Everything From Fruit To Nuts

November 23, 2021

Friday we devoured the last few plump Evergreen Huckleberries – the end of our fruit and nut bounty this year. And just before the Huckleberries, a few volunteers tried the Medlar. (Medlar? Read Shakespeare to find out about this unusual fruit.) One volunteer thought it tasted like refried beans. Another tasted applesauce. I think it’s a combination of the two!

Let’s start at the beginning of the season. In order of appearance, the cast of characters:

Honeyberry (3 varieties), Cavendish and Cabot strawberry, raspberry (3 varieties), Illinois Everbearing Mulberry, blueberry (four varieties), Harrow Delight pear, Interlaken grapes, apples (William’s Pride, Honeycrisp, Fuji, Liberty, then N. Spy), Mirabelle de Nancy plum, Desert King fig, Precoce Migoule Chestnut, Izu Persimmon, Macrocarpa Medlar then, as the encore, the Evergreen Huckleberries.

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Overall, the harvest was very good. A bumper crop of blueberries – enough to donate to the Food Bank. (Blueberries and Mulberries are the volunteers’ favorite payment.)
The plum had to be hand-pollinated, But alas, a new plum with similar bloom time was planted last week, so the pollinators will do the work in the future.

We footied some of the apples applied no netting, due to previous years’ lack of pest pressure. However, after 10 good years, the Honeycrisp and N. Spy got stung by the Apple Maggot Fly. We will have to net next year – an added chore. The other apple trees just had a little bit of earwig and coddling moth damage.

The Harrow delight pear did bring several pears to harvest, but not without a battle with the sawfly. The pear also carries Pacific Trellis Rust and shows cankers from scab.

We spend more time on pests and disease than we do on tree care. The rats love persimmon and grapes. The Eastern Cottontail like to chew the bark of young trees and canes. The squirrels are partial to apples, taking a couple of bites out of each.

Aluminum skirts work well to protect trees, and rabbits are kept at bay with a 14” fence of nearly any material. The clumsy black bird netting, the kind you get all tangled up in, well … no wonder the furry pests steer clear. Roof rats can jump vertically three feet from a standing start; we got rid of low branches a long time ago.

Powdered milk spray has been effective against powdery mildew of the grapes and the William’s Pride. Banding nearby tall trees with Tanglefoot in the fall has helped keep Winter Moth reproduction down. Two sprays of neem oil, one in winter and again at bud break seemed to really help the plum avoid it’s usual annual struggle with European scale, aphid, cankers, leaf rollers and, you name it.

We brought on two new persimmon, Hachiya, and Maekawa Jiro and, next year, we will graft a Sekel onto the Harrow Delight. We’ll also go out on a limb and try to propagate the Mulberry with two different techniques of layering.

My vote for the most trouble free, low labor fruit: Mulberry, Persimmon, Honeyberry, Chestnut, Medlar, Fig, and Elderberry.


Salsify Can Satisfy

October 27, 2021

This fall I made the best batch of cooked greens! The secret ingredient? Salsify. Wow!

Chefs (mostly from Britain) warn that the peeled root turns brown “at an alarming rate”. They advise to drop the peeled root quickly into water with lemon. I followed their instruction, then chopped the root to add to the greens.

The taste of salsify is mild; some say it reminds them of oysters. The bottom line is, this pencil-like root plant enhances other flavors. Indeed.

But, the experiment didn’t end there. Remember the lemon water that the roots soaked in? I figured, since the root is nutritious, so should this red juice. What a bonus! The juice, warmed up, was mild and sweet and wonderfully flavorful.

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Salsify is similar to parsnips in nutritive value, being a little higher in protein. One cup of cooked salsify supplies 40 calories, 3.5 grams of protein, 3.8 grams of fiber, 20.4 grams of carbohydrate, 60 mg calcium, 19 mg magnesium, 1.7 mg iron, and 251 mg of potassium. https://horticulturecenter.illinoisstate.edu/gardens/documents/vegetables.pdf

Miller James G https://oregonflora.org

What does it take to grow this plant? Not much, just patience; the plants take their time to mature. Plus, like many other root vegetables and tubers, water needs are moderate . And, salsify has no serious pests. http://www.gardenology.org/wiki/Salsify

Salsify can satisfy but so can the others from the underground: parsnips, beets, turnips, carrots, potatoes, onions, shallots, garlic … Give them all a try!


Additional Information:

https://research.libraries.wsu.edu (1928)

Purple Salsify (Tragopogon porrifolius L),  belongs to the Asteraceae family). It was commonly used as a food plant in northern Europe in the middle ages. It subsequently spread world-wide, being brought to North America by early settlers in the West (Clark 1973; Fritz et al. 1992). Not long after its introduction to North America, it escaped cultivation. The North American Native Americans used it for food and chewed the milky stems to cure indigestion (Clark 1973). The Biology of Canadian Weeds

Research favors commercial crops like potatoes and cassava, not salsify. Many publications highlight the importance of roots and tubers for feeding the world’s population. https://www.fao.org/3/t0207e/t0207e04.htm
Potatoes, for instance, are considered among the most energy productive crops, producing 5,600 kcal/m3 of water, compared to 3860 in maize, 2300 in wheat, and 2000 in rice. https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-030-45106-6_40
All root vegetables and tubers produce a lot of good nutrition, without taking up a lot of space!

Desperate Decision → Piddly Persimmon

September 15, 2021

No one in their right mind would buy a Persimmon Tree from Home Depot. Or would they … if desperate enough?

We ordered an Izu from a well-known nearby nursery in 2019. We received the bareroot tree in March of 2020 and made a nice home for it along the west fence.

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Oddly, by June, it still had not leafed out. I scratched the bark and there was green cambium so I gave it more time. By mid-June, I could tell the tree was dead. The rootstock lived but the graft did not take. Rats. Lost a year.

I was very anxious to order a replacement tree the following winter. The same nursery shipped one, again bare root, and it arrived February 26, 2021. Bare root indeed! It had no feeder roots whatsoever! Refund.

Here is where the desperation set in. I said to my self, “Self, you have to find a persimmon!”

Nobody had Izu. And, in late spring, most nearby nurseries didn’t have much in the way of persimmon at all … except … Home Depot. Can you believe it? I ordered a Fuyugaki Diospyros kaki from Home Depot. Shipped from Florida to Seattle. We called it the Florida persimmon. It seemed to shiver when we planted it. Well, at least it had roots.

Leafed out fairly quickly! Then, slowly but surely, the piddly persimmon was dead by July. Not that we were really expecting more.

But why did it die? Enter investigator West and investigator Lee. They carefully dug out the failure. At first, it seemed to be very well rooted, as there were large roots holding it down.

“Wait!”, Lee began, “Those sturdy roots don’t belong to the persimmon!” In fact, the roots belonged to the big American Elms nearby.

Lee and West didn’t really have to be careful. Once they cut the persimmon free of its entanglement with the elm roots, the Home Depot special pulled right out.  The tree never really got started. It leafed out based on the carbohydrates already stored in the plant. Clearly the roots were not in great shape because they never really connected with the soil to start any kind of flow.

Roots find water and the Elm roots deliberately jumped the fence and slurped up the available water we had been applying to the new tree.

So, as always, it’s not clear. Could be a combination of, trip from Florida was just too hard on the Fuyagaki and/or the fact that it had severe root and water competition from two 50-foot Elms.

I just picked up a new Maekawa Jiro from Burnt Ridge Nursery. Not an Izu, but we will treat it with the same respect. Once it is in the ground, please come by and speak sweetly to it.