By Sarah Buchanan. First published by Rattan Direct on 10 July 2016.
Wimbledon and strawberries are on our minds today, and even if you are busy baking our white chocolate and strawberry cookies here’s a reminder of other summer fruit to enjoy!
Not far from my home, Runnington Fruit Farm is selling, and inviting passers by to pick-your-own, summer fruit – raspberries, gooseberries and currants. Mine aren’t quite ready, but I am poised to pick and enjoy. Meanwhile there is a job we all need to do to help ensure a good crop of apples, pears and plums.
Act now for autumn fruit!
Apple, pear and sometimes plum trees produce more baby fruit than they can support. ‘June drop’, when trees shed fruit, is nature’s way of reducing the number of fruit. Gardeners remove some small fruits to ensure that trees can carry their load without strain (plum trees can split under the weight of too heavy a crop) and help the tree produce good sized fruit rather than lots of tiny fruit.
Carefully nip off tiny fruit, fruit that is in any way damaged and fruit that is rubbing against another.
Summer fruit, summer berries
Gooseberries are such an easy plant. They just don’t need much room or attention. Following my Mother’s advice that no one needs more than three gooseberry bushes, I planted three. Two years later – what a crop! The plants are horribly thorny (thornless varieties do exist), need hardly any attention, and produce enough fruit for yummy tarts and pies, and some jars of tangy jam.
Raspberries like a free draining soil that is a little bit acid, and lots of water. Different varieites, and some attention earlier in the summer, can provide delicious fruit for three or four months that make every minute you spend well worth it. Nothing tastes quite as good as fresh raspberries on breakfast cereal, or with cream in the garden after all those July jobs are done.
And the berries that are the love of my life? Mulberries.
I was fortunate to take on an old mulberry tree. My neighbours thought me mad when I climbed as high as I could and picked buckets of fruit – until they tasted the fruit. It is delicious.
I have never seen these wonderful fruits on sale in the UK, I think because they rot quickly after picking. Pick and eat (or freeze) instantly was my approach. And I shared them with neighbours, and made many good friends through conversations that started with: ‘Would you like some mulberries…’.
If you can, plant a mulberry tree. I am told they take ten years or more to fruit. I have planted a tree in each of my gardens during the past 20 years in the hope that someone in the future will, as I did, discover and share the wonderful fruits.
And what about blackberries? Yes, there will be something on this great hedgerow and garden fruit later in the summer!
Summer fruit, summer currants
Black, red and white currants are a great summer pudding ingredient. Currant bushes are thirsty and so grow well in areas with lots of rain. They ripen in June and July – just the time for summer puddings and jams. Birds are attracted to the red currants – so it’s a race against time to pick the berries for your kitchen. These bushes need more room than gooseberries but are easy to grow. Old stems should be pruned out every few years to keep young healthy growth. Pruning that keeps the bush in shape is useful – and one of my friends did that and picked the currants in one go: pruning stems laden with currants and taking them back to her garden table, sunhat and coffee.
See you there!