By: Suzy Fischer
Outdoor living anywhere in Texas during the summer can be beastly if there is no shady retreat. Trees often provide a cooling comfort, but many rely on overhead structures like vine covered arbors. Arbors can be covered with any of numerous ornamental vines, but edible alternatives have traditionally been limited to grapes, and then usually Muscadines.
While this year the Urban Harvest Fruit Tree Sale (visit UrbanHarvest.org, under support, for detailed information) we will offer two delicious bunching grapes, Blanc Du Bois and Black Spanish, you may want to consider some adventurous edible alternatives also available at the sale.
There are many varieties of ornamental passion fruit, all of which are capable of bearing fruit. But the vine grown for its tasty edible fruit is Passiflora edulis. At the 2014 sale we’ll offer the variety ‘Novack’s Purple Passion Fruit.’
Passion fruit’s fragrant flower makes it perfect selection for the ornamental garden, though it does double duty by producing deliciously sweet fruit.
Passion fruit is a shallow rooted, climbing vine that produces a self-pollinating, and fragrant flower two to three inches wide. The vigorous vine can be planted in partial to full sun with a generous cover of mulch to protect its shallow roots. Fruit ripens in the spring and turns from green to deep purple. It is eaten fresh or often juiced and compliments a number of sweet and savory dishes.
The vine is fairly frost resistant, but the occasional freezing back of this vigorous vine can be viewed as a maintenance plus.
This climbing cactus not only offers a unique character to any simple structure, it stuns with its night-blooming white flowers that can be up to 14 inches in diameter. The red fruit are high in lycopene which is a natural antioxidant and is most often eaten chilled and cut in half so the flesh may be spooned out. Its juice also compliments a number of sweet and savory dishes.
When ripe, the fruit will come off the branch with a gentle pull. They will fall to the ground, however, the fruit is slightly better if picked before they fall. Protection is needed from winter freezes below 28 degrees
The varieties offered at the sale (American Beauty, Purple Haze, Zamarano) will produce fruit without hand or cross-pollination.
Photo by Treesearch Farms
Dragon fruit is a climbing cactus that offers a unique texture to vertical gardening and its flowers never fail to stun.
New to this year’s sale is ‘Mysore’ raspberry, a black, tropical raspberry. In my early community garden days, we planted a temperate raspberry variety, ‘Oregon 1030.’ Temperate varieties tend to succumb to fungal problems in our summer heat and humidity. It did a lot of spreading in the garden but never got above knee high. The fruit was juicy and sweet but not abundant. As a matter of fact, it never produced more than a handful of fruit that treated a few of the gardeners on a work day. Mysore has been a successful producer across the southern Gulf Coast states, including in the garden of our own Bob Randall. This year we found it in quantities large enough to offer at the sale.
Mysore is a large and rambling shrub, growing to 15 feet. Canes are covered with sharp thorns. A vertical growing technique allows you enjoy this plant without having a lot of urban acreage and you avoid reaching into a thorny bramble to harvest fruit. The plant fruits better and has a sweeter more distinct taste when grown in the shade. Harvest when the fruit is fully black and separates cleanly from the stem.
Photo by Urban Harvest:
Mysore raspberry will be offered for the first time in Houston at the Urban Harvest Fruit Tree Sale. Availability has been limited in the past, but in limited Houston trials it has been a big hit.
Suzy Fischer is a registered Landscape Architect and principal of Fischer Schalles, a landscape design/build firm. Contact her at email@example.com.