21 May UNIQUE EATS: GROWING SUPER FRUITS IN THE GARDEN
While there’s no real scientific definition of “super fruits,” there are arguably some fruits that are higher in nutrients, vitamins and minerals than others — and the good news is, you can grow them! Depending upon what your climate and growing zone is, you’ll need to choose your super fruit or specific variety accordingly, but for most gardeners, there is a super fruit just itching to make its way into your garden.
Check with your local garden center or county extension office for plant recommendations, planting times, and more specific growing guidelines.
7 Super Fruits to Grow
1. Goji Berries: (Lycium barbarum) My first introduction to goji berries was in the bulk section of a health food store, where I found it dried and unappealing, with unknown usage. I bought it anyway (of course I did) because, goji berries. Turns out, these bright orange/red berries are packed with Vitamin C, beta-carotene, and 18 amino acids and can be enjoyed in smoothies, tea, juices, homemade trail mix and energy balls, as well as a raw snack. They grow up to 8-10’ tall in full to partial sun with well-drained soil and a moderate amount of water (although theyare surprisingly drought tolerant once established). Try ‘Vermillion Sunset,’ ‘Sweet Lifeberry,’ or ‘Big Lifeberry.’ USDA Hardiness Zones 5-9.
2. Black Currants: (Ribes spp.) With their high levels of Vitamin C and phytochemicals, black currants make tasty drinks, syrups, jams, and jellies. This thornless shrub grows 3-6’ wide and tall with black berries and maple like leaves. Grow it in full sun to dappled shade in well-drained, fertile soil with 1-2” of water per week. Great varieties to try are the new blister rust-resistant ‘Consort,’ ‘Coronet,’ ‘Titania,’ and ‘Crusader’ — and grow two or more varieties for best berry production. USDA Hardiness Zones 3-8.
3. Aronia: (Aronia melanocarpa) This super fruit is a relative unknown in the garden world, but with deep black berries loaded with antioxidants, you’ll want to consider adding it to your edible garden. Ideal for juicing, jellies, and other baking recipes, aronia is not only nutritious but ornamental as well. It’ll grow in most types of soils, but demands full sun and once-a-week watering for optimum harvest. As a bonus, bush is both cold and heat tolerant and is not prone to any diseases or pests. Try ‘Viking’ or ‘Autumn Magic.’ USDA Hardiness Zones 3-8.
4. Lingonberries: (Caccinum vitas-idaea) You may only have heard of lingonberries if you shop at IKEA, or if you come from a family whose last name is Larson, Gustafson, or Peterson. Whatever your surname and wherever you shop, lingonberries are a super fruit to be familiar with. High in beta-carotene, Vitamin C, flavanoids, and polyphenols, lingonberries taste similar to cranberries and are well suited for jams, jellies, drinks, and syrups. These short evergreen shrubs have small red berries and grow best in full sun to part shade, in soil that is both well-drained and rich with organic matter. Aim for 1-2” of water a week, and look for varieties like ‘Koralle,’ ‘Ida,’ and ‘Regal’. USDAHardiness Zones 2-6.
Familiar but Still Super
5. Blueberries: (Vaccinium spp.) Who doesn’t love blueberries? And how incredible would it be to walk out your back door and pick your own super fruit blueberries for your smoothies, oatmeal, or baking projects? You can, you simply have to choose the right blueberry for where you live. Live where it’s hot and humid with mild winters? Go for the rabbit-eye blueberry bushes. What if you’re in colder regions of North America? Lowbush blueberries are for you. How about the eastern U.S. mountains? Northern highbush. Area of low winter chill? Southern highbush. Wherever you live, though, make sure the soil you’re planting in is acidic or you’ll be disappointed with your bush’s performance. Choose a sunny location with well-drained soil, and plan to water regularly. Try ‘Duke’ or ‘Sunshine Blue.’ USDA Hardiness Zones 3-7.
Tropical & Adventurous
6. Mangosteen: (Garcinia magostana) We’re going to start this list with a bang — mangosteen, while indeed possible to grow, is not for the weak-kneed gardener who is long of tooth. Not to be insensitive to the older generation, but mangosteen plants take anywhere from 12-20 years to grow into a mature fruit-bearing plant, and its growing requirements are quite precise. Keep it at temps above 50 and below 100 at all times, give it filtered sun for at least 13 hours a day, make sure the soil is consistently moist, and use only fresh rainwater. The tree will eventually grow to 20-82’ tall with large tropical leaves and tasty fruit suitable for desserts, jams, and jellies. If you’re still with me, the fruits contain tannins and a healthy dose of Vitamin C, said to support weight loss, maintain blood pressure, and boost the immune system. You’ll need to live in the tropics or be prepared to give this plant a tropical-like environment. To your health!
7. Rambutan: (Nephelium lappaceum) If you stuck through my description of the mangosteen, you’re good from here on out. Rambutan is actually similar in care requirements, but a bit less fussy and quicker to yield fruit. This tropical tree grows 50-80’ tall with oblong leathery leaves and a hairy (yes, you read that correctly) red and green shell with white flesh inside. This is the part you want to eat, as it’s deliciously sweet and sour. Avoid eating the seeds or the peel, which can be toxic. High in fiber, Vitamin C, and antioxidants, rambutan may assist in weight loss, digestion, and resistance to infection. Ready to grow it? Give it partial sun for 13 hours a day, with damp soil and 75-80% humidity, and in 4-5 years you may be gifted with fruit. So, to recap, you need to live in a jungle or be prepared to provide it with an über-tropical environment like a greenhouse or conservatory.