Unusual Fruit You Can Grow
by Frann Leach
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Organic gardeners are often more adventurous in their choice of crop varieties. Here is a list of more unusual fruits, many of which are well known as ornamentals, and others perhaps more difficult to find. Permaculture fans may find this list of interest for filling some of the niches that might otherwise be left vacant.
Actinidia arguta. Tara vine
Hardy climber. Fleshy, emerald green fruits "sweeter than Kiwi fruit" follow fragrant summer flowers.
Actinidia chinensis (syn. A. deliciosa). Kiwi fruit, Chinese gooseberry
Hardy climber to 30'. 9" heart-shaped leaves, fragrant flowers in August followed by fruit. Needs male and female plants.
Actinidia kolomikta.
Attractive hardy climber. Ideal for training against a wall or fence in full sun. Fragrant white flowers in June followed by yellowish, sweet fruits rich in vitamin C.
Actinidia polygama. Silver vine
Vigorous climber to 25'. Orange fruit 1½" long, can be eaten fresh, dried or pickled.
Amelanchier alnifolia. Juneberry
3-6' shrub, black-purple fruit. Do not buy fruits grafted onto Hawthorn or Medlar.
Amelanchier asiatica.
15-35' tree. Black-purple fruit. Do not buy fruits grafted onto Hawthorn or Medlar.
Amelanchier canadensis. Snowy mespilus, Shad bush
20-60' tree. Purple-red fruit. Do not buy fruits grafted onto Hawthorn or Medlar.
Amelanchier florida (syn. A. oxyodon)
20-30' tree. Do not buy fruits grafted onto Hawthorn or Medlar.
Amelanchier grandiflora
Sweet purple fruit, larger than Juneberry. Do not buy fruits grafted onto Hawthorn or Medlar.
Amelanchier laevis
Purple-black fruit.Do not buy fruits grafted onto Hawthorn or Medlar.
Amelanchier lamarckii
Shrub up to 6m in height.Do not buy fruits grafted onto Hawthorn or Medlar.
Amelanchier oblongifolia. Swamp sugar pear
Very flavoursome fruit. Do not buy fruits grafted onto Hawthorn or Medlar.
Amelanchier spicata
Good fruit, but suckers madly. Do not buy fruits grafted onto Hawthorn or Medlar.
Amelanchier stolonifera
Fruit almost as good as Juneberry, but suckers madly. Do not buy fruits grafted onto Hawthorn or Medlar.
Ananas comosus. Pineapple
Cut the top off a pineapple, remove small lower leaves to leave 1" stem base, dry well for at least 24 hours. Use rooting powder. Insert into moist sand, sandy loam or cuttings compost. Firm well. Bag and bottom heat. Pot on when rooted. Use heavy container half filled with gravel, then potting compost, inside large pot filled with e.g.. peat, kept moist for humidity. Keep leaves well above eye level. Keep well watered.
Aralia racemosa. Spikenard
5-6' handsome, hardy herbaceous perennial. Large panicles of greenish-white flowers in summer are followed by dark red berries which can be used in jellies. The large roots are an ingredient of root beer, giving it a liquorice flavour.
Araucaria araucana. Monkey puzzle, Chile pine
Hardy tree. Can be grown from seed; requires minimum 70ª germination temperature. Seeds edible like nuts.
Arbutus unedo. Strawberry tree
Large tree, smaller varieties available. Lily of the valley-like flowers in November and December along with ripe fruit from the previous year's flowers. Fruit does not store unless picked unripe. Resents root disturbance. Can be grown from seed; soak seed for 5-6 days in warm water, sow late winter. Pot on as necessary, plant out at 8-12" late spring/early summer after last frost. Named varieties only from heeled cuttings in November/December; water with willow bark soaking water to encourage rooting. RCV Croomei, Compacta, Elfin King, Rubra.
Arctostaphylos patula. Greenleaf manzanita
3-5' hardy shrub. Urn-shaped pink or white flowers in spring, followed by dark brown or black edible fruits used for making jelly and cider.
Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (syn. A. officinalis). Bearberry
Wild on moors in N England and Scotland. 4-6" high. Berries sweet and insipid, used for puddings etc.
Asimina triloba. Pawpaw
Hardy shrub, but a shy cropper in this country. Worth growing for its fine foliage alone.
