Planning an orchard is easy.  You have a number of the same kind of plant or trees and it is a simple matter of determining how much space you want between rows and how much between plants.  But what do you do if your plants are a mixture of vines, shrubs and trees and you primarily have 1 or sometimes 2 of many varieties and species?  You plant them in a random order however you like and call it a “Food Forest”!!  That way people will think you have  divine inspiration and a plan that is on a higher plane than the average Joe! 

We have many plants that are rare, unusual or native fruiting plants that we are starting to grow out for evaluation.  These will first be evaluated on their ability to easily grow here and then on their fruit production for taste , utility and quantity of production.  This “Food Forest” will then become our germplasm repository where we will get cuttings, scion wood or in some cases seed from these “Mother” plants. The majority of these would be a wonderful part of a perennial edible landscape but not be suited for commercial or orchard production. 

We have dedicated a half acre to this Food Forest and are just starting to plant about 20 % of it this year.  We hope to complete about half of it next year and finish it within 4 years.  Then we will fill in holes and gaps as we run across plants that catch our eye.  Let’s take a look at some of what we are planting this year and that we hope to have available for sale within a few years.

Japanese Rasin Tree – a deciduous tree that has a tropical look.  It is unusual in that when the fruit is ripe, you throw it away and eat the stem!  The peduncle swells and tastes like walnuts and raisins.  In China they are made into a beverage called “tree honey” that is said to neutralize hangovers. That could always come in handy!

Two different type of Hazelnut hybrid both of which should be immune to eastern filbert blight.

Sequin Chestnut – a smaller tree species chestnut that is resistant to chestnut blight and more adapted to alkaline soils.

Rabina Mountain Ash – a medium size tree to 12’ that was a selection from the wild in Russia with a non-bitter, sweet-tart, tasty and nutritious fruit

Ivan’s Belle – A hardy small tree that has fruit the size of a cherry, eaten fresh and useful for wine and preserves.  Dark green leaves are very attractive on this rare hybrid of Mountain ash and Hawthorn.

Illinois Everbearing Mulberry – Unbelievable flavor, hardiness and production. At 2’ tall ours was producing fruit.  These will give enough fruit for the birds and you. They are reputed to be favored by our feathered friends and  keep them away from your cherries.

Lavalles Hawthorne  not often known for it’s fruit and Douglas or Black hawthorn

Breda Giant Medlar – Popular in Europe since the middle ages but uncommon in the USA.  A small 8-10 ft tree with long, dark green tropical looking foliage.  White flowers and chestnut colored -2” fruit.  They are collected late in fall after the first frost and are too hard to eat. The term “bletting” is applied only for this fruit.  This means they need bletted by sitting out on a cool counter for about 2-3 weeks.  They then soften and you can scoop out the pulp that has developed a spicy cinnamon applesauce flavor. 

Che fruit – sometimes called manadarin melon berry, another fruit tree grown for centuries in China, but exceptionally rare here.  Very early to bear often in just a year.  The chewy 1” red fruit has a taste like a cross between mulberry and fig, of which they are related to both. They seem extremely hardy here as our survived the last winter freeze as 12” tall trees, but very little is actually known about their culture.

Utah Serviceberry – a native Juneberry growing to about 6’. Used as an ornamental and edible landscape plant.  We will also try to cross this with a commercial juneberry to get a standard fruit that is better adapted to our climate.

Mexican Elderberry – anothernative of the Southwest. With lower water use than the standard elderberry,  this fruit is good for landscaping and edible use.  Wine, juice, pies and pastries or mix with other fruits for jellies.  Can be grown as tree or shrub.

Pallid wolfberry – A western USA relative of the “Superfruit” Goji berry.  A xeric plant appearing to have many of the same benefits.

Wild Sour cherry – a pure sour cherryseedling  selected from the wild.  Reputed to be better than the standard-bearer the man-made Montmorency cherry.  Being a seedling grown on it’s own roots you can play George Washington and chop it down.  Since it isn’t grafted onto a different rootstock like modern cherries, it will grow back true to form.

 

Part of our mission is to develop and promote rare and unusual fruit varieties and we expect to be able to offer many of these in the future.

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