Friday, April 27, 2012

The story of the edible blue honeysuckle berries

I really like fresh blueberries.  They grow a ton of them hereabouts in michigan and indiana.  So of course, I though, "HEY, I can do that!"  Well, it turns out, I suck at growing blueberries.  I planted about a dozen, in three or four different varieties.  They struggled.  They looked sad.  I'm still not sure why.  Certainly they do well in this area.  Certainly, I know that they like their soil a little acidic.  Certainly, I amended the soil they were planted in with peat moss and compost.

Certainly, they failed.  I even added some "special" organic soil acidifier just for blueberries and rhododendrons.  By the end of the second year, 3/4 of them were dead.  Very sad.

Not to be deterred, I ordered some Lonicera or honeyberries.  That's the latin name for the edible blue honeysuckle berry bush.  Not just any old Lonicera, but the new ones from the breeding program at the University of Saskatchewan.  They selected from many varieties where they are native (Russia, Japan, Canada, and a few others I think).  The results (by all acounts) were stupendous.  Bigger sweeter berries, and easier to pick.  Less fussy about soil conditions than blueberries.  Sort of like blueberries, but sort of not...

I ripped out the blueberries and planted the honeyberry bushes in the same spots, but with some new soil amendments.  POW!  They took off like gangbusters.  They have only been in the ground for three weeks and have already leafed out nicely and a few even have blossoms.

Here's where I bought them for those of you who want something fun, edible and different growing in the front yard:

They also have a nice description of what they are, sort of.  We humans lack a good vocabulary for describing tastes and smells.

A curious thing happened with the two remaining not quite dead blueberry bushes.  I'm all about redemption and second chances.  Instead of just throwing them out, I transplanted them about 20' further to the south.  I put them in a swale on the bank that slopes down to the highway in front of our house.  A swale is a trench dug on contour.  Swales have magic water catching properties.  Permaculture folks love swales.

Anyway, I threw the scraggly sad little blueberry bushes in there, backfilled with compost and within a week, they perked right up and looked better than they ever have.  Maybe I can grow blueberries after all, just not in the front yard.

That nice black stuff you see around the honeyberry plant is from a load of municipal compost.  Four bucks for a pickup truck load and they load it for you.  Best deal on the planet.  I feel rich when I spread that stuff generously around the orchard and the garden.  I'm also going to try sweet corn for the first time this year.  In all, I will be growing three kinds of corn, popcorn, sweet corn and dent corn for corn meal.

I want to try some dehydrated sweet corn.  Stores great and works well for soups, casseroles and that sort of thing.

I am busy making my 6' electric fence bigger.  It will now enclose the main orchard and the garden.  It will also have a continuous strip of chicken wire below the bottom "hot" wire.  This should eliminate the thieving racoons, possums and squirrels.  They stole almost all my apples last year and apparently I can't shoot them fast enough to stop them.

I suppose this is the long drawn out way of explaining why I haven't made any headway on the kitchen of late.

Finest regards,


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