For the past two garden seasons we have offered plants of an annual sweet fruit called Sunberries and Garden Huckleberries. This year I planted both in my garden and in containers too. I wanted to see how they would perform for me in our climate and also I wanted to speak first-hand for how they taste.
They’ve grown wonderfully for me in both the garden and in containers. Both plants are producing berries like crazy! Yesterday I picked a bowl of sunberries (the garden huckleberries aren’t quite ripe yet) and we all tried them freshly picked straight off the plant. Lizz said they tasted just green, I thought they were mildly sweet, Beki said they were melon-like and Chris agreed with her.
Once washed, I put them in a baking dish, sprinkled them with brown sugar.
The topping is a simple mix of oats, butter, cinnamon, a tiny bit of cloves, and a little more brown sugar. Then I put the dish in the oven at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes. This morning we ate the sunberry crisp with yogurt and walnuts and a few dark chocolate chips on top. It was very tasty!
Both Sunberries and Garden Huckleberries are marketed in the seed catalog as a substitute for blueberries for people who garden in areas like Colorado where blueberries are nearly impossible to grow well. The catalogs say they are nearly tasteless until sweetened and then can be used any way that a blueberry can be used. I actually think they should not be compared to blueberries at all, because aside from their color and size they are really nothing like a blueberry. They should be promoted, I feel, as a sweet fruit in it’s own right. They are quite delicious, but they don’t taste like blueberries to any of us here at Desert Canyon Farm. It probably is true, though, that you could use them instead of blueberries in most recipes, but I think you should expect them to taste like sunberries or garden huckleberries, rather than a blueberry.
Both sunberries and garden huckleberries are annuals, meaning that you will plant new plants each spring. They do well in full sun or part shade and are growing for me with a 4 day watering rotation, which is quite reasonable. They have preformed well in containers and in the garden soil and pests are not bothering them so far, even the grasshoppers which are eating my raspberries, are not eating either of these fruits. I think they are both winners if you want a berry crop to eat fresh, cooked or to freeze. I haven’t made any preserves or jelly from them, so I can’t speak for that.
Next spring when Open Farm Days happen, we will plan to have both of these fruits available again as starter plants. Maybe you’ll want to give them a try.
This is the Two-Inch Strawberry Popcorn that we also sold plants of. I had fun growing these in the garden and I will try popping the corn at some point, but for now I’m just enjoying how beautiful they look drying on my counter.
For years we have hoped for seed on our Fragrant Ash tree in the desert garden. This is the first year it has produced seed, although it has flowered for many years. Now our challenge is to catch the seed as it ripens. When the seed ripens it turns loose of the stem and drops to the ground, and the seeds are ripening at different rates. The challenge comes because next to and underneath this tree is our giant cholla, which we fondly call the Thrasher’s Cholla, and that is a very mean plant to try to find the ash seeds in. Chollas have barbed spines that are long and ruthless and the spines often shed and are lying around on the ground under the plant. If the ash seeds fall onto the ground where the cholla spines are, well…surfice it to say none of us is ready to go digging around to salvage out those ash seeds among the cholla branches.
Lizz and I decided to net the end branches of the Fragrant Ash tree where the seed clusters were maturing, in the hope that as the seeds fall from the branches they will get caught in the net fabric and then we can take the nets down and have the seed safely inside of them. Keep your fingers crossed that this plan works as we hope. The wind has been recking a bit of havoc with the net bags, but so far I think most of them are holding up. If so, we’ll finally have some Fragrant Ash seed to plant.
Cat update: The mother cat, now named Charlotte, and her two kittens have homes. The black kitten went to live with a wonderful woman in town here and the gray kitten will stay with us. His name now is Pal. Charlotte is also here on the farm…she was just too wild to find a good home for. Thanks to everyone who worked to help us find homes for these cats. Well done!