Berberis (all species)
Recommended: B. vulgaris (Barberry): Do not grow in cereal area, as it is an alternate host to Wheat Black Rust; B. darwinii: 3-4m wind-resistant, bluish-purple berries July-August; B. aggregata: 3-5', red berries in autumn, particularly attractive against the leaves' autumn tints; B. gagnepainii: 4-5' evergreen, black berries, makes an impenetrable hedge; B. thunbergii var. atropurpurea: 4', reddish-purple foliage, red berries, good hedge plant; B. poiretii: elegant deciduous shrub from China, red berries in autumn.
Billardiera longiflora (syn. B. ovalis). [Purple] Appleberry
1" violet berry in autumn, also fructa alba (white fruited). Half hardy evergreen climber. Grow against S/SW facing wall or under glass. Container grown plants can be trained as pillars, pyramids etc.
Carissa grandiflora (syn. Arduina grandiflora). Natal plum
Spiny shrub, 6-15' tall, 2" scarlet plum-like fruit.
Carissa macrocarpa
Similar to C. grandiflora, but with larger fruit.
Chaenomeles cathayensis and C. c. wilsonii. Chinese quince
Spiny 8-10' shrub, 3-5" leaves, ruddy undersides, large white flowers. Fruit 4-6" x 2½-3½", dull green.
Chaenomeles japonica. Japanese quince
3' spiny, spreading shrub, orange-red flowers. Yellow fruit, 1½" long, apple-like shape.
Chaenomeles lagenaria. Japanese quince
2-2½" globose or pear-shaped fruit.
Chaenomeles sinensis (syn. Cydonia sinensis). Chinese quince
20-40' tree with peeling bark and large pink flowers. 4-6" long, egg-shaped, deep yellow fruit.
Chenopodium foliosum. Strawberry blite
1-2' hardy annual. Grown as spinach substitute and for the mulberry-like fruits, which are edible. RCV for fruit 'Strawberry Sticks'.
Coccoloba uvifera. Seaside grape
20' tree from tropical America worth trying in South and West coastal areas. Attractive foliage and flowers, followed by "decidedly edible" purple fruit. A spring sowing should produce a good sized pot plant by Christmas.
Cornus kousa. Japanese dogwood
RCV C. kousa chinensis. Strawberry-like fruits, late summer. Skin is bitter.
Cornus mas. Cornelian cherry
Varieties not as good for fruit. 5m large shrub/small tree. Wind tolerant. May take 15 years to fruit. Yellow flowers in February, fruit late summer.
Crataegus (all species). Hawthorn
Will grow in sun or semi-shade. Recommended species: C. arnoldiana: up to 20', fruit soft juicy/mealy flesh; C. azarolus: 20' tree, fruit for cooking; C, baroussana: 5'; C. durobriensis: 15', fruit small, apple-like; C. elwangeriana: 20', fruit pleasant. C. illinoensis: 20', fruit like C. arnoldiana; C. missouriensis: 20' fruit cherry size, soft and juicy; C. schraderiana: 20' fruit exceptionally delicious; C. submollis: 25' fruit variable; C. succulenta: 20' fruit sweet, juicy, nice raw/jellied; C. tanacetifolia: 30' fruit tastes apple-like.
Cydonia oblonga (syn. C. vulgaris). Quince
15-25' tree. Self-fertile, but second tree helps. Likes heavy moist soil, but very tolerant. Fruit 2½-4" long. RCV Champion, Orange Quince, Rea's Mammoth.
Cyphomandra betacea. Tree tomato, Tamarillo
Grow in pots. Needs warmth in winter. Keep moist, but not waterlogged.
Diospyros kaki. Chinese persimmon
Large shrub. 3" orange-yellow fruit, various shapes according to variety.
Diospyros lotus. Date plum
20-60' tree. Fruit ½-¾" purple-black, flesh date-like. Will not grow on acid soils. Fruits better with more than one plant. Keep well watered. Ripen fruit with an apple; place 6-8 fruits together in a closed container. They are ripe when soft. Refrigerate if jelly-like.
Diospyros virginiana. American persimmon
Tall tree. 1-1½" fruit, yellow and red check, dark red or purple-red. Must be eaten ripe.
Elaeagnus species
Elaeagnus macrophylla: Heavy cropper. Elaeagnus multiflora (syn. E. edulis), Goumi: Dark orange berry with white speckles, ½-¾" long. Elaeagnus pungens variegata: Pollinator for E. x ebbingei, also fruits. Elaeagnus x ebbingei: Recommended. Resistant to salty sea winds. Fruit early April, red marbled silver. Skin inedible. RCV for fruit: Gilt Edge, Limelight for containers.
Empetrum nigrum. Crowberry
Hardy native shrub, 6-12½. Small pinkish flowers in late spring followed by black, edible berries used with milk to make an Icelandic beverage.
