September 20, 2008

Exotic Edible Berries

I'd like to plant some berry bushes next year...maybe I'll go with one of these instead of the usual blueberry (which grows well in Maryland).

Goji Berry (Lycium barbarum)
Every few years a plant rocks the edible plant world, and for the last few years it's been the goji berry. Goji berries are the latest health craze to sweep the nation. The easy-to-grow plants produce orange berries loaded with protein, vitamin C, iron, and beta-carotene. Plus, they taste good.

This deciduous, 10-to-12-foot-tall, rangy shrub is native to Tibet and the Himalayan mountains and bears raisin-sized berries from summer until fall. The berries are reported to contain 13 percent protein and are loaded with antioxidants. They also contain more iron than spinach, more vitamin C than oranges, and more beta-carotene than carrots. Goji berries are used in Tibet to treat a variety of ailments and to increase longevity.

Goji berries are hardy in USDA zones 5 to 9 and readily adapt to most soils. In spring, the attractive white and purple flowers form. By late summer, fresh, juicy, and sweet orange-red goji berries begin to ripen. Since the plant forms such as rangy shrub, goji berries don't fit well in a formal garden and are best grown on their own as a hedge or a mass planting.

Honeyberry (Lonicera caerulea)
This honeysuckle relative produces sweet, 1- to 2-inch-long, blueberry-like fruits that can be eaten fresh or made into pies and sauces. The shrub grows 4 to 5 feet tall and wide, is generally disease- and insect-free, and is extremely cold hardy (USDA zones 3 to 8). Honeyberry grows best in moist, shady soils, making it a good choice in difficult landscapes. Plant at least two different varieties for good cross-pollination. Since the plants bloom and fruit early in the season (sometimes before strawberries), gardeners in cold areas should protect the shrubs from late spring frosts.

Jostaberry (Ribes nidigrolaria)
This shrub is a cross between black currant and gooseberry. Jostaberry looks like a gooseberry, but the plant has no thorns and the fruit is sweeter. It has the vigorous growth and disease resistance of a black currant, and the 1/2-inch-diameter black fruits are loaded with vitamin C. A mature, 6-foot-tall and wide deciduous shrub can produce up to 12 pounds of fruit. The berries have a flavor similar to grape, kiwi, and blueberry. Plants are hardy in USDA zones 3 to 8, and are widely adapted. The beautiful bushes make excellent foundation plants.

Lingonberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea)
This small, evergreen shrub grows to a height of about 1 foot, making it a good ground cover. The bright red berries of this blueberry relative are popular in Scandinavia for making jams and juice. The plants flower twice a year and produce berries in mid summer and fall. They are self-fertile. Like blueberries, they grow best in an acidic soil and full sun. In hot areas they require dappled afternoon light. They can slowly spread by their roots and need an evenly moist soil. Plant them in the front of a low border or in a rock garden. Planting in groups produces the most attractive ornamental effect.

Seaberry (Hippophae rhamnoides)
This Russian native is a great conservation plant. It fixes nitrogen and grows on a wide variety of poor soils. It's hardy to USDA zones 3 to 7 and produces berries that birds and humans can enjoy. Seaberry fruits have seven times the vitamin C as lemons and have been used as an orange juice substitute in many countries. In Europe you'll find seaberry juice in grocery stores.
The rangy, deciduous shrub grows 6 to 18 feet tall at maturity. Some varieties, such as 'Amber Dawn', stay relatively small. There are male and female shrubs, so select least one of each. The plant is salt-and drought-tolerant and prefers full sun. The attractive, narrow, gray-green leaves make this shrub excellent for hedges. In fall, clusters of currant-sized, orange berries appear; the berries persist through winter, attracting wildlife. Mature plants can produce 50 pounds fruit.

Harvest: 1 bambino hybrid eggplant.

No comments:

Post a Comment