Edible Arbor Covers Provide Fruitful Alternative

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.

Passion Fruit

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.

Dragon Fruit

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.

Tropical Raspberry

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 suzyinthegarden@urbanharvest.org.

Play Migration Tag with us on Sunday, December 8th

Check out what we're doing at the Children's Gardening Series on Sunday, December 8th. The Gulf Coast region is an important stop for birds migrating South in the winter, so we're learning all about migration and wildlife in winter. 

Migration Tag

  1. Pick 2-3 kids, instructors, or parents to be "Hazards".
  2. Assign them 1 or 2 of the following “Hazards”: “No Food”, “Predators”, “No Water”, “Cold”.
  3. Mark off “North America” on one side and “South America” on the other.
  4. Have all the other kids line up on “North America”. They are now “Birds”.
  5. When the Instructor calls out “migrate”, the “Birds” must try to run from “North America” to “South America” without getting tagged by the “Hazards”.
  6. When the “Hazards” tag a “Bird”, the “Bird” becomes a “Hazard”. Hand them one of the signs: “No Food”, “Predators”, “No Water”, “Cold”.
  7. When two “Birds” reach “South America” one of the “Hazards” can become a “Bird”, representing reproduction.

Afterward, we will make a pine cone treat for kids to take home and put out for all the birds and wildlife migrating through Houston this winter. 

NOTE: We will use peanut butter for this activity.

Carnivores to kale eaters . . . one high school student at a time.


OK, maybe no one actually said that exact phrase at this week’s Got Kale? Kale Yes! event held at Houston ISD’s John H. Reagan HS . . . but surely they were thinking it.

            Kale Day was a collaboration of effort by the HISD Aramark Nutrition Team, Reagan’s Ecology Club sponsored by Pre-AP biology teacher “Ms. V” along with the help (and persuasion) of Urban Harvest Youth Educator & garden volunteer, Irene Nava. The concept started with an abundance of kale that is growing in the school’s UHI Affiliate Garden. Staff and students who already liked kale appreciated the bold flavors of Tuscan Nero (aka “dinosaur kale”) and the tender salad qualities of Winterbor, a curly-leafed salad variety.

            But how could the other 2000+ students and staff on Reagan’s campus be convinced to try some of this “super food?” Free samples, of course!

            That’s where HISD Nutrition Education team came to the rescue.  The department, that serves over 270,000 school meals a day, is now staffed by three registered dietitians and one soon to be registered when just a few years ago, HISD had none. They provided the ingredients and the manpower in the kitchen to chop, blend and produce samples of our “Kool Kale Salad” and a “Green Power”smoothie (loosely based on Chef Roy’s creamy concoction sold at our farmers markets).

            “We were hoping to reach 10% of our population so we prepared enough for 200 samplings. In addition, the Reagan Eco Club made three flavors of kale chips for the students to try,” noted Ms. V. “The response was fantastic and overwhelmingly positive even though convincing them to take that first bite or sip was sometimes a challenge. Once they did, some were coming back for seconds or even thirds.”

            By the end of two lunch periods, over 300 portions of both the salad and the smoothies were served, plus most of the kale chips. Many students also picked up the recipes . . . some even made a donation to take home a transplant or a bouquet of freshly harvested kale from a school garden.

            What a difference a taste makes!

Hopefully, like the New Yorker who has become the Kale Crusader in Paris, the effects of the tasting event are just beginning. Perhaps some students will eat more greens this holiday season, or at least become less skeptical about trying a new food. Maybe we’ll even see kale on the HISD menu someday!

            What’s next . . . “Got Kohlrabi?”

Will you take our Thanksgiving Challenge?

This Thanksgiving we are challenging you to source as much of your Thanksgiving meal as possible from your backyard garden, community garden, or the farmers market.

It's so simple!

First, follow Urban Harvest on Facebook, Twitter (@UrbanHarvest), and/or Intstagram (@UrbanHarvestHouston). Then, using the #UHThanksgivingChallenge post a photo what you grew in your garden or bought at the farmers market alongside a photo of what you made using those local ingredients. If you do not have an app like PicStitch or InstaCollage, you can tag your ingredients with the #before and your final product with the #after.

Not sure what we're talking about?

Here's a great example from the blog www.skinnytaste.com. Maybe you grew some green beans in your garden and bought some mushrooms from the farmers market. With those two ingredients, you came up with a fabulous green bean casserole for your Thanksgiving meal.


OKRA: Less than two weeks left!

If you've followed us on social media, read our weekly e-newsletter, or visited any of our markets, then you know that we are trying to win big at OKRA Charity Bar this November. 

How does it work?

With every drink (alcoholic or non-alcoholic) and/or food item you purchase, you receive a ticket with which you can vote for one of four non-profits for the month. At the end of the month, the non-profit that wins the most customer votes receives the proceeds from OKRA for the entire month!

What's at stake?

The last non-profit that won at OKRA recieved $45,000! That amount of money could help us build three more school or community gardens in Houston. The majority of our school and community gardens are in food deserts, areas with little access to real, healthy food. More gardens mean more wholesome food and more green spaces for community engagement.  A brand new garden can mean a whole lot to a community.

What can you do?

Join us! Visit OKRA with friends and coworkers, have fun, and vote for Urban Harvest. You'll probably see one of us there.



Showing 106 - 110 of 124 results.
Items per Page 5
of 25