MUST GROW Fruit Trees, Vines & Shrubs in a BACKYARD ORCHARD
It's about that time of the year when mail order nurseries are sending out their nursery catalogues and I would be remiss if I didn't talk about some of the other amazing fruits that you can grow. Not just figs. In the nursery catalogues you'll see a lot of varieties of fruiting plants and you can get confused and overwhelmed pretty easily! Like where should I buy them? Which variety is best for me? Should I even grow that particular fruit? How should I organize my backyard orchard?
In this blog post I want to let you all in on a number of varieties that I am very fond of in terms of eating experience. I think they are so good that like fig trees, you must grow them to experience how amazing nature can be. After all, isn't that why we buy a nice bottle of wine or go to a nice restaurant? It's for the experience. We can do the same thing by growing specially selected varieties of fruit. It's important to realize that genetics are everything. People have grown thousands of varieties to find the very best ones. If you choose the right variety for flavor, you will be rewarded and it's the genetics that largely dictate how good a fruit, vegetable or mushroom can taste.
2 years ago I published a video that covers 8 must grow fruiting plants. I would highly recommend watching that out below:
Where should I order plants & can I order them online?
Yes. Ordering plants in the mail is a real thing and to be honest it's already become the most common way to grow special varieties of fruiting plants. While I believe in supporting your local nurseries, in the world of fruit, a nursery with the special varieties that we're looking for can be quite a far drive away.
It's important to realize that depending on what you're ordering and on what website, you can receive very different plants. Some nurseries ship container plants that have soil. Others send bare rooted plants and trees. Each style has their own positives and negatives. For any questions on what you're buying, closely inspect the website. You can also call their customer support to find out more information.
My personal favorite mail order fruit tree nurseries are:
Double A Vineyards - For their high quality, affordable and wide selection of grape vines.
I also really like Whitman Farms, Raintree Nursery, England's Nursery, HoneyberryUSA. If any of the nurseries above want to work with me, please contact me here on the blog.
Must grow fruiting plants
Marionberry - This is probably my favorite berry. It's as if you ate a blackberry, but you added an explosion of raspberry flavor with an intensity that's 4x a normal red raspberry. It's truly incredible. It's downside is that it's not very hardy. Only to about 5F. They also need a trellis. Just take them down off of their trellis and cover them with mulch. I recently added a variety called Columbia Star because it's supposed to be a thornless version of the marionberry and are supposed to taste even better. Some other blackberry-like plants worth considering are the Loganberry, the Snowbank White Blackberry, Olympic and the Thimbleberry (so far it's only found in Europe).
Black Raspberry - After trying all of the colors you can find in raspberries, (pink, yellow, red, purple & black) black raspberries are by far my favorite. They have the highest raspberry intensity and complexity. The lighter the color, typically the more mild they are and while that's pleasant, after eating a black raspberry, I see no reason to grow any other color.
Carmine Goumi - The Carmine variety of Goumi is 4x larger than the other common varieties you'll find. It also goes by the name Tillamook. Because of it's larger size, it's a much better eating experience. The pit to flesh ratio is appropriate otherwise I fear this fruit may be too much work to eat fresh. However when eaten fresh, they are some of the most complex tasting fruits that I grow. They're acidic, tart, sweet, fruity and even have a touch of astringency that adds another level of complexity. When left on the bush they dried into a gummi consistency.
Alpine Strawberry - Like the American persimmon these are the most fragrant fruits of all I think. When you take a bite, it fills your sinuses with some of the most pleasant smells you can find in food.
Draper Blueberry - Speaking of fragrance this variety of blueberry also has a strong fragrance. There's something about it. It's like you can taste the antioxidants within. It's truly superb.
Gooseberry - These are like slightly tart grapes. They're not nearly as good as an impressive Labrusca or Vinifera grape, but they ripen early in the season and for my money they're well worth growing. I like Hinnomaki Red, but I know that Hinnomaki Yellow & Black Velvet are also highly recommended.
Kiwi Berry - Oh man oh man. Did you know that the kiwi is one of the most popular fruits in America? Kiwi berries are even better. They're better tasting and have no fuzz on the skin allowing you to eat them like a grape. Anna is the standard variety, but I am now growing the self fertile Issai.
