Uncommon Fruits


We have raised and sold Goji plants ( Crimson Star cv) for many years now.  The benefits of this China native are many healthwise and they are considered one of the superfruits. Culturally we find them easy to grow and one of the few berries or plants that do fine in a high (8+)  ph. Fresh or dried these plants have a lot to offer and should definitely be part of a permaculture plan.  In our research we have found very little information on how care for and grow for best production.  The normal method is to stake the plant with a 5-6′ pole, training it upward and then cascading down.  Similar to many weeping trees. This appears to be done mainly for harvesting convenience, since most of the berries will be chest high.

As I was reading an article on cordon training currants and gooseberry for higher production, it came to me that goji would lend itself to this just like grapes, kiwis and blackberry.  So off to another project!  We had an empty 25′ row in an old bramble berry section and I added 6 new plants, 5 foot apart.  As with many of my projects, things came up and no trellis was added last year, so I made a commitment to get it done this spring.  The plants had made decent growth last year but were really taking off now and starting to get weedy with many new stems or trunks coming from the ground and several suckers.

I decided to set my first wire at 16″ off the ground and add additional wires at every 12″, so we have off ground 16″, 28″, 40″, 52″ with room to add one more at 64″ as growth dictates.  This will allow main branches to go left and right about 30″ with a central trunk or leader.  Similar to a 4 arm kniffin system in grapes except with 8 arms.

4 more plants to tie and train and then we will watch the progress over this summer and next. I am hopeful that by pruning for production like grapes and hardy kiwi that not only will we get a larger crop, but also a neater and easier to pick one!

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Only $8.00 each

 SeaBerries

SeaberrySeaBerry is widely used for healing in Asia and Europe, where it is valued as a potent anti-oxidant, a source for Vitamin C and healing oil. The attractive small tree or shrub, also called Sea Buckthorn  is likely the most widely grown, northern hardy, fruiting plant in the world, but most Americans have never heard of it! In Europe, the sour, flavorful fruit is sweetened and its orange-passion-fruit-like flavor makes fine sauces, jellies and a base for liqueurs. Blended with other fruits, it makes a delicious juice. The plants, native to the Russian Far East, are incredibly productive and a great choice for backyard fruit production. Narrow silver leaves and plentiful round, yellow-orange fruit cover the 6-10′ tall, narrow, upright female forms. As one of the “SuperFruits” this variety is Leikora which is higher in vitamin C.  Give plants full sun and good drainage, and space them about 7′ apart or 3-5′ for a hedge or an effective fruiting windbreak. They are extremely hardy, to -50° F., disease resistant and easy to grow. Branches are used in floral displays, and commercial crops are harvested by cutting off entire fruit-laden branches. Perfect for New Mexico they are drought tolerant and like full sun. One male needed for about every 8 female plants. 1 gallon 12” size

Our normal price is $20.00 each  or  3 for $15.00 each but for this Pre-Order Sale  we are practically giving them away at only $8.00 each while supplies last.   Email us with the quantity you need and we will have them ready for pick-up this Saturday, September 7th between 9:00 am and noon

There are over 20 different species of Juneberries, and they all produce more or less edible fruits –though Amelanchier alnifolia  also known as the Saskatoon or Serviceberry is certainly more desirable than others. In the wild this plant is found from Canada all the way into New Mexico. These are one of the smaller growing members of the genus, forming a deciduous shrub that seldom exceeds 8 feet in height and occasionally suckering to form a slowly spreading clump similar to a lilac.  This is one of our favorite fruiting plants. The plants are fairly tolerant to a higher ph and they will also grow well in heavy clay soils. They are very cold-hardy and will tolerate temperatures down to at least -20°f and probably much lower. The other varieties have been developed for their flowering by the nursery trade or are not very adaptable to our climate.

