Tuesday evening, Drew Shifley entertained a crowd at NECIC with a PowerPoint presentation of unusual fruits that will grow in our zone.
According to the USDA, northern Richland County, including Mansfield, is now zone 6a, with southern Richland County zone 5b.
Drew highlighted many unusual fruits, including the Maypop, a relative of the passion fruit; the Medlar tree; the hardy fig, and others.
The Medlar fruit, noted Drew, was not part of his "fantasy orchard", as the fruit requires bletting - a process in which the fruit is left to soften beyond ripening. Sounds a little gross, at least according to some attendees, myself included.
However, some of these unusual fruits may show up in the Teaching Garden and at our North End Farmers' Market this season.
One fruit he addressed is a personal favorite of mine: the ground cherry. Also known as a husk cherry, the fruit is a tasty one that can be eaten fresh, dried, made into preserves or even baked into pies. It's an annual that reseeds easily, which is another plus.
Ground cherries, I've found in previous years of selling them at market, are one of those things people either love or hate. There doesn't seem to be anyone that is indifferent to this sweet, tropical-tasting fruit.
The honey berry may also show up at the Teaching Garden, but as they may take a couple of years to reach full production, there probably won't be an excess of them at the market.
Although the berries resemble blueberries, they are actually a honeysuckle, and produce even earlier than strawberries. Early fruit at the market is always a great thing!
The lovely gooseberry is another one of Drew's unusual fruits that I hope to plant at the Teaching Garden this spring.
I've grown these before, back when I lived in the North End myself, and had great luck with them.
There are others I'd love to try, but as the Teaching Garden has limited space, none of the tree fruits will find their way into the garden. The Cornelian Cherry sure looks like a tempting prospect, though, as it's a fruiting dogwood and would probably do quite well.
A big thanks to Drew for the presentation and introducing some new ideas.