Honeyberry - This is a very misunderstood fruit. If you've tried in the past and ripped it out, plant another. Trust me if you have taste buds, you'll love this fruit. The problem is know when to pick it. You have to let them soften on the bush. They turn blue and depending on the variety, you could need to wait 3-5 weeks before picking. They size up, become sweeter and softer. The top variety for fresh eating is called Aurora.
Mulberry - I love a wide variety of mulberries. I know that the king of mulberries is actually a species within mulberries called Morus Nigra. It's very good. Even here where it's humid. If you can't grow Morus Nigra, I still really like this fruit. Even varieties like Girardi or Illinois Everbearing. There's something about them that draws me to them every year. I'd love to grow a white variety. They're supposed to be sweeter, but finding a dwarf variety that's white like Girardi so far is quite difficult.
Grapes - Like the fig, these fruits are to die for. No wonder people obsess over making wine out of them. They are a truly amazing fruit. Grow either the Labrusca or Vinifera vines. They're both very good. Mars has been my best producer thus far. One type of grape however that's constantly overlooked is the muscadine grape. It's a grape native to the South with very good disease resistance and almost no issues. I would highly recommend Lane and Triumph for colder places.
Pawpaw - The temperate banana, but better. They are better than some of the best banana varieties I've eaten, but only when picked perfectly. Pick them when they're coming right off the tree with very little effort or let them fall off the tree.
Indian Free Peach - This peach combines the best qualities of a yellow and white fleshed peached. It's truly amazing. I really love Redhaven as it probably is the standard of all peach varieties, but this peach blows it out of the water in terms of flavor.
Earli Blush Apricot - This apricot is from what I can tell a different type of Apricot than others I've grown and eaten. It's not a "dry" apricot. It's juicy like a peach. They're much better tasting than my other variety Tomcot. Earli Blush even has a cotton candy flavor when grown in dryer soil and when the fruits receive ample sunlight.
Comice Pear - The king of pears for sure. It's got the best melt in your mouth texture. Last year I tasted a pear called Harrow Sweet. I was very impressed, but I fear that there's only one Comice. It's like eating a pear marshmallow.
Asian Pears - I find that these have a better flavor than European Pears. They're quite complex and can like the Earli Blush apricot can taste like cotton candy. My tree is of the variety Chojuro. So far it's very productive and fireblight resistant too.
Astringent Persimmon - Persimmons produce the highest quality and best tasting fruit the most consistently in my yard. They are incredible for their flavor (especially the astringent types), but they are also some of the best problem free trees. I would highly recommend Hachiya if you can grow it in your area to produce hoshigaki. The American types however taste extremely fragrant and are loaded with spicey & dried fruit flavors. It's one of the best experiences you can find in fruit.
Red Fleshed Apples - While I'm not growing any, I do believe this is the future of apples. I got to taste recently at the store apples called Lucy Rose and Lucy Glo. Lucy Rose is a notch behind Glo as it's kind of a mild strawberry flavored Honeycrisp. While the Lucy Glo apples I tried were much better colored, had less acidity, a better texture and way more berry flavor. I've also grown an apple below called Hawaii. It really does taste like pineapple and I'm looking forward to more from my apple trees (hopefully this season). I'm growing some exquisite varieties like Golden Russet, King David & Gravenstein.
Citrus - While the varieties and fruits I've mentioned above are all geared towards temperate climates, I would be doing you all a disservice if I did not mention citrus. Why? Because they can be grown in containers and moved inside during the winter. If you spend the time to make and learn from your mistakes of growing these trees, you'll be rewarded every winter with very high quality (better than the store) sour citrus. And I say sour because the sweet varieties need ample photosynthesis and cold nights during the winter months. A nice workaround is to just grow the sour types that don't need that chilly weather in the winter. It is cold here in the winter, but it's too cold. Enough to kill most of my trees. One variety however that you can plant in colder places in the Yuzu and Sudachi. These are quite hardy and produce some of the best acidity you can add to your food. I also really like Kumquats, the Eustis Limequat, Lemons, Limes and specifically the ultra productive finger limes. These limes when added to homemade nigiri bring it to the next level.