What’s growing

One of our goals is to have something the kids can pick and eat straight from the garden for as many days of the year as possible.  This has meant digging into some of the more marginalized cultivated fruits to find things that will tolerate shade, enjoy acidic soil, or perhaps extend the growing season by fruiting earlier or later in the season than what we already have.  This page will collect posts about some of the usual and unusual edibles that round out our garden.

Blueberries: Blueberries can be tricky.  You need good acidic soil and you need reliable bird netting.  Because the birds certainly recognize just how amazing blueberries are.  A yummy, cold hardy superfood that produces great volumes of berries each year?  Sign me up.  We ordered several different varieties from Nourse Farms to keep us in fruit for much of the summer.

Celery: While the stalks are pretty bland when they’re a couple of months old on the grocery store shelves, the leaves themselves offer an amazing, if subtle addition to whatever you’re cooking.  The celery we grow has a rather pitiful, limp stock, but lots of leaves.  We’ll cut them up into little pieces, freeze them, and drop them into soups over the winter.  We grow the Giant Red Re-Selection Celery from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.

Concord Grapes: The first American grape, Concord grapes were developed in Concord MA.  They formed the foundation of a grape empire when Thomas Welch turned them into the first grape juice.  Concord grapes are hardy and productive, if a little musky.

Ground Cherries: Ground cherries are one of our favorite annuals here at Paper Crane. You grow them much like tomatoes.  The berries themselves are about the size of a large blueberry and taste more of citrus than of cherry. Ripe berries drop to the ground, each one wrapped in a papery husk that keeps it fresh for weeks.  Rather like their relative, the tomatillo, they’re shelf stable, so we just go out about once a week in late summer to pick them up.  I recommend Aunt Molly’s.

HoneyberriesA native member of the honeysuckle family, this shrub produces small blue berries, perhaps a cm in diameter. Long before the early season raspberries hit the table, we’ll be eating honeyberries. The strawberries will still be green on the vine, but we’ll be eating honeyberries. We last picked a fresh fruit in mid-October, before the first frost. After six months or so of waiting though, we’ll have our first fresh fruit of the year. Priceless.

Seckel Pears: We bought a dwarf seckel pear on a whim from a nursery two years ago.  A random purchase, but it’s been remarkably successful.  We didn’t give the pear a pollinator, but the tree was covered with little pears last year.  The nursery said that it was self-fertile, but even self-fertile trees tend to do better with a pollinator.  Still, it seems to be working out.

Tomatoes: There are thousands of heirloom varieties of tomatoes to choose from, which is a big part of what makes them so compelling to grow.  There’s always some intriguing variety that you just have to try.  Tomatoes come in red, orange, yellow, green, purple, and everything in between.  Each has its own distinct flavor, as well as different nutritional qualities.  Orange and yellow tomatoes are the sweetest.  Purple tomatoes are the most vitamin rich.

Suburban Homesteading – Raising a self-sufficient family at the intersection of frugal living and backyard farming