Feijoa sellowiana. Pineapple guava
Large half-hardy shrub. You need two for good fruit. Grow against south facing wall or in containers, in the greenhouse for the winter.
Fuchsia (all species)
F. excorticata: Kotukutuku, Tree fuchsia, fast growing hardy shrub or small tree from New Zealand, likes shade, ornamental bark, unusual spring flowers are followed by purple Konini berries to eat raw or cooked. F. procumbens: Creeping fuchsia, almost hardy trailer, red or magenta berries. F. 'Fete Floral': 16-20" half hardy evergreen, self-branching, deep purple berries. Easily grown from seed. Others include: F. splendens, F. 'Tresco', F. 'Globosa'. Most fuchsias need or favour either complete or partial shade, white and pale varieties definitely so. F. fulgens types like warm, sunny conditions. Cover with leaves etc. over winter, prune to 2 buds per stem in spring after last frost.
Gaultheria procumbens. Wintergreen, Partridge-berry
3-6" evergreen hardy shrub, ideal for ground cover in open or semi-shady positions. Leaves are the source of Oil of Wintergreen, urn-shaped white/pinkish flowers in summer followed by spicy red berries to eat raw or made into pies or jams.
Gaultheria shallon. Salal
2-4' evergreen hardy shrub, dark purple berries.
Halleria lucida. Umbinza, African honeysuckle
¾" purple berries.
Hibiscus sabdariffa. Rosella
5-7' half hardy annual. Sow in spring, transplant at 6" to 3-4' apart x 3' rows. First "fruits" (actually flower calyces) expected 10 weeks later, used for making drinks and jellies and, toasted to make a coffee substitute. Leaves used in curry and salad, seeds medicinal.
Hippophae salicifolia
Large suckering shrub. Fixes nitrogen. Lemon flavour fruit which is cancer preventive in September.
Hovenia dulcis. Japanese raisin tree
Hardy shrub. After the flowers are borne in July, the footstalks of the flowers swell and become succulent and pulpy, the pulp being very sweet and edible.
Lardizabala biternata. Zabala fruit
Vigorous hardy climber bearing chocolate-purple flowers late in the season followed by dark purple, sausage shaped fruits 2-3" long, popular in Chile. Tolerates temperatures down to -10ªC (14ª F), but would appreciate a sunny wall or a cold greenhouse.
Mahonia aquifolium. Oregon grape
Hardy shrub, 3-4'. Yellow flowers in early spring followed by blue-black berries.
Mahonia nervosa. Water holly
1-2' hardy shrub bearing racemes of yellow flowers in spring, followed by dark blue, glaucous berries.
Malus baccata. Siberian crab
50' tree flowering in spring, followed by small crab apples useful for preserving.
Mesembryanthemum edule and M. asinaciforme. Hottentot fig
The fruit is fully ripe when it begins to shrivel.
Morus nigra. Black mulberry
30' tree. Can be grown in a tub. Sun lover. Even when grown in the ground, must be kept well watered. Plant in spring. Do not prune heavily. Shore up branches of elderly trees when it appears to be necessary. Can be trained like fruit trees, including fans. Repot container plants annually in early spring. Raise from cuttings or layers. Protect from birds.
Myrtus ugni. Ugni, Chilean guava
2-6' half-hardy evergreen shrub, dark red edible shrubs. Grow in pot and put in greenhouse over winter. Can also be grown outdoors in Cornwall.
Olea europea. Olive
Half-hardy. Grow in a container in the greenhouse until all danger of frost is past. Keep well watered in summer, moderate watering in winter. Spray daily with clean water from late spring to early autumn. Pick olives when ripe, wash in several waters, put into boiling brine, then pickle in oil.
Opuntia ficus-indica and Opuntia vulgaris. Prickly pear, Indian fig
12' cactus naturalised in the Mediterranean. Will not tolerate, moist or shady conditions. Grow in a large heavy pot in a greenhouse in winter and wet periods. Propagate by inserting a mature pad in sandy soil, so that about 1" is under the surface, support with a cane on each side. Fruit is yellow, 2½-3" long (O. ficus-indica) or 1½" long (O. vulgaris). Prepare fruit by scrubbing with a stiff brush to remove spines, peel and slice. Use slices with lime or lemon juice. as a compote or puree.
Osmaronia cerasiformis. Indian peach
5' hardy suckering shrub. Early spring flowers are followed by plum-like fruits that can be eaten raw or cooked.
