Small Fruits, Big Flavour
Rhubarb, Horseradish, and Asparagus
Rhubarb, horseradish and asparagus take little space and once mature, can be harvested easily for many years. All that’s required is a sunny spot, rich well-drained soil and a little top dressing of well-rotted manure each spring. And if you’ve never tasted fresh rhubarb pie, spicy horseradish on roast beef, or some delightful asparagus spears with cheese sauce, you have missed something really special!
Jerusalem artichokes are, perhaps, among the least known of the small garden edibles. They’re truly delicious – offering a sweet, nut-like flavour that is great for salads and soups, or as a substitute for potatoes.
The tubers can be planted in fall or spring and left in the ground all year. As a matter of fact, they overwinter better outdoors! They grow like sunflowers and will often will give you the added bonus of lovely flowers and seeds.
Currants and Gooseberries
Wet spring weather can cause mildew problems for both currants and gooseberries, but many newer varieties have come along to solve this problem. The ‘Red Cherry’ currant, the ‘Black Consort’ currant and, from Finland, the ‘Hinnonmaecki’ gooseberry, are all mildew resistant! ‘Black Consort’, by the way, has delightfully fragrant yellow flowers, making it a welcome addition to the landscape, and compared to other gooseberries, the ‘Hinnonmaecki’ is much less troublesome with lovely, large berries.
Vine berries are ideal in today’s gardens – especially if you have an empty fence or bare wall. Thornless boysenberries, loganberries, blackberries and even the huge new tayberries need just a little support and sunshine to give you an almost continuous supply of delicious berries. They can be kept quite confined in space, especially if you espalier them. Trained against a fence or wall, these vines look very attractive.
Speaking of vines, grapes have become increasingly popular for the home garden again, especially with the many seedless varieties available, like ‘Himrod’, ‘Sovereign Coronation’, ‘Canadice’ and ‘Flame’. They can be trained along old fences or up over sundecks to double as valuable shade plants. ‘Homestead Red’ is still one of our local favourites for its delectable flavour and no seeds.
Kiwis have certainly made their presence known in the Pacific Northwest. Although most folks know of the big fuzzy varieties, they are tender for our area and would not survive without winter protection. The hardy, grape-sized fruits of actinidia ‘Ananasnaja’ variety are far easier to grow, and self-fertile varieties, like ‘Issai’, are great for producing lots of delectable fruit with little care. The unique variety actinidia ‘Kolomikta’ has green foliage that turns white, then pink for a most spectacular display that is most attractive in the male plants, but females instead offer fruit and fabulous colour all summer long.
Raspberries and Strawberries
Don’t forget that bare root raspberries and strawberries planted now (or at least soon!) will produce significant crops for harvest this year. Make sure they’re in a sunny spot with excellent drainage!
Now is a great time to plant small fruits. They’re not only an investment in flavour and freshness, but many of them are also easy to grow and have delightful ornamental features too.