Warmer weather brings on the berries!

One blustery Friday morning in May, Garden Club members set about clearing the waist high weeds smothering the fruit bushes in the Forest Garden. Pulling nettles, cow parsley and goose grass out of the rich, moist earth to uncover half-hidden bushes, discovering snails in unexpected colours and seeing the beginnings of this year’s berries, was an oddly satisfying experience on a wet morning.

Berries are forming on several fruit bushes in the garden. The honeyberry bush (Lonicera caerulea – pictured above) which is a non-climbing honeysuckle from Siberia, has hundreds of tiny green berries which will ripen to a purple-blue colour in the summer. When ripe they taste a little like sharp blueberries but ripen much earlier – usually in May-June.

Tiny fruit can be seen developing at the base of the yellow flowers on the buffalo currant bush (Ribes aureum – pictured below top), which belongs to the same family as black currants and gooseberries. These taste of blackcurrant with a hint of cloves when ripe and are usually abundant in July-August.

The delicate white bell-shaped flowers of the strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo – pictured below middle) have transformed into small rough green fruits over the winter. The fruit will mature and ripen to a reddish colour in the autumn, at the same time as its next flowering. The berries are not particularly sweet to human taste but are beloved by birds, and in Portugal they’re used to make a very potent liquer called Mendronho.

Two young loganberries (Rubus × loganobaccus – picture below bottom) that were planted earlier this year have settled in and have put out several tiny buds.  Finding wild strawberry plants (Fragaria vesca) in flower under the towering nettles and cow parsley was a pleasant surprise.

The intensifying drizzle sent us scurrying for shelter at the allotment for a much needed cup of tea under the new gazebo. There are several other bushes that need attention, but they will have to wait for another (hopefully sunny!) Friday.

Thanks to Kavita for this blog post