Passiflora edulis. Passion fruit, Granadilla
Both purple- and (50% larger) yellow-fruited varieties are available. Egg-shaped dimpled fruit. Keep young vines well watered. Fertilise every 4 weeks. Watch for manganese deficiency. Choose a sheltered position, preferably beneath a S/SW facing wall. Erect two wires, supported by 6' posts, one wire close to the top of the posts, the other 20" below the first. Select the two best shoots and train each up a cane attached to the wires. When the lower shoot reaches the lower wire, pinch out above a pair of laterals, removing all others. Train the laterals along the wire. Do the same for the upper shoot. Fruit will grow on sublaterals. Keep well watered; trickle watering is good. Check daily for fallen fruit (which will be ready for eating) and pick other well-coloured fruits.
Passiflora foetida. Wild water lemon
Half hardy climber, very vigorous and easy to grow. Foliage emits an unpleasant smell when crushed. Fruits smell fine and have an agreeable sweet-acid taste.
Passiflora incarnata. May pops
A vigorous climber for the cool greenhouse with sweet scented, pale lavender and white flowers, followed by edible, sweet, egg-shaped fruits.
Passiflora ligularis. Sweet granadilla
A strong climber for the cool greenhouse with white and purple-barred flowers, 3-4" across, followed by edible white fruits 3" long.
Passiflora maliformis. Sweet calabash
Greenhouse climber bearing very exotic flowers from June to November followed by delicious fruits with a grape-like flavour inside a hard shell.
Passiflora mixta. Curuba di indio
Greenhouse climber with 4" pink flowers followed by eminently edible fruit with an aromatic flavour.
Passiflora mollissima. Banana passion fruit
A climber for the cool greenhouse bearing 3" pink flowers followed by large, downy, yellowish fruits.
Passiflora platyloba. Montesa granadilla
A climber for the conservatory very popular in the US bearing very fragrant 2" flowers from April to August followed by edible fruits with a grape-like flavour.
Passiflora quadrangularis. Giant granadilla
Greenhouse climber bearing 4½" flowers followed by the largest fruits of the Granadilla group.
Passiflora suberosa. Meloncillo
Half hardy climber with 1¼" flowers followed by small, edible, purple berries.
Physalis ixocarpa. Mexican ground cherry, Tomatillo
3' HHP treated as annual. Cultivate like tomato.
Physalis peruviana vars. edulis and violacea (syn. P. edulis). Cape gooseberry, Yellow sunberry
3' HHP treated as annual. Cultivate like tomato.
Physalis pruinosa. Husk tomato, Ground cherry
HHA. Cultivate as tomato.
Physalis pubescens. Low hairy ground cherry
A weed in the Southern states of USA, but cultivated in the North.
Poncirus trifoliata. Japanese bitter orange
Hardy shrub bearing sweetly scented 2" flowers followed by fragrant orange-like fruits. Can be used as a hedging plant.
Prinsepia sinensis. Cherry prinsepia
Medium-sized, deciduous hardy shrub, among the earliest shrubs to leaf up, bright red, cherry-like fruits in summer.
Prunus avium. Bird cherry, Gean
80' hardy tree. 1½" white flowers in spring, followed by edible red fruits.
Prunus cerasifera. Myrobalan plum, Cherry plum
Will grow on lime, any soil not too dry, likes sun, succeeds near coasts. Often used for hedging. P. c. atropurpurea (syn. P. pissardi) has larger fruit.
Prunus davidiana. Père David's peach
Small hardy tree, blooming January to March, followed by edible reddish fruit, with highly poisonous kernels (containing cyanide).
Prunus japonica. Korean cherry
Small hardy deciduous shrub to 5' bearing pink flowers in April followed by dark red fruit with a sweet, agreeable taste, eaten raw or made into pies.
Prunus virginiana. Choke cherry
Medium sized shrub/small tree bearing 6" spikes of flowers in May followed by edible, if astringent, dark red fruits that can be eaten raw or made into jams, wine etc. Green twigs also used as a herb with roasts.
Psidium cattleianum. Strawberry guava
4-6' greenhouse shrub, somewhat hardier than P. guajava. With a little encouragement will produce fruit within 20 months of sowing. Fruits juicy with a very high Vitamin C content, much like a strawberry in taste.
Psidium guajava var. pyriferum. Guava
4' greenhouse shrub. Can produce fruit within a couple of years from seed. Fruits juicy, yellow, pear-shaped, with a pleasant musky odour.
Punica granatum. Pomegranate
Large half hardy shrub best grown against a sunny wall. Fruit rarely ripens in this country.
Punica granatum var. nana. Pomegranate
2-3' hardy shrub which makes an ideal pot plant. Fruit may not ripen in this country, but may be worth taking into a greenhouse over winter if fruit has formed.
