I know this is going to sound sacrilegious — and you probably already know this about me — but I’m not into growing food. Crops generally require more time, effort (the calculus involved in succession planting makes my head explode), and watering than I’m interested in giving them. I’d much rather be lazy, sit back and watch my garden grow and I’m perfectly happy to buy vegetables from people willing, able, and eager to do all that hard work. More power to them. But I do have a deep appreciation for the edibles I have growing my garden that put out with very little input.
My first summer here, my mom bought a thornless blackberry (Rubus ulmifolius) for me at a plant sale and I planted it with everything else I had at the time against my front yard fence. A mixed garden is maybe not the ideal place for a suckering bramble — no doubt it would be much more productive given plenty of space and its very own trellis. And no doubt it would be easier to harvest the berries if I didn’t have to dive headfirst into the border between iris, daisies, and teasel to find them. But I’m all for being rewarded with handfuls of warm berries while weeding and I’m not a pie maker anyway.
All this blackberry seems to require is a good bit of sun and some judicious pruning/editing. Flowers and fruit occur on second year canes and fresh canes shoot out of the ground in 10′ arches every year. I whack those back midsummer to encourage them to branch. Old canes that have done their business should be cut off at the ground in the fall. Suckers — these plants are very generous — can be removed and transplanted anytime. My experience in moving this plant — even a well established clump with several thumb-thick canes — leads me to believe it’s virtually unkillable.
My other favorite garden snack is ground cherry (a.k.a husk cherry, dwarf cape gooseberry, Physalis pruinosa). The first time I ever peeled open the tomatillo-like papery husk and popped one in my mouth was at a farmers market only about 10 years ago and I ate an entire pint in one sitting. I think they taste like fruit salad heavy on the pineapple. I must have eaten and dropped a few near my front steps because the plants first appeared in cracks along the stoop and have since planted themselves like weeds along the sunny front of every border. In fact, they are weeds. But I’m thrilled to have them will always allow a few to grow and fruit because they’re awesome. They fruit best in full sun and don’t seem to require much water. Cherries form underneath a canopy of moleskin leaves and are ripe when the husks are yellow and they drop off the stem into your paw.
What are your favorite garden snacks?