Here is a list of some lesser-known fruits that provide beauty to a New England garden, and reward the courageous cook.
Medlar tops this list. It’s very hard to convince people to try this unusual fruit. Many turn away when you tell them it’s “an acquired taste.” Or that its tomato-sized, golden-green fruits usually have to soften and go brown (bletting) before you can eat them. Or that their fruits remind people of “cul de chien” as the French say – the back end of a dog. Chaucer described them eloquently as “open-arse” fruit — very appetizing. They look like an apple with an exposed calex (or bum). The fruits taste sweet, slightly citrus, with overtones of stewed apples with hints of wine. Fruits fall in October and November and need to be stored for bletting before eating. Outstanding with Port wine, oatmeals, desserts, and more. The Medlar tree is often found in historic gardens, and it’s not clear why it’s not more widely grown, being a good size, interesting shape, with large blossoms in spring and an intense display of autumn color. These plants are self fertile, free of pests and diseases, and prefer a warm, sheltered site with moist, well-drained soil.
Aronia Berries (Chokeberries): One of the newest members to the super fruit team, Aronia berries, are known to promote an array of health benefits including cardiovascular health and immune system support, as well as aiding in digestion. Native to North America, Aronia berries are also known as Chokeberries because of their tart, mouth-drying effect when consumed. These berries can add an incredible boost of flavor to smoothies, pies, sauces, and more. Aronia berries have recently risen in popularity among consumers eager to incorporate more superfoods into their diet, as they contain a very high level of antioxidants, which are believed to protect against cancer and heart disease.
Honeyberries: Also known as Haskap berries, they are native to Russia and Asia, and have a remarkable cold tolerance, surviving temperatures of -55 degrees Fahrenheit. Honeyberries are some of the first fruits harvested in spring, and taste like a cross between raspberries and blueberries – some say kiwi and grape too. They are excellent eaten fresh or used in desserts or preserves. Birds and other wildlife love the berries and the attractive, moderately sized shrubs grow without much encouragement. We have Tundra, Blue Velvet, Blue Pacific, and Aurora varieties in stock now.
Beach Plums: Grown for beauty as well as food. They grow 3-6′ T, and have the loveliest white spring buds and flowers. Small, edible plums ripen from August through October, and can be made into delicious jam or snacked on right off the tree. A native of the Atlantic Coast, and tolerant of sea spray. Will thrive even if neglected. Fruit is popular for jams, jellies and pies. Attractive fall foliage extends seasonal color. Deciduous.
Persimmons: With so many health benefits, it is no wonder that Persimmons are one of the oldest fruits cultivated in Asia. Records
show that they have been grown in China for more than 2,000 years. Although not widely eaten in the U.S., they are sweet and delicious — reminiscent of an Apricot — and full of nutrients. American Persimmons are native to North America, and hardy to minus 25 degrees F. Their name derives from the Native American (eastern Algonquian) word “putchamin,” meaning dried fruit.
We sell the ‘Meader’ American Persimmon variety, which was selected by the late Professor Elwyn Meader in New Hampshire – a nice local connection. This outstanding, self-fertile variety produces delicious, sweet, deep orange fruit. A fine ornamental as well, Meader’s large, dark green foliage turns a beautiful red and yellow in the fall. Easy to keep 10-12′ T with pruning. Persimmons like full sun, well drained soil, and require both male and female for fruit.
Elderberries: As Monty Python famously said in their quest for the Holy Grail, “Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of Elderberries!” But Elderberries actually smell quite nice. We carry both ‘Samyl’ and ‘Samdal’ varieties for their high fruit and flower yield, with Samyl being the higher-yielding. A manageable size, these new shrub cultivars from Denmark grow just 6-8′ tall. In early summer, the vigorous plants are covered with gorgeous tiny white flowers. They produce large clusters of small purple-black berries in late summer, which are excellent made into jams, jellies, juices and cordials. Plant two varieties for improved pollination. Very important safety note: You need to cook Elderberries before eating them.
All of these plants are in stock right now. Come on by to see them, and take one home for a delicious adventure! We also have a nice selection of common fruits like apples and pears.