Saturday, October 24, 2009

Guavas and quinces and other edible ornamentals

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 family

An 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."

Ugni: Chilean guava
Chilean guava will take full sun or shade, average water or drought, growing to 6' or so if you let it, but can be readily pruned to keep it small. Plant this near a window where you can enjoy the aromatic fruit, or near a path for quick nibbling. Adaptable, ornamental, and edible.

Feijoa: pineapple guava
Another shrub with edible fall fruit, also in the myrtle family and originating in South America, is Feijoa sellowiana, commonly called Pineapple guava.....
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1 comment:

  1. I love Chilean Guava. I just made a jam with it and have gotten some quinces to try with them as well. The bushes grow really well here in Sonoma County.