Jubilant July

July is the time that you really get to see the fruits of all your earlier work in the garden, literally as well as figuratively. Juicy fruits, from raspberries to mulberries to currants and gooseberries, are bursting with flavor and taste fantastic right off the stem, warmed by the sun. My farm, before I acquired it, had been repurposed as a small fruit farm, so I have several apple, pear, peach and cherry trees, to which I have added Asian pears, more heirloom apples, an apricot, and plums. Besides these more usual fruit trees, I have a Meader persimmon and a small grove of paw paws. The persimmon fruit will not be ready until late in the fall, when the first frost hits and the fruit is then softened and able to be eaten. My tree, which is about ten years old, lost more than half of its trunks in the hurricane of a couple of years ago. It has recovered nicely, and I hope to try more persimmon recipes this year.

I just recently have added a medlar, another fruit which needs to be "bletted" or softened by a frost. I have a small tree that I thought I had purchased as a medlar, but its fruit is quite small and very red and dropping right now. Someday someone more knowledgeable will come by and I will see if it can be identified. The birds don't seem to eat the fruit, either, so though it is pretty, it isn't very useful.

The paw paw patch that I have will also have fruit ready later. The fruit is very unusual in the way it is attached to the tree., as seen below. Last year I had an abundance of fruit, but it had all dropped to the ground before I realized it. The flesh is very sweet and custard-like, and the seeds are huge. More investigation into how I can use this delicious fruit must be undertaken before too long.

The weeping mulberry in my front yard yields sweet but definitely staining fruit. Just pulling the berries off the tree results in purple fingers. I have to compete with the mockingbirds which gather on the tree and avidly eat the berries.

I have several goosberries and currants which I often use to make jams and jellies. I love the translucent orbs of the currants, and the gooseberries are equally striking as they ripen to red/purple. Both of these are not able to be planted in some towns in MA due to the fact that they harbor the white pine blister rust. For info see extension.umass.edu/.../currants_gooseberries_prohibited_towns.pdf‎. they do well in shady areas - in fact, the first currant I acquired was growing by the side of my road almost completely hidden under other shrubs. I rescued it, replanted it, and it is bigger and more fruitful than any of the other cultivated varieties I have.

Small black raspberries pop up everywhere on the farm. The berries are quite good, and I usually make a raspberry/basil vinegar with them, as they ripen a few at a time, and I can simply add them over a period of time to the vinegar. They turn the vinegar a lovely shade of pink, too.

Those of you who do not have a large yard should consider growing some of these small fruits. Blueberries, raspberries, or even goji fruit don't take up a lot of space, and reward you with the luscious scent and flavor of summer.

Stay cool,

Karen