Wednesday, 4 September 2013

An Abundance of fruit and a Wryneck to boot

When planting up unusual shrubs one always thinks of the time when you will be privileged to actually try the fruit. This summer was the year that I was able to pick my first crop of Salal berries. The shrub is known as Gaultheria shallon and is a great addition to a forest garden as it is a productive shade lover. Although it will produce about 500g of fruit this year it spreads readily by suckers and if allowed will cover around  1 meter square each year. The berries are slightly smaller than blue berries and have a sweet wine flavour the seeds are tiny so easy to eat without pips everywhere. Evidently they taste even better when dried as the flavour intensifies. What's more you can make a herbal tea from the dried powdered leaves.

Gautheria shallon showing leaf and a profusion of berries
This plant has an intriguing history,evidentally it was a favourite berry of several North American native tribes. They would typically visit the Salal fields when the berries were ready and press them into cakes or loaves and dry them in the sun for consuming in the hard winter months. They also used the leaves as medicine for stomach disorders and they would chew the green leaves and spit out the residue onto an open wound to help the healing process. The berries are loaded with vitamins and antioxidant's so can be made an important part of the diet as they prevent degeneration. They deserve to be grown more widely, they certainly grow really well here in West Wales and I will be using many more as ground cover as part of my shrub layer.

Other berries that are looking good are Blueberries however the bushes need to covered with nets to stop the birds taking them. My best bush so far has given me 1.2kg of tasty berries.2 more shrubs are about to crop Cornus mas (cornelian cherry) and Aronia (purple and black chokeberries) More about them next time.

Apples look really good this year and foremost among my trees is the early  George Cave, this is such an underrated tree but believe me for a healthy tasty crop that usually starts in early July this apple has no match. My tree is just 11 years old and this year I will have picked over 50Kg of fruit that's a wow in my book. So I'm juicing for the freezer eating as many as seems appropriate, giving some to grateful neighbour's and selling the surplus at my gate.

just a small section of this fantastic George cave apple tree
Pinus pinaster or the Maritime pine has been growing as part of a windbreak for 8 years now. Last year I spotted the first cones and this year they have progressed.
This shows a 2 year old cone with a new one formed this year underneath, next year should see my first pine nuts!

Here is a strange shrub Staphlea pinnata (bladdernut) its exiting for me because in its 2nd year it has produced a single bladder and there should be a seed/nut case inside. It will be ripe by the end of Sept so I look forward to opening it and checking out the seed.
Staphlea pinnata with bladder.
Lastly but most exiting is the appearance in the Forest garden of a very rare bird, certainly you would not expect to see one so far West. Its the Wryneck which I found foraging for ants right in front of my house. Evidently a number have been spotted on the east coast as they come over from Scandinavia and Russia during the summer months, such a pretty bird a little smaller than a greater spotted woodpecker, with a black streak on each side of its head. My sighting was Tuesday 3rd September. Still looking to see if its stayed over but no sign yet!
the Wryneck
Till next time then.