THE GARDEN CORNER

Every week I have the greatest opportunity to speak to a University of Minnesota Master Gardener for a show called 'The Garden Corner' that airs on WJON every Wednesday from 10 am to 11 am.

I learn so much from Master Gardeners Bill Cook and Joseph Storlien, that my gardening skills are improving year over year.

This week Master Gardener Joe Storlien gave me his "Top 10 Over-looked Under-Rated Edible Fruit plants for your Landscapes. Here's what Joe had to say.

Photo provided by Joseph Storlien, Master Gardener
Photo provided by Joseph Storlien, Master Gardener
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"While strawberries, raspberries, apples, pears, and plums are what most folks think about when it comes to adding some fruit to the landscape or garden, there are a multitude of other fruit options for central MN gardeners. Here is a ‘Top 10’ list I compiled of some fruits I don’t see as often in central MN landscapes and yards."

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BLUEBERRIES

  • Popular for their fruit, compact size, and brilliant fall colors of orange and red.
  • Waxy white to light pink flowers.
  • Must have acidic soil.
  • Plant two or more varieties with the same bloom time for best pollenization.
  • Fruit season ranges from late June to August.
  • Yields will start low, but increase over the first five years.
  • More robust yields in future years if flower buds are removed the first year.

GOOSEBERRIES

  • Green or purple, with or without thorns
  • Half-inch round fruits with a flavor all their own, often used in desserts.
  • White blossoms in spring.
  • Lobed foliage turns red in fall and attracts birds and butterflies.
  • Self-fruitful.
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CURRANTS

  • White flowers followed by fruits in clusters by midsummer.
  • The round fruit is good for jellies, wines, and preserves.

SERVICEBERRY OR JUNEBERRY

  • White flowers in early spring give way to showy, edible blue berries in summer and then brilliant fall color.
  • Service­berries are native, multi-stemmed shrubs whose fruit is important to wildlife.
  • Self-fruitful.
  • A xeriscape plant. Some say “deer-resistant”, but I haven’t necessarily found that to be true.

DWARF OR TART CHERRY 

  • (Varieties of pie cherry small tree, dwarf cherry bush, sand cherry)
  • Tart cherries are good fresh, or make sensational jams or pie.
  • Cherries get sweeter as they ripen.
  • Easy to net for foiling marauding birds.
  • Self-fruitful.

CORNELIAN CHERRY

  • (Cornus mas, of the dogwood family, not a prunus or true cherry)
  • Upright, barrel-shaped, multi-stemmed tree related to dogwoods.
  • Tolerates heavy clay soil.
  • Partially self-fruitful, so plant two trees for a bigger harvest.
  • The fruit ripens after it falls from the tree.

CHOKEBERRY/ARONIA

  • White flowers with yellow to pink centers in spring and clusters of showy purple
  • Black fruit from September through winter.
  • Foliage turns brilliant red in fall.
  • Berries are high in antioxidants; and good for tart juice and jelly.
  • Though I haven’t tried it yet, some people claim it makes a good wine.
  • Thrives in almost any soil.

KIWIBERRY

  • Not your fuzzy kiwis! Hardy kiwiberries have a thin, smooth, edible skin.
  • They range in size from large blueberries to large grapes.
  • Buds appear in late spring and may require protection from late frosts.
  • Small, fragrant white flowers.
  • Produces fruit in three to four years.
  • Grow on a strong, T-shaped trellis.
  • Mulch roots for winter protection.
  • A pollenizing plant is required.
  • Twining.

HONEYBERRY

  • Yellow flowers in early spring turn into tangy-sweet tubular blue fruit often compared to blueberries, but in pairs with crimson flesh and quadruple the level of anthocyanin and triple the antioxidants.
  • Requires two varieties that bloom together for pollenization, planted within 100’.
  • Retains flavor fresh, frozen or dried.
  • Acclimated to the winters of Russia, Japan, and Canada and accepts a wide range of soil.
  • Protect from rabbits in winter. Also called haskaps.

GOJIBERRY

  • The branches of this plant have a mounding trailing habit, so it can be staked or trellised.
  • The leaves are small and green with purple flowers blooming during summer.
  • They are self-pollinating so only one plant is required.
  • The plants are drought-tolerant and can survive in any well-drained soil.
  • Goji berries are red and high in antioxidants.
  • Most of the fruiting takes place on the lateral branches and can be encouraged by cutting the branch tips back in the spring.
  • The fruit becomes sweeter when dried.
  • For the best taste, dip them in chocolate!

ELDERBERRY

  • The elder flowers can be harvested once they are all opened.
  • The intense fragrance is relaxing, as is tea made from them.
  • Wait until the black fruits are fully ripened to pick and cook them; they cannot be eaten raw.
  • Another great candidate for wine-making.

Try one of these great suggestions based on your soil conditions, and enjoy the often overlooked superstars of gardens that thrive in Minnesota.

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