Having had some success growing the normal assortment of fruits and vegetables, I now include some more exotic homegrowns. Many gardeners have thornless blackberries which are big and juicy and dependable. The same is true for the paw paws, popular for their custard like flavor and consistency. The hard seckel pears are producing well this year and I use them for chutney but I’d rather make brandy. Young bamboo shoots are steamed and served. Currants and gooseberries, goji berries and josta berries are all grown here in Virginia. Even a non-bog type of cranberry graces my garden though my first harvest was less than a cup. My new shiitake mushrooms will take a bit longer to produce.
I started collecting unusual varieties when I saw what has been growing on historic estates for many years. I took cuttings from figs on an old plantation where I was working at restoring the gardens. It was said the Jefferson had planted the figs growing against a brink wall so I feel that I have a piece of history. Figs are easy to grow and reproduce well from cuttings. Clip the end of a branch which has new green growth and include 3 or 4 sets of leaves. Remove 2 sets of leaves from the bottom of the cutting, moisten and dip in a rooting powder to coat the stem where the leaves had been growing. Tap lightly to knock off excess powder. Place the cutting in a hole made in damp potting soil. Be careful not to brush off the rooting powder when you place it in the pot. Press soil up around the stem and keep it moist. Leave it in the pot until it has a chance to root out. I usually leave it in the pot for a year before I’m convinced it is a viable plant. Protect the new plants through the winter. My figs are now 9’ tall and are covered with figs this year due to a mild winter and temperate spring. A cold winter may cause the stems to die back but new growth will come from the base. If the season is not long enough to get many figs from this new growth, the plant will survive to try another season. The older the plant, the more consistently it will produce.
I also took cuttings from a trifoliate orange growing on the old estate. It has a bitter fruit that can be used to make marmalade but the thorns are huge and there are many seeds. This plant is more often used as a barrier hedge to discourage intruders. I am now trying the yuzu hardy citrus and the olinda valencia orange. If not protected, a cold winter would knock them out but so far, they have flourished.
There is a nice pomegranite in my garden covered with fruit this year. I have had it through 2 winters and have produced 3 pomegranates in total in the last 2 seasons. The only plant I have managed to grow was purchased from Edible Landscaping at a heritage farm show. The plants I got from Georgia did not live and the bigger the plant when I bought it, the quicker it died.
Having failed with lingonberries, wintergreen, and jujube, I am not discouraged. This year, I have added a Meiwa kumquat and 2 kinds of pecans. I bought a passion flower also, only to have my friend with back woods know-how ask why I would want a native ‘maypop’ when they are so invasive!