Berries Galore!

  • Difficulty Rating: Beginner
Berries Galore!

There’s nothing quite as tasty as a ripe berry plucked warm from the bush and popped right in your mouth during the height of summer.

Fortunately, there’s a berry plant to fit just about any garden space. From groundcovers to towering trees, in shade or sun locations, and on evergreens and deciduous plants alike, tasty berry-bearing plants are ideal for just about any garden setting.

Strawberries are one of the best choices to cover bare ground in the sun. Strawberry plants stay under a foot tall, but each plant can send out a reaching shoot, called a runner, that will form a root and create a new plant a short distance from the original. In April or May, strawberry plants form small flowers that are pollinated by the bees. The fruits later begin to ripen by June. Before the fruit forms, consider covering any exposed soil under these plants with straw. This helps keep the fruit dry and away from slugs or other bugs that enjoy snacking on them. Or, plant your strawberries in a container and allow the fruit to form dangling over the lip of the pot but not touching the soil.

Raspberries are a perennial favorite, but raspberry plants can be a bit of an eyesore for much of the year. For this reason, they are best put into non-focal, sunny spot in the garden. And, given room, they will spread out and create a large patch within a few years. If you don’t want them to spread, consider installing an in-ground barrier so the canes cannot take over new locations. Summer bearing raspberries begin to bloom in May and their fruit is usually ripe by the end of June. Ever-bearing raspberries may fruit continuously from summer through early fall. Blackberries are both a blessing and a curse. The Himalayan blackberry is terribly invasive and hard to eradicate, but its black, juicy fruits are delicious. Plus, the flowers are one of the best sources of food for honeybees. Avoid planting this variety. Instead, consider growing one of the tamer thornless varieties – perhaps in a large container to keep it controllable. Blackberries begin blooming by early summer and bear fruit into early fall. These plants fruit best in sun.

If your garden has more shade than sun, consider growing Lingonberr

If your garden has more shade than sun, consider growing Lingonberry, which stays under a foot tall and offers up tart, red berries for many months from spring through fall. Or, try an Evergreen huckleberry, which is a Pacific Northwest native woodland understory plant. Evergreen huckleberries bloom from summer through fall and offer up wildly sweet purple-black berries similar to their cultivated cousin, the blueberry.If the blueberry is your favorite, look for a couple of varieties designed for your garden’s needs. Deciduous blueberry plants, which come in a variety of sizes, offer up beautiful fall color and reddish twigs all winter.

Semi-evergreen cultivars like ‘Sunshine’ stay under four feet tall and provide a bit of colorful foliage through winter. Tiny ‘Top Hat’ is the perfect choice for your container gardens. Most will fruit best if planted in sunshine with another variety installed nearby for cross-pollination. Blueberries may produce fruit from early summer through fall. Mix up your varieties based on when they bear, and you’ll have blueberries galore!

If you have a larger garden, perhaps a Mulberry tree will fit. Mulberries form thumb-sized berries that look similar to a blackberry. But, the flavor is more tangy-sweet than that of the blackberry. Before you plant a Mulberry, know that they can be messy. Birds love to eat the fruit from high in the Mulberry canopy. So in addition to purple stains from dropping fruit, you may find bird droppings as well. White-fruiting Mulberries have been developed, but a sticky mess will still form below them during the fruiting season.

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Remember that bees pollinate all of these fruits. Fortunately, once the bees have finished their work, they move on. So, once the fruits are ready for harvest, your plants should be free of these stinging insects. But, as soon as pollination ends, consider covering your precious berry plants with bird netting to keep the wild birds out and the fruit ready for your plate.

Chocolate-Raspberry S’mores (Serves a crowd)

Our neighborhood has a long-standing tradition of gathering around an outdoor fire pit at the height of summer. When the raspberries are ripe, we fill a bowl with their fruit to share around the fire. One year our bounty was so generous that we began trying the fruit in our S’mores. See if you don’t agree that this is the best campfire treat ever! Remember: Always have a responsible adult on hand to monitor the fire and assist children with this recipe.

Ingredients:

• Several chocolate bars (dark or milk, but thin bars are best for melting)

• Box of graham crackers

• Bag of large marshmallows

• Bowl of ripe raspberries (or use any small, delicate berry from the garden)

• One large outdoor campfire with lots of coals

Break one long graham cracker in half and set both pieces aside.

Cut a small slit into a marshmallow. Insert one small square of chocolate and one raspberry into the center. (A little bit goes a long way. Too much means your chocolate won’t melt properly.)

Slide stuffed marshmallow onto a roasting stick and toast slowly and gently over the coals. Avoid catching fire.

Once the marshmallow is toasted to your preference and chocolate is softened, remove from fire. Carefully, place marshmallow (still on stick) between the two pieces of graham cracker and carefully slide it off the stick in between the crackers to form a s’more sandwich.

Allow it to cool briefly so you don’t get burned. Then gobble it up!