White flowers are produced before the plants come into leaf, and are usually produced so abundantly that the whole plant turns white.  By late June, or more commonly early to mid- July, the plants will usually be carrying large crops of fruits. These fruits are about 15mm in diameter. The fruit is soft, sweet and juicy with a taste that reminds us of blueberries crossed with apples. There are usually 2 – 5 very small seeds contained in an apple-like core at the center of the fruit. These are small enough to be eaten without problems.  The fruit can be eaten fresh or used in any way you would use blueberries- muffins, pancakes, pastries, syrups and jellies. The fruit can also be cooked in pies and when dried they are quite sweet and can be used in the same ways as raisins.  They are one of the first fruits of the season to be ripe and are somewhat susceptible to bird predation.  They start out red and change to a purple color with a white bloom or powder when fully ripe. Because they are purple when ripe birds are not as big a problem as could be the case however they will get their share if not covered with netting or some other method or exclusion.

Juneberry unripe

Juneberry unripe

High in potassium, iron and magnesium, and containing vitamins C, B6, A and E, juneberries were used by the Cheyenne as a dietary aid to treat loss of appetite in young children, and many Native American groups in North America subsisted on the dried fruit during winter months. Euell Gibbons wrote about enjoying juneberry muffins and pie in “Stalking the Wild Asparagus.” They can also be used to make a wild yeast (Like grapes and blueberries, they are lightly covered with a whitish film of yeast.)You can see why these are a favorite of ours and why we searched out the best “cultivars” or named selections to experiment with!  They are currently being grown in Canada and the northern plains as a minor commercial crop.  We did quite a bit of research to choose varieties although not a lot is published on this fruit.  The varieties we chose were Smoky, Thiessen, Northline and Regent along with unnamed generic seedlings that we put into our windbreak.  After 3 years of growing the cultivars I can say that “disappointing” is a tremendous understatement.  We had expected to harvest buckets of fruit of a good size and flavor from these “better” varieties by now but after 3 years have gotten a handful per bush at best.

Most of the named varieties have proven difficult to grow and some are hard to just keep alive. The bush size varies from 12” – 20” after 3 years of growth.  Compare this to the wild type we have planted which are from 3-4 feet tall.  Our wild ones have grown multiple stalks and some have started close suckering which provides a larger crop.  The wild type has had very little care and no fertilization versus compost and some fertilization on the expensive cultivars.

So what went wrong?  The named cultivars are usually hard to find, fairly expensive and very small bareroot plants, mostly in the 6”-12” range.  This would explain being hard to adapt the first year but after that, if still alive, they show grow on.  I think the primary reason is that they are “selections” as opposed to purposeful hybrids.  A named selection is when a plant with some outstanding feature (size of fruit, yield, bush size) is found growing amongst a plot of other similar ones.  This plant is then propagated clonally and reproduced for sale commercially.  Probably why it was the best is that its genetics were most suited for the exact spot where found as a response to climate, soil type etc. or any combination of these factors.  Two of the varieties we tested were found originally growing in Alberta, Canada and last I looked it is dissimilar to New Mexico in a variety of ways!  Possibly with major soil adaptation and afternoon shade these cultivars might respond much better.  I think the reason the wild types grow better here is the genetic variability in them.  Indeed one of the drawbacks to some people is that the wild types might vary a little in ultimate size.  Usually this doesn’t matter unless you are commercially farming them and need mechanized harvesting.

Since our goal is to provide fruiting plants that are adaptable for the average person without a lot of special care we are recommending you plant only the wild type of the species. We will continue to grow the others (and maybe more) experimentally but not offer them for sale at this time. We do offer the wild type as routine in our catalog.

In  response to the Guess the Mystery Fruit on the facebook page

The medlar, Mespilus germanica, is a member of the rose family and is botanically somewhere between a pear and a Hawthorne. It is a small, deciduous tree of about 20 feet in height and width with a broad crown and heavy foliage although in New Mexico 10-12 feet is more usual. The branches may be contorted or very angular. It is hardy to USDA zone 4 to 9 and grows wild in temperate regions of Europe. It is reported to be indigenous to southwest Asia and southeastern Europe and was introduced to Germany by the Romans. It is said that Medlars were taken to North America by the Jesuits in the 1800s and introduced to South Africa in the 17th century.

