Heritage Small Fruit
Interesting and Historic Small Fruit and Nuts, Certified Organic
We have planted many varieties of small fruit and nuts for you to try. We’ve had success with some. Other varieties have not worked well. Hazelnuts, or filberts, are an example. With a small U.S. Department of Agriculture grant, we planted several kinds of fruit and nuts along fences and field margins to attract and support Maine’s wildlife. Native or American hazels are doing well. European hazelnuts, or filberts, are not as hardy. We’re still trying. Some day we hope to have enough production for a filbert “pick- your- own”.
Beach Plum (Prunus maritima) may be familiar to New Englanders as a wild shrub. It bears dark purple berries on 4’ high strong and healthy shrubs near the shoreline. Native Americans harvested berries and the early European settlers learned from them. Beach plums can be eaten fresh but most people use them to make jelly. We let pickers find our four good producing bushes. Beach plums ripen after raspberries and before grapes.
Sea Buckthorn (Hippophia rhamnoides) is a fast growing shrub reaching 8 feet in height in three years in our orchard. The female plants usually produce an abundant crop of bright yellow, lemon- sour berries protected by inch long thorns. The berries contain a soft seed which we often leave in marmelade. Oil from the seed is used in cosmetics. The plant, native to Northern Europe and Asia, adds nitrogen to the soil. The deep roots make it useful for erosion control in China.
Guomi ( Elaeagnus multiflora ) in our garden develops into a head high spherical shrub bearing an abundant but short lived crop of bright red slightly oblong berries. These berries are used in Asian medicine. They can be used fresh or dried. They have a slightly astringent taste. They ripen in August. It is a successful plant in our climate but we’ve not done a lot with the berries.
Sand cherry (Prunus pumila) in our orchard grows to chest height. It looks healthy in the spring but appears unwell and bears poorly by late summer. We have not diagnosed it’s malady.
Medlar (Mespilus germanica) is a small fruit tree probably native to the lands around the Black Sea. It is mentioned in writings from ancient Greece through Shakespeare (see Wikipedia). The one inch diameter fruit becomes edible only after frost and a period of change called “bletting”. The fruit softens and the flesh becomes brown. At this point it tastes like cinnamon apple butter, can be served as dessert, but does not look appealing. It is probably near the northern edge of its range here in midcoast Maine.
Mulberry (Morus sp.) our 6 foot, dwarf trees are just beginning to bear at 4 years of age. Deep purple berries are long and narrow (1 1/2 x 1/2 inch), intensely sweet and very fragile. Promising, but a work in progress in our orchard. Historical note: Circa 1845 – 50 an attempt was made to develop the growing of silk worms and the preparation of silk fiber as a cottage industry in Maine. The State offered a prize for development of a variety of mulberry that would provide an abundance of leaves for the silkworms to feed on. The Japanese turned out to be better silk farmers than did Mainers.