If it’s cold at your place, you need this berry

Berry, berry

NZ Lifestyle Block - - Contents -

Open a glam­orous mag­a­zine and you’ll al­ways seem to find pic­tures of Wai­heke Is­land’s open-walled ranches rev­el­ing in the trop­i­cal heat, ba­nanas and or­anges drip­ping from the thatch along per­fect, blue-fringed, white sand beaches.

But what of the poor be­fud­dled moun­tain man who skins pos­sums to make his own clothes? What of the stone-walled cob cot­tage-dwelling hunter back from the hill who, when not shoot­ing Hi­malayan tahr, spends 11 months of win­ter cut­ting fire­wood to sur­vive the frost and snow amidst the wild windy peaks and ski­fields? What are we sup­posed to eat down in the chilly south where orange trees are frozen black overnight and even wal­nuts lose their fruit to frost?

The an­swer is thorn­less black­ber­ries. Berry fruits are the ul­ti­mate or­chard choice for harsh moun­tain cli­mates, and as most of us know, nor­mal black­ber­ries hap­pily grow any­where, even through solid cor­ru­gated iron mulch in a hail­storm.

But when you do a lit­tle cross­breed­ing, re­move the pesky thorns, pump up the fruit size, get rid of those pesky, den­ture-stick­ing seeds, you get a miracle fruit. No mat­ter how hard the pre­vi­ous win­ter or how gloomy the tor­ren­tial spring, by late sum­mer you will have the sweet­est, soft­est, yum­mi­est fruit ever pro­duced in any snow-girt in­land Siberian Erewhon.

Along with their rel­a­tives, the boy­sen­berry, tay­berry, and ‘mixed’ berry crosses such as the lo­gan­berry, thorn­less black­ber­ries will flavour many an ap­ple pie or crum­ble. They are eas­ily frozen for use all year round or you can turn them into sweet jam for your home-milled whole­meal bread. There’s also black­berry wine; no beau­jo­lais was ever richer, nor any sub­trop­i­cal grape so sweet.

My friends in the deep­est dark­est western ranges of the South Is­land have a berry or­chard with fei­joa and jostaber­ries grow­ing be­tween the rows. They add trailer loads of horse ma­nure and hop waste, and after 20 years of that kind of fer­tiliser, they can feed an army, even with their well­doc­u­mented -18°C spring frosts.

The pic­tures show their 2016 crop weigh­ing down the vines. They some­times net them against birds, but this year they had so many the birds couldn’t pos­si­bly eat them all. Each day a cou­ple of ki­los prac­ti­cally fell off the vines into the bas­ket. Sum­mer work in the berry or­chards has taught them to es­palier the pruned vines onto three stretched fence wires, an­gled north-south to catch the max­i­mum sun. Win­ter prun­ing is hard, as you would with a vig­or­ous grape, to re­move all the old growth and al­low new vines to be tied along the wires.

That’s the way to grow gi­ant soft berries that sim­ply drop off into your fin­gers and melt in the mouth. ■

Learn more about chicken health and man­age­ment, and the prac­ti­cal as­pects of run­ning chick­ens, in­clud­ing how to gar­den suc­cess­fully with hens; how to build your own coop (in­clud­ing plans), or­gan­ics, health care, and how to grow your own qual­ity, nu­tri­tious chicken feed. 144 pages There’s more to preserving than jams and chut­neys. A fresh take on pre­serves cov­ers all the foods you might want to store, from cured meats and sausages to long-term stor­age of your gar­den har­vest and ideas for an egg glut. 144 pages Ev­ery­thing you need to know to set up a hive, make your own honey and help save bees, in­clud­ing video tu­to­ri­als through an in­ter­ac­tive app.

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