The foliage is quite showy in the fall with yellow or red leaves. The fruit, if left on the tree creates winter interest. The leaves are 2 to 6 inches long and 1 to 1 1/2 inches wide, alternate, elliptic, dark green in the upper surface, “hairy” and grayish beneath. The leaf margin is entire, serrated at the apex. The trees dense foliage hides the branches. The solitary flowers appear at the tip of the growth of the year, depending on the location from late April to early June. The five petaled flowers are 1 to 2 inches wide, pinky white and look to me like something like a wild rose. Medlars are self-fertile and if pollination should not occur, the Medlar can set fruit parthenocarpically, that is, without any pollination whatsoever. Of course this bypasses late freeze problems.

The fruit is round, one to two inches in diameter looking somewhat like a brown, over-grown rose hip with a calyx on its crown. The fruit is open at the bottom exposing five seed boxes. Very similar in appearance to large hawthorne fruits

They can also be cooked into jellies and jams as they are high in pectin. “But it has long been regarded as a dessert fruit for connoisseurs. Prof. Saintsbury in his classic book on wines, “Notes on a Cellar”, declared that “the one fruit which seems to me to go best with all wine, from hock to sherry and from claret to port, is the Medlar – an admirable and distinguished thing in itself, and a worthy mate for the best of liquors”.

Francesca Greensack in her fascinating book “Forgotten Fruit” said, “the lingering, slightly sweet, slightly winey flavor makes the Medlar seem like a natural comfit”. She also mentioned “roasting them with butter and cloves as a traditional winter dessert” and recommends jelly made from them “as an accompaniment to game”.”[3]

Medlars like moist but well-drained soil, and full sun and adapt to soil fertility. Medlars can be grown from seed or grafted or budded onto pear, quince or hawthorn rootstock. There are about two dozen cultivars at the National Clonal Germplasm repository of the U.S. department of agriculture in Corvallis, Oregon and others growing wild in Europe. They are considered easy to grow but a bit difficult to start from seed. They work well as a potted “patio” tree if left outside and exposed to winter conditions. The tree fruits as early as three years, producing a good crop.

Medlars must be “bletted” before eating.  Bletting is the ripening process that must be undergone by a limited range of fleshy fruits. American persimmon is another and sometimes quince and “Sorbus” species. Some fruits are sweeter after bletting, others can only be eaten raw once bletted. The process is simple, wait for a hard frost and pick the fruit. At this point it is very astringent, hard and starchy, not really edible.  Then store in sawdust or straw somewhere cool for 3-4 weeks.  Now is where bletting occurs. Most fruits would spoil or decay and ferment.  Due to an enzymatic action medlars will convert the starches to sugars and soften the fruit while turning it to a dark brown pulp from whitish.  It also decreases the acids and  tannins that cause the astringency. How to tell when it is ready?  When the fruit is the consistency of  jello in a balloon. They can be eaten raw as described by spooning out the mushy pulp which hardly seems a workable idea due to the small size.  I suggest using the “vampire method” where you bite the skin and suck out the contents.  The flavor is like apple sauce or apple butter with cinnamon. Of course they can be used in baked goods or jellies, wines and all sorts of other items.

* Some of the above (the boring stuff) was plagiarized from Dave’ garden website with additions by the editor of this blog

What:    Fruiting Tree and Plants Fundraiser For Youth Group
Where:  wood’sEnd Church Parking lot  in Edgewood
When:   This Saturday June 2nd, from 8:00 am until 1:00 pm.
Why:     Help raise money to send young kids to summer camp
 
This year we are taking our plants off farm for one day and offering them to the public.  A portion of the proceeds will go to the wood’sEnd Church Summer Youth Camp Program.  Trees and plants will be available in the wood’sEnd Church parking lot this Saturday morning, June 2nd.  wood’sEnd Church is located in Edgewood on the west side of Highway 344 just north and across the street from Wal-Mart and south of the library.  So tell your friends and spread the word for a good cause in our community! 

You may have read my last rant post and thought I was anti-Lowes.  Let me assure you I am not, they just happen to be where I spotted these situations I am writing about.  And this one is about the promotion of blueberries.  Mind you last year I also saw blueberries being sold at Wal-mart in Edgewood and Home Depot in Albuquerque.  Our primary goal at Road’s End Farm is to educate about and promote fruit varieties suited to growing locally by average people and gardeners.  As many of you know, we do a lot of experimental growing just to stretch the envelope and see if it is possible with unique varieties.

