Friday, 27 July 2012

Buffalo currant (Ribes odoratum)

The buffalo currant (Ribes odoratum) is a deciduous shrub from the Grossulariaceae family. It is also known as clove currant, spice bush, missouri currant or golden currant. It is native to North America and Canada, and has naturalised in parts of Europe where it has escaped from domestic gardens.

Buffalo Currant (R. odoratum) fruit ripening now

It produces pretty yellow flowers in the spring which have the scent of cloves. The fruit is produced in the summer and is ripening now. Buffalo currant is attractive to bees, butterflies and birds.

Buffalo currant (R. odoratum) flowers

How to grow

Buffalo currant is easily grown from seed or cuttings. Fresh seed are best sown in the autumn. Dried seed will take around 60 days to germinate at around 2.2°C but germination is enhanced by scarification. Hardwood heel cuttings can be taken in the summer or autumn. The US Dept of Agriculture say that buffalo currant can reproduce vegetatively by rhizomes, sprouting after cutting and fire. They say it is rated mostly good in initial establishment, ease of planting and natural spread.

This shrub tolerates dry exposed sites, a range of soil types and can be used as a soil stabiliser. Unfortunately, it is a host of white pine blister rust (Cronartium ribicola) so has been eradicated from areas of America where the white pine is grown commercially. It is hardy to -25°C. Final size of the bush is around 2.5 m x 2.5 m. Named cultivars (e.g. 'Crandall') are available but we haven't seen much sign of them for sale in the UK.

Raw edible parts

The ripe black fruit is edible raw. It looks like a blackcurrant and can be 6-10mm in diameter. What we like about these fruit is that they are sweeter than blackcurrants so are easier on the stomach if eating raw in quantity (not that we've had them in quantity because the birds are getting there first). Fruit can be dried for later use. The flowers are also edible raw but we don't eat too many because we prefer the fruit. The leaves can be made into a tea or used to flavour food. The leaves seem to have the flavour of 'greens' which isn't very exciting and we feel that we should be getting more flavour than this for our money! As a point of interest, all Ribes genus produce edible fruit.

nb. the fruit can be cooked to produce jam and preserves.

New eBook coming soon

Raw Edible Flowers & Leaves contains over 250 plants with raw edible flowers and leaves. This ebook actually lists all the raw edible parts of each plant so is good value for money. All the plants can be grown in the temperate maritime climate of the British Isles as well as other areas of the world, including much of Europe and North America.

Available from mid-August onwards for Amazon Kindle. Price £2.50.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Pineapple guava (Acca sellowiana)

The pineapple guava (Acca sellowiana) is an evergreen shrub from the mytle (Myrtaceae) family. The flower, in particular, gives the impression of tropical islands and sun kissed beaches. Also known as feijoa, guava and pineapple, it is a native to South America.

This isn't the best photo in the world but we were having trouble getting a good shot due to the unrelenting wind and rain. Where is our summer?! The Pineapple Guava is flowering now in the British Isles, right this minute, so look out for those flowers. You can't miss them because they look like they are on sparkly disco-dancing steroids. We mainly grew this as edible screening but the flowers are so pretty we just don't want to eat them.

Growing Pineapple Guava

Growing from seed is an unreliable method of propagating this shrub. Seeds do not grow true to the parent plant and can vary in size and yield of fruit. Hardwood cuttings (just below a node) can be taken but don't always take. Mature plants like a well drained rich soil and do well in the cooler weather. However, always try to keep the soil moist and don't let them dry out.

This is a slow growing shrub which can tolerate partial shade, full sun and a bit of salty wind. Temperatures below -9°C or above 32°C affect it adversely and can prevent fruiting. This is definitely our experience. Various cultivars are available, some with larger fruit e.g. 'Mammoth'. The pineapple guava will grow to around 2 metres (spread) by 2 metres (height).

Raw Edible Parts

The stunning flowers and small green sweet fruit are edible raw. The outer white velvet-like petals, which taste very tropical, are the edible bits on the flowers. The rest isn't listed as edible but we have tried it, like you do, and it is tough and not so good! The flavour and texture of the fruit apparently varies. Our shrubs have not fruited and the photograph below is not our fruit so don't get too excited. If anyone does manage to get any fruit, it needs to be picked when ripe and eaten immediately as it doesn't keep. Cut it in half and scoop out the soft flesh with a spoon. It can also be used in smoothies, ice cream, jam or anywhere else where soft fruit is used. It apparently has a distinctive flavour akin to pineapple, strawberries, banana and/or guava.

Fruit of Pineapple Guava. Photo attribution: Hans B at nl.wikipedia.