Rare Fruits: Pawpas to Wineberries

From wineberries, currants, and gooseberries to crabapples and pawpaws, here is how you can grow some of these rare fruits.

  • Currants are self-fertile so only one is needed to produce fruit.
    Photo by Fotolia/Yotka (fotoaloga)
  • The Japanese wineberry (Rubus phoenicolasius) is native to Asia and is a relative of the blackberry.
    Photo by Fotolia/wahpu
  • Gooseberries were all the rage in the 1800s in Europe. There were gooseberry clubs and contests from Lancashire to Nottinghamshire and all the way to Cotswold.
    Photo by Fotolia/Africa Studio

One of my favorite memories of childhood was running barefoot through the grass. In the summer, my sister and I would wait patiently for the neighbor’s mulberry tree to bear fruit. Much to our delight many of the branches hung over Mr. Fuhrman’s yard into ours and with them would be the reward for our patience.

Still barefoot we stole away to that side of the yard, giggling as the ripe, fallen berries squished up between our toes. But we didn’t care. We would busy ourselves picking up the fallen gems—they were beautiful in color, creamy with a rosy purplish hue. If I close my eyes, I can still taste the honey sweetness of those mulberries. We would come in, sticky (much to our mother’s dismay) from head to toe, but satiated. Mulberry season came and went much too quickly.

Fast forward about ten years to our move from the postage stamp size yard in the city to the wooded pinelands of south Jersey. From a city child to a teenager newly planted in the Pine Barrens I was to encounter much more wild (and cultivated) fruits and delicacies than the city had to offer. Before moving to the Pine Barrens, the only blueberries I had known were in a can from Maine and canned cranberry sauce was a special treat that appeared at Thanksgiving and Christmas. The awe of seeing a flooded bog filled with garnet hued jewels is something to take your breath away. As a teenage I swam in those clear flooded bogs at the end of summer.

At seventeen I had my working papers and my first job, blueberry picking. My girlfriend and I headed out to the blueberry fields of Chatsworth New Jersey. The fields were huge, lined with bushes taller than we were and filled with blue as far as the eye could see. We picked by hand, using the special method of gathering the berries quickly and methodically with our thumbs. Under the hot sun we worked diligently to fill our buckets and to avoid the occasional snake that might be enjoying some shade under a bush.

One of the benefits of picking was being able to eat as many of the berries as you could. I was astounded by the size of those giant berries; they were like nothing I had ever seen before. Certainly, nothing you would ever encounter in a grocery store in the city. Putting a blueberry nearly the size of a quarter in my mouth was a memorable experience. It was an explosion of sweetness I remember to this very day. One of the best parts of picking the berries was being able to eat as much as I could; the second best part was filling my bucket as fast as I could so I could head back to the packing house and see my first true love that worked there!

My memories are meant to spark your imagination . . . what if you could grow those delicious blueberries right in your own backyard. But don’t stop with just blueberries. I am going to share with you some other fantastic fruits that you might not encounter at your local grocer. If you are thinking that you need to plant a multitude of bushes to get berries or an orchard of trees to taste some of the more unusual fruits, guess again!

8/1/2019 7:12:20 AM

They all sound marvelous! We're about to do an add-on and remodel. Once complete, next year, there will be fruitc trees and fruit giving bushes everywhere!!! Thank you for sharing this wonderful information. The Pawpaws sound fantastic!

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