|New Strawberry plot extending out of the garden fence.|
After tasting locally grown strawberries through the CSA and thinking about how many frozen strawberries we add to smoothies on a year-round basis, it suddenly seemed like a worthy idea to add them to the home garden. I hope we can keep up.
chokeberry plants excite me the most. As do food forests. I feel I am on the
food forest path to major home food production in a space 43-by-21 feet large.
Or small – I don’t know. We bought one Red Chokeberry that will grow to cover a
section between 6 to 10 feet, and we bought one Black Chokeberry that grows to
cover between 3 to 5 feet. They are a shrub-like tree that puts out suckers to
form a cluster of stems and branches.
|An almost ripe strawberry from the Gasana plant.|
Chokeberries are more commonly being referred to as Aronia, according to the New York State Horticultural Society (NYSHS), due to the unappealing sound of chokeberries and their increasing popularity. Aronia is a member of the Rose family and demands have been increasing in the United States since 2001, when a juice blend company began doing well at Costco Wholesale Corporation. However, the Aronia berries come with a steep price and most growers are located in Europe, according to the NYSHS New York Fruit Quarterly.
according to me. The perfect addition to a Pennsylvania food forest. A berry
originally from North America, removed and cultivated in Europe, literally
being brought back home. And they come with a high price! Oh, did I mention the
Native Americans used them like crazy? Perhaps they were mad too.
|Black Chokeberry planted in yard with Red Chokeberry in background (left).|
The Native Americans used chokeberries to make sun-dried fruit balls, to spice their bison meat, and to treat a wide range of health conditions. Chokeberries, or should I say Aronia, are also supposed to make a beautiful addition to the landscape, displaying white flowers in spring while giving off an almond-like aroma - all according to the USDA, of course. Today these berries are commonly used to make jellies, jams, pie fillings, wine, sauces and more. My first move? Jelly, then wine.
berry I plan on using to make jelly will come from the American beautyberry.
This native perennial shrub is supposed to grow anywhere from 3 to 8 feet and
will offer ripe berries through August and September. The placement of this
plant in the yard will be the start of a pathway leading to the far end of the
yard, which will be narrow at the beginning opening up to an area of edible
plants. The narrowness will be a result of the beautyberry.
One idea I like about having an American beautyberry is the possibility of mixing multiple types of berries to make multiple types of jellies. Almost as much as I like the idea of food forests. Or me going mad in a forest of food. Or making mad jelly … strawberry and beautyberry jelly, red aronia and beautyberry jelly, strawberry with mixed aronia berry jelly … and the list goes on.
Other than a food source, the American beautyberry was used by early 20th century farmers. They would rub crushed leaves on themselves and store crushed leaves under the harnesses of their farm animals to repel mosquitos and other bugs from biting, according to the USDA. Future scientific studies done by the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) proved this to be true, after finding two compounds present capable of repelling mosquitoes.
|Beet berries in need of a home.|
Beet berry, also referred to as Strawberry Spinach or Indian Ink, produces a soft red fruit too delicate to make it to the farmers market. It grows like a weed and the leaves can be added to salads. I’m curious about trying the berry which is supposed to taste more like a beet than a strawberry, due to the plant being in the beet family. According to Horizon Herbs, where the seeds were purchased, the white and red marbled root is also edible and tasty.
Last, but not least, we have the golden berries. We grew them last year but started them late and did not get to taste its ripe fruit. This year we started them on time, then I cooked them on a tray with a dome lid placed on top on a hot day. Oops. Yet such a classic mistake. How sad I was.
Some of them survived after a state of suspended shock and started growing and looking healthy again. How happy I became. Then they got hit with Colorado potato beetles. As the potato beetles ate the leaves, the golden berries became sick looking. Ouch, the sadness.
reading an article on Mother
Earth News about controlling these hungry beetles, I learned that buckwheat
attracts predatory insects, especially when in bloom. Luckily, there is an
8-by-4 foot plot of buckwheat in the garden. I moved the few containers of
golden berries around the plot of blooming buckwheat and in a few days all
happiness returned. They are now forming healthy-looking flowers.
|Golden Berry plant next to blooming Buckwheat plot.|
Recently, I ate a piece of dark chocolate with dried golden berries in it. I will be growing these plants for a long time is what that experience taught me.
to the existing vegetable garden, we now have a full season’s worth of native
berries making themselves feel at home. The yard has been blocked off by the
dogs since early June when we added topsoil infected with spider mites and
planted clover seeds to fill the lawn. After two weeks of time, poor
germination results, and the application of predatory mites to eat the spider
mites, we planted more clover seed. When that started to come in, we added
grass seed mixed with clover seed in one last desperate attempt to have a yard
thick and green that will not burn out from dog urine.
still blocked off. Once these new plants are established in the ground and the
last of the clover and grass seed grows the yard will be theirs again. Or will
it? We – the dogs, us people, and the plants – are now forced to share. With
the addition of native plant species followed by an increase in both bad and
good insect populations, I suppose it will never be theirs again. Then again,
this style of thought may be an example of organic living - a life where the
art of allowing nature is instinct.
|Yard before berries.|
|Yard after berries.|
And nature can be mad crazy.