Cane fruit are among the most moisture demanding crops in the market garden. So, if irrigation is not available, it is essential that the cover crops grown between the rows do not compete with the berries for moisture. For example, a cover crop of oats and Canadian field peas planted right after the harvest of summer bearing raspberries would not compete with the cane fruit during the main growth and fruiting period.
Many of my childhood memories were made in the strawberry patches that my father, Paul Edwards, was gifted at growing. Even for that, he would never eat them. The texture of their seeds was too much and for all the decades that he grew them, and grew them well, I never saw him raise a berry to his mouth. He sure loved to grow them though.
The recent article on gooseberries in SFJ (44-3) prompted me to write a bit about our own experience picking wild gooseberries on our farm in the Missouri Ozarks. When we moved here in 2012, we, as I imagine nearly everyone does who acquires a small farm, set about learning as much as we could about it. A large part of this learning was becoming acquainted with the flora of the place, learning the names of the trees and bushes and grasses and all else, where they grow and why they grow there, and what their uses are. One of our happiest findings was the abundance of small green striped fruits growing on innumerable bushes across our 25 acres, which we shortly learned were gooseberries. We had heard of gooseberries but otherwise knew absolutely nothing about them, a deficit that was righted by referring to a couple of books on wild edibles. So we quickly learned we could eat them, though how wonderful they were was a joy that was withheld from us until that first pie (which, as it happened, was based on a recipe found in the My Small Kitchen section of an older SFJ).
Why plant pawpaws, gooseberries, shipovas, and other uncommon fruits on the small farm? These fruits are easy to grow. They’re generally pest-free so don’t need spraying, and even their pruning needs are minimal. Because sprays are not needed (not the case for apples and many other common fruits over much of the country), they can be grown organically and sold as such to command premium prices. These uncommon fruits also have unique, delectable flavors. Consumers are now, more than ever, interested in “new” flavors, making these fruits very appealing and, again, allowing them to command top dollar in markets.