Share this story
Close X
Switch to Desktop Site

For instant desserts, try easy-grow fruits

When you nail down your plans for this year's garden, don't stop with vegetables and flowers. Fruit is just as easy to grow as tomatoes and peas. Some of it, in fact, doesn't take any longer or require any more space and is like having dessert always ready to eat.

If you want fruit the first season from seed, you can plant the seed of garden huckleberries or ground cherries. Both are cousins of the tomato and grow much the same way. The large clusters of dark-purple huckleberries begin to ripen by late August, although they have their best flavor if picked soon after a touch of light frost.

About these ads

I wouldn't recommend this berry for eating raw, however, and I won't claim it is as good as a Michigan blueberry, but it comes close when used in pies, dumplings, or jellies, especially if you add a tablespoon of lemon juice and a teaspoon of cinnamon to your blueberry recipe.

Huckleberries can be simply washed and frozen for winter use. Each plant can yield from one to three pies.

Ground cherries, sometimes called husk tomatoes, have a lower, less-fantastic style of growth. These tend to self-seed. In other words, once you get them started, you may have them almost forever, although never in such quantities as to be a pest.

I used to think that picking and fixing ground cherries was a long, slow chore, but even here they have a saving grace. You can fill a pail and just let them sit and ripen further in the shells for at least a week.

Ground cherries have a distinctive sweet taste. Some people don't like them, but others prefer them even to raspberries.

Some friends of mine grew some Alpine strawberries from seed last year. Admittedly, they take a long time, as spring plants go; and even started in March, ours were very tiny when transplanted to the garden in May. But after transplanting they take off quickly. Indeed, Alpine strawberries are neater than regular strawberries because they do not send out runners. The clumps can be divided every other year or so to get new plants.

Alpine strawberries are not big producers, however. Nonetheless, they are attractive and interesting border plants that bear white flowers and long, thin red berries all season long. I'd class them strictly as an eat-in-the-garden fruit, a special treat on a hot summer day.

About these ads

If you have the room, you can grow rhubarb from seed as well. The first year we tried this, we were giving away bags of rhubarb from 20 or more plants by the first fall.

It is, however, an inferior plant to the roots you buy because seed-grown rhubarb is not as red and it is very determined to go back to seed every spring. Yet it makes excellent pies and jellies the first year before the better varieties are anywhere near harvest size.

Follow Stories Like This
Get the Monitor stories you care about delivered to your inbox.