FINDING UNUSUAL FRUIT
GARDEN TIPS – Written by Marianne C. Ophardt
WSU Extension Faculty
for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA Written January 17, 2016
Fruit trees are a lot of work because of the pruning and spraying needed to keep the trees healthy and productive. The only reason to grow fruit trees in your backyard is because you want the tasty fruit of a variety you can not get in the grocery store or at your local farmers market.
If you are willing to take on the large responsibility of growing a fruit tree, check out mail-order nurseries that offer you something different than you can find at big box stores. One of these nurseries is Raintree Nursery, located three hours away from us in Morton, Washington. You can view their offerings at raintreenursery.com or ask them to send you a catalog. Even if you are not interested in growing fruit trees, check them out to see the interesting variety of garden edibles they offer, from ordinary tree fruit and berries to unusual and exotic fruit bearing plants.
In a recent e-mail from Raintree a pear, Abbe Fetel, caught my eye. It is one of the many pear varieties that Raintree offers. They say that Abbe Fetel is a pear cultivar developed in 1866 by the French Abbot for which it is named. These elongated pears are the most popular variety in Italy and are savored for their very sweet white, juicy flesh. Abbe Fetel is said to “pair well with a low salt Italian cheese.”
Raintree offers both popular pear cultivars along with a number of other less familiar ones, including heirloom, popular European, keeper, and perry varieties. “Perry” pears are varieties that are grown specifically for making pear cider. If you are more comfortable with apple cider, Raintree also offers a number of apple varieties for cider making.
For a fruit tree requiring much less attention than apples, pears, or cherries, consider planting a plum. In addition to well known varieties, Raintree offers varieties, like Moldavian, a freestone desert plum with small red to purple fruit and yellow flesh or Golden Nectar, a self-pollinating large yellow oblong freestone desert plum with golden flesh. They also sell a pluot (a plum-apricot cross) and a pecotum (a peach, apricot and plum cross).
In addition to fruit, Raintree offers another “edible” that Washington gardeners have had trouble buying. A quarantine on hops plants being shipped into Washington have made it difficult to obtain one or two hops plants for home gardens. Raintree offers Golden Hops, a desirable ornamental vine with yellow leaves and aromatic flowers, as well as three other hops varieties used in brewing.
Along with familiar fruit, like strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries persimmons, quince, gooseberries, hardy kiwi, elderberries, and currants, Raintree also offers an eclectic mix of uncommon fruit, like edible dogwoods, paw paws, jujube, medlar, goji berry, goumi, cinnamon vine and even gingko.
Did you know that the fruit of gingko trees is unbelievably smelly, resembling the odor of dog manure? One of Raintree’s offerings is Salem Lady, a fruit-producing female gingko that requires a male gingko in the vicinity for the production of fruit. So why would anyone want a tree with these terribly odiferous fruit? It is because the nuts, about the size of a small almond, in the center of the stinky fruit are a delicacy in Asian cultures. (If you do not want your gingko producing smelly fruit, only plant an all male tree.)
The Raintree catalog is a very interesting catalog worth of perusing while you are wait for winter to turn into spring. While you are at it, check out One Green World at onegreenworld.com. They also offer a diverse selection of fruit and nut bearing plants, including native Pacific Northwest berries.
Correction from last week: You can find Green Heron Tools at www.greenherontools.com.