from the Davis Enterprise, October 22, 2009
Strawberry jam and a marketing ploy prompted this column.
One grower started labeling some of their attractive winter vegetables "ornamedibles" to suggest to customers that they leaves were pretty as well as edible. Ok, it makes a good point, but it's a little too cute for me. Garden writer Rosalind Creasy came up with a more staid term in her book The Complete Book of Edible Landscaping, originally published by Sierra Club Books in 1982 and due for an updated edition in January 2010: edible landscaping. The idea is simple: mix edible plants into your landscape. Choose landscape shrubs and trees that happen to provide food as well as beauty. Grow your vegetables, flowers, and herbs together for mutual benefit (the herbs and flowers draw beneficial insects for the vegetables, among other things).
Some common landscape shrubs meet these criteria: rose hips (fruit) can be used in tea, for example. Others aren't as well known, but include some adaptable shrubs and vines. Many of these plants help fill the harvest basket in fall and winter.
Myrtle familyAn unassuming little shrub in the myrtle family came our way the other day. It has tight, shiny dark green leaves, and a compact growth habit. Scattered along the branches were dark reddish-purple fruit, about the size of blueberries. Arising from the plant was a wonderful aroma of strawberries and guavas. It smelled just like fresh strawberry jam! The little berries had a sweet/tart flavor and a mealy semi-juicy texture.
Ugni molinae is the odd name of this delightful little shrub. Native to Chile and parts of Argentina, it is sold by the common name Chilean guava. Ugni is a rare case where an indigenous name has been used for the botanical name; usually taxonomists use Latin (rarely Greek) names. In southern Chile the fruit is combined with hard liquor and syrup to make a liqueur called Murtado, which translates to "little myrtle."