Book Review: Uncommon Fruits for Every Garden

May 20, 2011

Uncommon Fruits for Every Garden was written by Lee Reich with illustrations by Vicki Herzfeld Arlein in 2004. The subtitle states, “Expand your palette with pawpaws, shipovas, jujubes, maypops, and more!” Honestly, I haven’t even heard of a lot of those fruits, so it sets up a promise of something out of the ordinary.

The table of contents lists sections for juneberry, beach plum, alpine and musk strawberries, pawpaw, raisin tree, lingonberry, actinidia (kiwi), mulberry, kaki and American persimmons, elaeagnus (gumi, autumn olive, and Russian olive), gooseberry, maypop, che, black currant, nanking cherry, cornelian cherry, currants (red and white), Asian pear, lowbush blueberry, jujube, shipova, and medlar. There is also an epilogue and appendixes about nomenclature, pollination, siting and planting, pruning, propagation, and places to mail order plants or seeds.

Each section on a fruit includes the botanical name, plant type (perennial, shrub, tree, etc.), pollination, and ripening season. There is a brief introduction and historical story about the fruit, which is followed by a description of the plant with a sketch, cultivation, propagation, harvest and use, and then a list of cultivars. However, in the middle of the book are a few pages of color pictures, which I would rely on instead for identification, and leave the sketches for techniques in gardening.

Looking this book over, I realize I need to get a hold of some tiny and fragile alpine strawberry, as they are packed full of flavor despite their small berry size whenever I have had them. In the past, I’ve also been curious if nanking cherries were really bushed sized and really tasted like cherries, and this confirms that they are on both accounts, and tells me how to care for them. The section on Asian pears is also decent, as I have not seen much written on the fruits at all. Last fall, at a fruit tasting, my husband got excited over medlars, and this is the first time I’ve seen anything written about growing them.

I like this book, and would recommend it to anyone who is interested in growing something slightly different, yet historically important fruit.

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