Ripening Fruits

I posted a short article in early December on how the fruits on our evergreen Elaeagnus species were developing earlier than usual. The mainly mild weather we have experienced since then has seen this ripening come on apace and we now have many fruits colouring up – and it is only the middle of January. We would not usually expect fruits at this stage of development until the middle of March, with the first fruits coming ripe in April.

Fruits ripening in the middle of January

The forecast is for rather colder weather in the coming weeks, so it will be interesting to see how the fruits fare. I’ll try and remember to keep people up to date.

Thinking of fresh fruits for difficult times of the year brings the Barberries and Mahonias to mind. Whilst not often thought of as food plants, between them they can supply fresh, very nutritious berries for almost 8 months of the year. These two genera of ornamental plants are increasingly being treated by botanists as a single genus united under Barberry and, whilst the two groups are very different from a gardener’s point of view, they do have very similar flowers and fruits.

We harvested our last fruits of the year in December (from Berberis aggregata and Berberis wilsonae). They have a somewhat acid flavour (think lemon and use a little imagination) and are rather seedy, but can be used to add a sharp flavour to fruit juices and some cooked foods. They can also be eaten raw – children generally like them more than adults.

Ripe fruits in December
Close-up of the fruit in December

By early May we should be looking towards our Mahonia species for some fresh fruits. These evergreen plants produce a lovely display of scented yellow flowers in the autumn and early winter that draw in masses of bees and give them a late bonanza of nectar. The fruits are just beginning to develop now and I will watch their progress with interest.

Developing fruits in the middle of January
Close-up of the developing fruit

All the species in the genus produce more or less edible fruits – though it is definitely less for many of the species. However, there are also a number with decidedly edible and health-promoting fruits that come ripe through the summer and autumn. In particular, the S. American evergreen species come to mind, including B. darwinii, B. empetrifolia (which is a cultivated fruit crop in Chile) and B. microphylla. When I get time, I might well write an article listing the best of these species

The Turning of the Seasons

Even in temperate climates, such as on our land in Cornwall, it is possible to provide fresh fruit all year round. Common fruits such as apples, for example, can be harvested in the autumn and, with the right varieties, can be stored until the following summer.

We do not focus just on these more common fruits, however. We can usually pick at least small amounts of fresh fruit in virtually every month of the year.

Actinidia Deliciosa(Kiwi) FruitAs we move into winter so our fruit harvesting for this year is drawing to a close. We have yet to pick the last of the apples and still have to find time for the kiwi fruits (a very heavy crop this year, which will ripen fully in store over the next few month) and will hopefully be picking Hippophae fruits until early February.

Hippophae salicifolia fruit

The seasons run in circles though, and even as this year draws to its close we can already see the first signs of next year’s fruit harvest.

Elaeagnus x Ebbingei fruit

Our evergreen Elaeagnus species flower in the autumn and then slowly develop their fruit over the winter ready for us to harvest in the spring. This year, possibly as a result of the hot summer (oh, pleasant memories!) the potential crop is looking better than I can ever remember. With luck, by the end of March, we will be eating these fruits and their edible seeds.

 

Link

As we finish the work to get our campaign for crowdfunding ready, you can check out our latest leaflet. please share this with anyone you think might be interested!

Crowdfunder Leaflet
PFAF crowdfunder thumbnail

You can also check out our page below with more info about the campaign, note this is not our live campaign page, you can not yet donate!

Crowdfunding Campaign

Crowdfunding Campaign

We are currently working on a crowdfunding campaign to enable us to improve facilities on our land, allow us to receive more visitors and volunteers over a longer part of the year, and also to be able to house our research work there.

When we first moved to Cornwall in 1989, our land looked like this.

(empty grass and barley field with a large shed/barn)

Field from lanteglos Highway in 1990

Now it looks like this.

Forrested field, shed hidden by trees.

Field from Lanteglos highway in 2014

Our efforts have turned it from a bleak, windswept field of barley stubble, which had thin, compacted soils and very little wildlife, into this beautiful productive, sheltered, tree-covered landscape that is of enormous benefit both for humans and the wildlife we share this land with….more

Hedgehog on the grassThe Land has various purposes:-

  • It serves to demonstrate self-sufficiency from a very wide range of trees and other perennials.
  • It is an Educational Centre where people can come and learn about the plants and how to grow them, including woodland gardening.
  • Dragonfly on a bamboo caneIt is a Nature Reserve, teeming with insect life, birds, amphibians and various mammals.
  • It is a place where people can come and enjoy contact with nature.

We want to spread the word to as many people as possible that there are harmonious ways of living, and of growing our food, Peacock butterflywhere we try to work with Nature, instead of against her.

Our work and progress have always been limited by a lack of resources. As many of our visitors will attest, facilities here have always been rather primitive.

Over the past few years we have been able to raise enough funding to begin the process of updating things here. newt amongst the stonesFor example, we now have the utter luxury of a washing machine so that volunteers can keep their clothes clean – but they still have to wash themselves with cold water under a garden hose, or take a walk down to the local creek for a swim.

We are now seeking the funds to enable us to complete the process.

Having improved facilities will not only make it easier for the people already working the Land, it will also encourage more visitors to come, and extend the visitor season.

lean to under constructionIt will provide a decent space for us to be able to run courses, classes and open days, so we can reach out to yet more people. It will also be possible to hire out the classroom space for like-minded people to use.

It will enable us to bring broadband to the land and move our plant research here. Over the years this research has blossomed into a massive resource of information on useful plants. This is made freely available on our website, where you can find information on over 8,150 species of temperate plants and 11,700 species of tropical plants.

shed roof being replaced in 2014Not only will these improvements help to spread the word to more people, but they will also help the project to become more financially self-sustaining. We are also hoping that a few of the volunteers who come will want to become involved on a longer-term basis. Better facilities will help this to happen.

Having these facilities in place will help the whole project to function better. Plants for a Future in Cornwall really needs more people in order to develop its potential:- to help the Environment, and our relationship with the Environment.

We will be keeping this page up to date with developments as we prepare and then launch the campaign. There is also a Facebook page where you will be able to keep up to date with developments.

All donations will be used to fund projects on our land. Depending on the amount we raise, these are our priorities:-

  1. To finish the rebuilding of the shed as a sturdy, waterproof usable structure.
  2. To install a workroom/classroom/demonstration area where we can run courses, hold events etc.
  3. To finish the lean-to, which stores tools and machinery, liberating the shed for other purposes.
  4. To install renewable energy, including solar panels on the shed roof and passive water heating for a shower.
  5. To install high-speed broadband to enable research work to be carried out on site and improve connectivity for our volunteers and visitors.