2005: Oh, how I wish that I had had access to this type
of information 20 years ago! Uncommon Fruits for Every Garden
is an excellent book with a wealth of information for any gardener
wanting to grow new and exotic fruits.
Most of the species and variety selections are at once attractive
and useful, fitting well into the scheme of 'edible landscaping.'
Many also offer year-round interest: the juneberry (Amelanchier
spp.), for example, brightens the early spring landscape with a
cloud of white flowers, follows with sweet fruit in the summer and
rounds out the year with striking autumn foliage. As you read about
these 23 uncommon fruits, you are sure to be intrigued by at least
one that you will want to grow.
The book gives the reader rich detailed facts, pen and ink drawings
and in some chapters the author has interwoven ancient poetry to
describe the fruit. These fruits are especially interesting to me
because they are easy to grow, most are not prone to insect and
disease problems and require a minimum amount of care. Due to the
current state of the environment and human health it behooves us
to learn how to grow our own food in a sustainable manner. Fruit
trees and vines used in the landscape add diversity, beauty and
Devoting a chapter to each fruit, Lee Reich describes in beautiful
detail the plant's characteristics, cultivation and propagation
methods, how to harvest and use the fruits, available cultivars
and fascinating little-known facts. In the harvest and use section
you will learn the specific time to harvest, tree or vine productivity
and the best harvesting methods. Tips for using the fruit are also
very interesting. Note, for instance, that Europeans used Cornel-berries
(Cornus mas), a relative of our dogwood, as a substitute for olives.
The berries were also used in folk medicine for various maladies.
For the culinary artist the diversity of fruits mentioned in this
book offers opportunities to create new taste sensations. And nutritionally,
many of these fruits are a valuable source of vitamins C and A and
numerous antioxidants that are disease-preventive.
Observe the color photographs and see the beauty of these specialty
fruits and you will certainly be tempted to learn more about them.
Did you know that our native pawpaw (Asimina triloba),
with its unique and attractive foliage, is a relative of the tropical
species cherimoya and soursop? I was especially interested to learn
about the shipova (x Sorbopyrus auricularis). The name
shipova justifies interest, as does the parentage--a cross between
the European pear and Sorbus, the genus of the mountain ashes. This
tree of European origin found its way to the United States from
Yugoslavia in 1959. But it is the flavor and texture of the fruit
that may persuade you grow this beauty. Reich describes it so artistically:
“The buttery flesh, a bit more meaty than a pear, melts with
each bite to fill the mouth with sweet and fragrant ambrosia.”
The passionflower of the north (Passiflora incarnata),
commonly known as Maypop, is another intriguing plant. This herbaceous
perennial vine is very cold tolerant and produces beautiful flowers
with Biblical connotations. Although I have grown Maypop for ten
years I have never succeeded getting mine to produce fruit. According
to Reich, hand-pollination may be necessary to ensure good quality
fruit. If you have a passion for butterflies, or wish to treat insomnia
naturally, you will want to consider growing Maypop.
Although I am already growing seven of the fruits listed here,
after reading Uncommon Fruits in full I am tempted also to try Che
(Cudrania tricuspidata), also known as Chinese mulberry.
Reich writes that it requires little pruning, tolerates poor soil
and demands little water; but what intrigued me most is his description
of its flavor.
I highly recommend this book for gardeners, botanists, plant enthusiasts
and any one interested in growing and utilizing new fruit. This
is a great reference book, with appendices devoted to nomenclature,
pollination, siting and planning, pruning, propagation and mail-order
sources for plants and seeds. Lee Reich gardens in New York, holds
a Ph.D. and spends much of his time writing, lecturing and consulting.
His other books include Uncommon Fruits Worthy of Attention,
Growing Fruits in Your Backyard, The Pruning Book
and Weedless Gardening.
Eileen Weinsteiger is garden manager at The Rodale Institute.