Uncommon Fruits

A sampler from Lee Reich author of Uncommon Fruits who has researched fruits for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Cornell University.

| June/July 2004

Uncommon Fruit

Hardy kiwifruits are but one of a number of uncommon fruits grown by innovative gardeners and farmers.

Photo courtesy Fotolia/Valeriy Kirsanov

A Sampler of Uncommon Fruits

Hardy kiwifruits are but one of a number of uncommon fruits grown by innovative gardeners and farmers. Here's a tasty sampling from Lee Reich's book, Uncommon Fruits. All can be grown in most of the country and are great for edible landscaping. They are pest-resistant, and most don't even need pruning. Most importantly, they're truly delectable.

Medlar (Mespilus germanica)

Medlars aren't the most attractive fruits, but their flavor is supreme, resembling rich applesauce laced with spices and wine. The handsome, small tree bears large white or slightly pink blossoms that open late, without the need for cross-pollination. The trees are quick to bear, often doing so the year after planting. Harvest is in autumn, at which time the 1 1/2- to 2 1/2-inch fruits are brought inside to soften for two to eight weeks, depending on temperature, before being eaten. Medlars are virtually pest-free and require little or no pruning. They were very popular during the Middle Ages.

Beach Plum (Prunus maritima)

Beach plums are not just for beaches, and not just for jelly. These fruits are cherry-sized with a plum-like flavor that makes them tasty as a fresh-off-the-branch snack. Fruit color ranges from purple to deep blue, red and even yellow; the lighter the color, the less tannin in the taste. I grow beach plum selections that are as tasty as conventional plums, except that they are smaller and ripen in late summer. The plants are shrubby and pest-resistant. Cross-pollination is needed and bearing is somewhat erratic, but every spring the branches are full of small white blossoms, followed by the dangling ripe fruits, profuse enough to put on a show of their own.

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