Unique fruits you CAN grow in the northeast!
By David Fried
So you always wanted to grow unique and unusual delicious fruits in the north, but didn’t know if you could? Here is an introduction to what we can grow all over the northeast. Like early pioneers, adventurous growers have been testing all kinds of fruits and berries with very promising results. We have been seeing and tasting northern kiwis, quince, seaberries, bush cherries, haskaps and paw paws. What fun!
The kiwis are in long clusters and ready to eat when slightly soft. Plant a male and a female of the same species (of which there are many). You will need a strong arbor or pergola as they wrap around it and grow a lot of vine up it. They need well drained earth, half- to full-day sun and about 10 to 20 feet in between plants. The larger the plant you start with, the better it will do and you could be eating northern kiwis in about three to five years!
We could not grow quince successfully for years, but someone brought some back from Russia and they have fruited in Elmore now for two years in a row. You can eat them out of hand or make into sauce or jelly. They are self- fruitful (do not need a pollinator), but if you plant more than one, space them about 15 to 20 feet apart. They fit in nicely with other fruit trees and need sun and well drained earth.
Seaberries are all the rage right now. You can grow your own orange juice in northern Vermont! The large bushes have thorns and can take most soils and like sun. Plant about eight feet apart. They make berries quickly. Some people will cut a branch of berries and strip them off later, rather than trying to pick the berries among the thorns. They reportedly grow back with a lot of fast new growth. The fruit is very tart and you will want to mix the juice with apples or sweetener to your optimum tartness preference.
The joy bush cherry does not get very tall (about six feet), yet it makes full size sour cherries. It makes them in September, when birds think cherry season is long over (usually July), so they don’t seem to bother the fruit. The bushes have a nice graceful shape with pink and white flowers in the spring. They are self-fruitful and need sun, good air flow around them and well-drained soil.
Haskaps have been grown in Japan and Alberta, Canada for quite some time. Some refer to them as honeyberries, but I don’t believe in hype, and they do not taste at all like honey. They are very easy to grow, preferring well drained soil and sun. They usually grow to about three to five feet tall, so it is easy to find a place in the landscape for them. They are in the honeysuckle family, flower early, but are not invasive. The fruit ripens in early summer and is the first fruit for songbirds flying back from the south. Cedar waxwings sometimes cover our bushes and give us a rock concert as they rock back and forth on these fine bushes. You need two different varieties to make fruit. The half- inch long berries look like stretched oval shaped dark blueberries, with a subtler flavor.
I ate my first paw paw this week. A fellow grower heard I had never had one and had his friend send some up from Pennsylvania. Wow! The flavor is somewhere between the best plum you ever had, fresh jackfruit, and tapioca pudding. We ate some sliced and some with a spoon. The world will never be the same. We have been growing paw paw trees for about six years. Our largest are about seven feet tall. I saw some with fruit in Bristol,Vermont. You need to plant them in well-drained soil in partial shade. The leaves are huge and it is worth it to grow just for the exoticness of the way these small trees look! The paw paw is one of the only truly American fruits, native to the east coast. They are worth a try in your most protected spot.
Elmore Roots Nursery has been growing these exotics for years in northern Vermont, so chances are , you can too…
David Fried owns Elmore Roots Fruit and Nut Nursery, located in Elmore, Vermont, for 34 years. firstname.lastname@example.org.