very Tasty Fruit of Many Colors (We really enjoyed eating these in Willits. In addition, friends who sold them at the Farmers Market had people “fight” to get them before others could have an opportunity to purchase them.)
Kaki and American Persimmons
Elaeagnus: Gumi, Autumn Olive, and Russian Olive
I always look forward to eating these.
Maypop: A Passionflower for the North
Che: Chew Dolops of Maroon Sweetnes
Black Currant (These are good-tasting and have healing properties. I am currently–no pun intended–eating them to reduce the impact of glaucoma in my right eye.)
Nanking Cherry: Cherries on a Bush (These taste treats are easy to harvest!)
Cornelian Cherry: From the Shores of Ancient Greece
Currants, Red and White
Asian Pear (Crunchy and tasty both. Enjoyed best by many when they are cold.)
Lowbush Blueberry (An easy to harvest taste specialty.)
Jujube: The Chinese Date (I very much enjoyed eating these directly from the tree in a neighbor’s orchard! Nice and chewy.)
Medlar: Lost in the Middle Ages
Over the past 50 years or so, humans have come to depend on very few crops and varieties for much of our food supply, with the result that many of the cultivars that historically grew well in different climates or soils or were favored by different cultures have become increasingly rare – with some disappearing altogether. This reduction in variety has resulted in our reliance on an agricultural base with very low genetic diversity, increasingly vulnerable to disease and climate change impacts.
Planting heirloom, open-pollinated, regional, cultural and “unusual” varieties helps keep our agriculture strong, diverse, and resilient. I hope you’ll be inspired to try a delicious “uncommon” fruit or vegetable the next time you plant something in your garden – the Earth and your taste buds will thank you!