There’s been a bit of a production line in the kitchen today, preparing various homemade produce to give as Christmas presents. I dusted off and properly labelled some jam and chutney made in the summer and strained the fruit off the damson and sloe vodkas and put them in nice bottles. I also made a batch of blackcurrant jam from some fruit I froze when I didn’t have time to deal with the 12lbs of fruit I picked in one afternoon in July. Another delayed project is some rosehip syrup - the defrosted fruit is bubbling on the stove ready to strain through a jelly bag overnight and boil up with sugar tomorrow.

The Journey Desert Cooler (Journey cocktail)

175 ml Mulled Wine (Not warmed)
50 ml Sloe Gin
15 ml Cointreau

Directions: A simple idea for a drinks, inspired by a simple game. Shake all ingredients with ice and pour into a glass.  

A note from the creator:

We settled on mirroring the main character’s robe colours and choosing a drink that would be easy to recreate… Don’t serve upside down like in the picture.

Drink created by James Dance of Loading. Photography by Will Edgecombe. You can find the rest of the drinks made by James on The Guardian.

This single (and quite colorfully blossoming) tree grows 40 different varieties of peaches, plums, apricots, nectarines, cherries, and even almonds — but just how does it do it?

The making of a “Fruit Salad Tree”: Prunus Edition

I have several Prunus trees growing in my young food forest garden, but as I walk about in the neighbourhood and in plant nurseries, I often think “I could never conceivably plant all of the trees I would like to plant.” There are over 430 species in this genus, and countless cultivars: including almonds, peaches, plums, cherries, apricots, sloe, bird cherries, and nectarines — all those sickly sweet things with a stone in the middle.

Mirabelle plums are endemic to the wetlands around where I live, being re-seeded prolifically by birds. I know by observing them in my biome that they tolerate the Danish wet, cold, coastal climate. Thus, they are a natural choice for a hardy, disease-resistant rootstock. Finding the right Prunus rootstock for your biome means engaging in similar observation and experimentation: what are your local species? How do they tolerate your climate? Are they compatible with cultivated members of the genus?

My next step is to go around and ask the neighbours for scion wood from their Prunus trees, or deftly slip broken branches in my pocket when I am at the greenhouse (I’m on a budget, after all). These can be grafted on to the Mirabelle rootstock, and, pending compatibility and the strength of the graft, produce their unique fruits on one branch. Prunus species cross-pollinate each other, bloom at different times, and have an array of different blossom colours, meaning such a “fruit salad tree” will have bigger, more vigorous fruit, a longer blooming period, and a number of different colours.

Similar trees can be accomplished by grafting members of the Citrus genus (oranges, lemons, grapefruits, limes, tangerines, citrons, etc.), the Malus genus (apples, crabapples), or between the Cydonia and Pyrus genera (quince and pears).

A citrus fruit salad tree

In theory, you really only need four trees, and you can cultivate hundreds of species of fruit in your own backyard!

To get started, here is a “Grafting 101" tutorial. May this inspire you to great Frankentrees of your own!

#Edible Forest Gardening 101: Cross Pollination

One of my many forays into the wonderful world of retail was working at a garden centre, as a “trees and shrub sales associate.” It was a crash course in memorising pertinent information on plants, in order to best advise the customers.

In selling plants in the genus Prunus (plums, cherries, almonds, peaches, nectarines, bird cherries, sloe, and others), this meant closing my eyes and picturing a chart on cross-pollination every time I informed a customer they couldn’t purchase a single tree, and still expect fruit.

Bron & Sons Nursery Co.

Many (but not all) Prunus are “self-incompatible,” in that they need to be pollinated by a different, but closely related species, subspecies, cultivar, or variety. We often got around this by selling trees that were grafted with 4-5 different compatible species/subspecies/cultivars/varieties, like the “tree of 40 fruit.”

Further, blooming times have to overlap significantly in order to guarantee a fruit set: different plants in this genus have different seasonal windows in which they bloom, and this is further complicated by the fact that the rootstock onto which a tree is grafted can alter flowering time.

Beyond that, there are genetic restrictions on which trees can successfully share reproductive material with each other. Take the Prunus example again:

European plums (Prunus domestica) can inter-pollinate with closely-related species such as damsons (Prunus domestica subsp. insititia), mirabelles (Prunus domestica subsp. syriaca) and cherry plums (Prunus cerasifera). European plums cannot generally cross-pollinate with Japanese plums (Prunus salicina).

Sweet and Acid cherries are also different species but can potentially cross-pollinate each other.

-Orange Pippin Fruit Trees

Peaches, nectarines, and almonds can all cross-pollinate as well: indeed, I have an “almond” tree that is really a hybrid between an almond and a peach, which makes it better suited to my climate.

There are a tonne of charts and online databases you can use to look up the relationships between the trees you would like to plant, but in general, good planning is essential in terms of choosing trees for a forest garden. I tend to think of the pollination relationships between plants as almost social: the forest garden is like a party where everyone is arriving and leaving at different times, and everyone has different—but extremely specific—genders, sexes, sexual preferences, and orientations.

My persimmon trees and kiwi vines are dioecious, for example, requiring both a male and female to produce fruit; my Prunus (Stone Fruit), Pyrus (Pear), and Malus (Apple) trees have both male and female parts, but usually need to get a little strange, and sometimes the latter two genera trade pollen between each other. My Chaenomeles/Cydonia (Quince) are generally happy on their own, but can swap gametes with pears.

There are so many complex relationships, and they are far from being 100% clear in the scientific record: orchards usually have a pretty good handle on this sort of thing, but there is always room for experimentation.

Generally, my advice in handling this is the same as it always it: plant lots of trees, plant with redundancy, and plant genetically diverse species!

#tree planting #forest gardening #edible landscaping

seascribe said: PPJ, what is a sloe?

did not even occur to me that you american lads wouldn’t know what a sloe was!

Prunus spinosa (blackthorn or sloe) is a species of Prunus native to Europe, western Asia, and locally in northwest Africa. It is also locally naturalised in New Zealand and eastern North America. (thanks wikipedia)

They grow wild in the UK and generally don’t taste that great on their own, they’re pretty bitter. They fruit in the autumn and birds go nuts for them. Picking them is kinda fun until you prick yourself on the branches (sharp) and thorns (super fucking sharp). Sloe gin tastes like autumn in a glass.