Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Unique Fruits and Nuts Destined for the Heartland Harvest Garden


Matt Bunch, Barbara Fetchenhier and Caitlin Bailey have been busy continually transplanting trees and shrubs from our nurseries into the Heartland Harvest Garden. Of the nearly 1,000 more plants to be moved, Walnuts (Juglans spp.) are the most recent trees to be dug. You can clearly see the grow bags we grew the plants in: this has been a very worthwhile manner to move the trees all through the summer.


Some of our small 6-foot walnut trees already have nuts. This is a 'Thomas' Black Walnut (Juglans nigra).


The reason we have such early production is that we have many grafted varieties of nut trees. You can see clearly the graft union on this small walnut trunk. The seed grown understock (lower) has clearly more rough bark. Grafting ensures the exact clone of the variety you want and such trees usually bear fruit right away. Walnuts from around the world will be in the Heartland Harvest Garden's walnut orchard on the south edge of the new Garden. Walnuts exude juglone, which can inhibit the growth of many plants so all of them are planted off to the side of the gardens in a pastoral setting.


The nut of 'Kwik Crop' Black Walnut has a very unique oblong, shape. Walnuts are very nutritious as a great source for Omega 3 fatty acids. The nuts are 15% protein and 65% oils with no cholesterol or trans fat! Their lumber is also extremely valuable.


The dug walnuts got me into the nursery again to see others destined to be moved this fall. Here is the fruit of Colossal Chestnut (Castanea hybrid). I was surprised to see nuts on this seedling plant! We have both seedling and grafted Colossal Chestnuts. This chestnut is a hybrid between the disease resistant Chinese Chestnut (Castanea mollissima) and the European Spanish Chestnut (Castanea sativa). The Harvest Garden's Chestnut orchard will be off to the north of the Fountain Garden. The spiny husks of the nuts are difficult to work into a detailed landscape. Someday we will have chestnuts roasting on an open fire! All six of the world's species of chestnuts will have hybrids in the garden, including the famous American Chestnut and extremely rare Ozark Chinkapin.



Figs (Ficus carica) are ripening and we have many of the hardiest varieties in the nursery. The top of this stem was cut because we are rooting many for our Spring Plant Sale next May. Select varieties of figs are root hardy here and produce a fall crop of fruit.


Our hybrid Persimmons are starting to color and I am in total agreement that this fruit tree has very ornamental appeal. It is Nikita's Gift Persimmon: a hybrid between the native Persimmon (Diospyros virginiana) and the Oriental Persimmon (Diospyros kaki). It has the hardiness and great flavor of the native persimmon married with the size and color of the Oriental persimmon. We cannot wait until they are ripe again! The trees have such beautifully glossy leaves through the season too.


This weird pear-shaped fruit is a new selection of Jujube (Zizyphus jujuba) from Northern China. It will have a brownish blush when ripe and tastes like a honey crisp pear. You never see them in local stores because they do not ship or keep at all. They are extremely popular in China and we have many cultivars for display in the Harvest Garden.


This odd fruit is that of the Medlar (Mespilus germanica) a relative of Missouri's state flower: the hawthorn. Medlars are odd in that you must blet them to be edible--that means let them "rot" and soften up. We have yet to try them but they allegedly taste like applesauce when fully "ripe." This one has a bud for a fall flower beneath it. Medlars often bloom again in the fall in our wild climate, but its fruit will not mature.


This is not an apple but a wonderfully fuzzy Quince (Cydonia oblonga). One best not bite into this like an apple but the hard, aromatic fruit allegedly make a wonderful preserves, jellies and sauces with a rich, spicy flavor. We have more than a dozen varieties!


Here are fruits of a Tanechka Flowering-Quince (Chaenomeles japonica) bred for fruit production. It has wonderfully aromatic fruit that are also good for preserves (our former gardener, Chris Conatser made some for us to try once). Yes this is a selection of the common flowering-quinces grown in landscapes throughout Kansas City. Consider using their fruit this season! If you are not a cook, they make great natural air fresheners.


The black berries of Aronia "Chokeberry" (Aronia melanocarpa) are not great to eat fresh but make an astoundingly good preserve. Barbara made some last year and it was absolutely delicious with a cherry-like flavor.


The brilliant red fruit of the Cherry-olive (Elaeagnus multiflora) are very fun to eat and very good for you as they are rich in Lycopene. This plant is so very similar to the invasive Autumn-olive (Elaeagnus umbellata) that we are carefully watching it to make sure it does not escape.

We can't wait to share all this produce with visitors next fall so be sure and visit next year when our Heartland Harvest Garden makes its debut. Tasting Stations will allow you to sample the fruits of this garden: sorry we will not be able to let visitors pick produce on their own. Trained staff and volunteers will pick produce at the appropriate time so there will always be something to taste on your visit.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Colossal chestnuts are European and Japanese hybrids, not European and Chinese hybrids. And the European parent was French, not Spanish,

Powell Gardens said...

A good comment. Yep, Colossus is a hybrid of Japanese and European Chestnut. We usually call the European species “Spanish.” My slip on Chinese vs. Japanese.
Alan