I love blueberries and everyone I know also does.  The idea of growing this fruit at home is certainly appealing. Who wouldn’t like to get up in the morning, take a few steps out of the house and pick a handful of fresh blueberries to toss onto their morning cereal?   Like they say “Ain’t gonna happen”.   Soil in our area varies from 7.4 to about 8.6 in ph.  This is highly alkaline.  Blueberries thrive in a ph of 4.5-5 at the top end.  This is highly acidic. Think peat bog.

You will not be able to grow blueberries in our soil.  Books will tell you to amend it with peat moss or to add aluminum sulfate to lower the ph.  At best these are very short term measures.  Consider the fact that you are constantly adding a high ph water and you can see this is a losing battle.  Bacterial action breaking down the peat will also have a slightly alkaline reaction. Blueberries  do not particularly like our intense sun or UV.

If you decide that you must experiment and try some, container culture is the best hope you will have.  I recommend a large container at least 10 gal and preferably 15 gallon size depending on the variety of plant.  Your “soil” mix will need to be about 90% peat moss mixed with a packaged topsoil.  The addition of cottonseed compost would be a good replacement for topsoil since it is also low ph and will provide nutrients.  Beware that most compost is alkaline in nature so do your homework.  You can probably add vinegar (5% acetic acid) to the water you use for the plants.  A quality ph kit or electronic measuring device is a must.  Collecting neutral ph rainwater for the plants would also be a benefit.  Find a site that gets afternoon shade and containers can be buried in the ground.  This will help protect the roots from temperature swings and also cut down how much you need to water them.  Also you will want to net them so the birds don’t beat you to them. It’s an awful lot of work and some expense but for the adventurous and patient ones out there, give it a shot.

In the car and off to the next one.  This is a neighborhood store also but probably twice as large as the first store.  Again it is very well stocked, almost overflowing with merchandise and looks prosperous.   This store also has a restaurant tucked in back and a certain amount of cooking supplies.    A very friendly lady immediately came to help me.  When I asked her for Jujube  (and also Goji) she knew right what I wanted and brought them.  In our conversation she also indicated that the Jujube is a very good seller, in fact the size they offered was 16 oz.  It was larger and also a dollar more at $4.99.

16 oz. package of dried Jujube "Red Dates"

I asked about fresh Jujube and she told me they do not carry them because they only grow in China and have no way to get them here to sell.  Several times I tried to explain to her that we grow them and would she buy from a local supplier?  Finally she conceded she would although I am sure she thought she was just humoring me.  I was unable to find out exactly how much she sells of the packaged dried ones or her estimates of sales of the fresh ones, but with another visit and some samples I am sure we could get a more accurate assessment.

When queried about why she sells so much of the packaged dried jujube  she explained that her customers ate them almost daily.  They do not eat them whole like one would often eat dates but instead chop them or dice them and add to almost all rice dishes or stir fry.  She tried briefly to explain some of the Asian concepts of  food as medicine and how the jujube was considered an important part of this in Eastern culture. 

 There are a few interesting observations that make me believe that this is a market just waiting for a supplier.  Both stores while small, had a very loyal and good repeat clientele and had customers in them.  Both stores had the same brand and importer of product which tells me there is limited availability.  But most of all, the product I tried was not very good.  It was dry and had very little flavor.  I would guess also by its small size that the lowest quality is used for export and the best is consumed in China.  Virtually all dried Jujubes I have eaten here, even the types that were only made for fresh eating were better than the product I purchased.  I believe that with some samples and a taste test that these store owners would gladly carry a New Mexico  grown Jujube or red dates and that they would sell for a premium price. 

This is just a small sample of the places one could start to market this product.  There are at least 6 other stores in the metro area catering to the Asian population and a few that are much larger.  The amount of restaurants serving Asian cuisine is staggering and the market for the fresh product delivered in season could be very good.   You would want to develop an appealing package  and maybe offer 2 or 3 sizes for the dried fruit.  Another search of “the Google” showed many ethnic associations or “clubs” catering to these specific  groups.  This would provide an excellent venue for direct marketing or to gain customers for a U-Pick-It operation.  In summary, I think the future is bright for anyone willing to take the ball and run with it promoting Jujubes locally.

 

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