Friday, May 1, 2015

Spring Fruit Growth

Growing fruit can be tricky. We have a handful of fruit trees and berry bushes - each a work in progress. Although we're always learning from our mistakes, we still hold our breath each spring to learn which plants survived the winter, and which blossoms will live through spring cold snaps.

Depending on the size of harvest and the type of fruit, we'll eat some fresh and preserve the rest via freezing, dehydrating or canning.

Our oldest apple tree came with the house. I don't know the variety and it's never been a great producer. We should probably replace it with a new tree. Apple blossoms are beautiful and fragrant. This tree will be in full bloom in a couple days.

We have about a dozen blueberry bushes, adding a couple each year. These are three years old. We eat all our fresh blueberries and purchase additional from a local grower to freeze. Hoping to change that this year. Recently added bushes were eaten off by deer. Sigh.

This might be our best cherry year ever. These are Montmorency, a sour variety popular for pies. All four cherry trees are loaded with blossoms. Fruit should be ready to pick in late June/early July. We'll soon net the trees to prevent the birds from eating the cherries.

Currants grow in long chains. They don't look like much now but the blossoms will give way to beautiful deep red berries. We don't eat many currants fresh, but instead dehydrate them. I love dried currants in breakfast scones and often use them to replace raisins in recipes.

We lost a peach tree to the polar vortex two years ago. The remaining peach survived, but only has a few blossoms this year. We'll replace the dead tree, but it looks like we might have to purchase peaches to preserve. Peaches are finicky.

The strawberries are just beginning to fill in. This is the first blossom I've seen. Fruit will ripen beginning mid-to-late May. We preserve strawberries by freezing sauce and whole berries, and canning jam. The May family birthday celebrations typically include strawberry pie, rather than cake.

We've got Anjou and Bartlett pear trees. The Bartlett has never produced a single fruit. We're trying different things, including fertilizing more. The Anjou looks great, producing more blossoms than ever.  We're losing patience with the Bartlett.

The blackberry canes are still leafing out - no blossoms yet. Blackberries ripen in July. These canes are not the thornless variety but I've been happy with their hardiness and berry production.

This is our persimmon tree. Although it looks dead, it's alive. This tree leafs out very late and typically produces lots of late summer/early fall fruit. A native of the state, persimmons grow fast, require little care and are good producers. Despite those qualities, it's my least favorite fruit tree. I'm just not a fan of the fruit. As a result, most of the fruit falls and rots. Which only makes our honeybees happy.

The red raspberry canes are leafing out. I love the fruit - ripening in the summer and again in fall. These are heavy producers, providing us enough fruit to enjoy fresh and frozen whole and in sauce. If you've never had a fresh raspberry margarita, you don't know what you're missing!
I know rhubarb isn't a fruit, but I treat it like a fruit. We've got five rhubarb plants that, along with the asparagus, are the first foods we harvest. It's some of the easiest food we grow: reliably comes up every year, not many pest problems, doesn't require fertilizer, and it produces stalks for several months. While the leaves are inedible, the tart stalks make great pies, sauce, and cakes. And it freezes well.

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