Pyrus pyrifolia. Kumoi or Asian pear
Apple shaped fruit, with the texture and crunch of an apple, but the flavour of a pear. Recommended by Bob Flowerdew.
Rheum tataricum. Tartarean rhubarb
5' hardy perennial. Leafstalks and unexpanded flower masses are edible.
Rosa species. Rose hips
Most popular is R. rugosa, others include R. canina, R. villosa (syn. R. pomifera), R. alpina, R. moyesii (large hips), R. glauca (mahogany hips).
Rubus caesius. Dewberry, Youngberry
Native shrub.
Rubus illecebrosus. Strawberry raspberry
Fruiting, mat-forming ground cover.
Rubus nepalensis. Nepalese raspberry
Ground cover up to 8" tall. Fruits mid-late summer.
Rubus niveus. Mysore black raspberry
Rubus phoenicolasius. Wineberry
Up to 3m bramble fruit. Treat as raspberry. Fruits are very much like raspberries, but kept inside the calyx until ripe, thus remaining virtually pest free. Good cropper resistant to insects, fungi and birds.
Rubus saxatilis. Rock bramble
3" high hardy perennial.
Rubus spectabilis. Salmon berry
4-6' hardy shrub.
Sambucus caerulea. Western elderberry
North American shrub. Black berries in cymes, shiny when ripe.
Sambucus nigra. European elderberry
Black berries in cymes, shiny when ripe.
Shepherdia argentea. Buffalo berry
20' prickly shrub. Berry similar to redcurrant in clusters. Male and female plants required. Makes a good windbreak/sun trap.
Sicana odorifera. Casabanana, Musk cucumber
Half hardy perennial treated as annual. Very quick-growing vinewith large smooth leaves and small yellow flowers followed by orange-crimson fruits like a slender vegetable marrow with a very strong, pleasing and penetrating fragrance. Young fruit can be eaten as a vegetable or added to soups and stews, ripe fruit thinly sliced and eaten raw or made into jam. Treat as you would a greenhouse cucumber for reliable cropping.
Smilacina racemosa. Treacleberry
Berries taste like treacle. Slight shade acceptable.
Solanum muricatum (syn. S. guatamalense). Melon pear, Pepino
Grows like tomato. Raise from cuttings.
Solanum quitoense. Naranjilla
4-5' half-hardy shrub. Fruits in 4-6 months from seed.
Spondias dulcis (syn. S. cytherea). Otaheite apple
50' tree. Blooms early summer, fruits ripen after leaf fall. Pineapple flavour russet fruit, 2-3" long.
Spondias lutea (syn. S. mombin). Hog plum
30' tree. Blooms early summer, fruits ripen after leaf fall. Yellow-red fruit 2" long, sweet-acid, aromatic flavour. Considered inferior to Otaheite apple.
Spondias pinnata. Malayan mombin
10-12' shrub. Blooms early summer, fruits ripen after leaf fall. Yellow fruit 1½;" long, excellent flavour.
Spondias purpurea. Spanish mombin
30' tree. Blooms early summer, fruits ripen after leaf fall. Deep red-purple fruit, 1½" long, tough skin, plumlike yellow flesh, delicious cooked.
Spondias tuberosa. Imbu
Blooms early summer, fruits ripen after leaf fall. Fruit like a greengage, with tough skin.
Vaccinium membranaceum. Big huckleberry
2-5' deciduous hardy shrub requiring lime free soil. Yellowish-green or purplish flowers in early summer followed by large, black or purplish black, edible berries.
Vaccinium myrtillus. Bilberry
6-18" hardy shrub requiring lime free soil. Greenish-pink flowers in spring followed by blue-black fruits good for pies.
Vaccinium ovatum. Huckleberry
Attractive 3-8' evergreen hardy shrub requiring lime free soil. An excellent hedge plant with leathery leaves, coppery-red when young, bearing pink and white bells followed by juicy and delicious berries used for making pies.
Vaccinium parvifolium. Red huckleberry
6-8' deciduous hardy shrub requiring lime free soil. Pinkish flowers in late spring are followed by red, excellently flavoured berries for tarts and pies.
Vaccinium vitis-idaea. Cowberry
6-12" creeping evergreen hardy shrub requiring lime free soil. White flowers in summer are followed by red, edible berries.
Zizyphus jujuba. Jujube
Small tree, hardy in the mildest parts of the country, armed with spines in pairs, with small, yellowish flowers followed by pleasantly flavoured, edible, date-like fruits.
©2004 Frann Leach. All rights reserved.

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