The black arts of adding drama to out­door space Berry tasty

The Herald Magazine - - etc GARDENING - DAVE AL­LAN

WE are en­joy­ing the finest dis­play of ber­ries for many a year. Most have sur­vived the drought and now of­fer a feast for birds and our eyes.

But, as ever, the weather gods can dis­rupt best-laid plans. As I write, some wretch is pour­ing buck­ets of wa­ter down my of­fice win­dow and I’m just back from se­curely lash­ing the poly­tun­nel door against the gales, mourn­ing my gor­geous berry-laden Euony­mus that was blown out of the ground and try­ing to straighten a Sun­set ap­ple knocked askew by the wind. So, when read­ing this, you may well won­der what ber­ries I’m talk­ing about.

While we’re out for a walk, most of us get a kick out of pick­ing some wild ber­ries, such as bram­bles and rasp­ber­ries. But by choos­ing care­fully you can even do some of this for­ag­ing in the gar­den as well.

Many plants use birds to dis­perse their fruits, of­fer­ing sweet, tasty flesh as a re­ward. Birds have good colour vi­sion, so a fine splash of coloured ber­ries pro­vides a sure­fire mag­net. Af­ter con­sum­ing the fruits, birds ex­crete pre­cious seed well away from the par­ent tree.

Many of the fruits con­sumed by birds are poi­sonous to hu­mans, so we should only for­age for ber­ries we know are safe. If in doubt, check it out. Al­though some mem­bers of a genus may be fine, oth­ers aren’t. So ca’ canny.

As you’ll doubt­less know, hawthorn, Cratae­gus monog­yna, rose­hip and rowan, Sor­bus au­cu­paria, can pro­duce tasty re­sults, pro­vided they’re pro­cessed be­fore use. But, how­ever en­thu­si­as­tic a vint­ner I may be, I reckon hawthorn and rowan ber­ries are on a par with paint strip­per. But hawthorn ber­ries make an ex­cel­lent sauce and rose­hip syrup can be much bet­ter than the dread treat­ment meted out to hap­less chil­dren for colds in the old days.

I’m a happy guinea pig when it comes to try­ing new flavours and my son gave us a baby shrub, Cor­nus Mas, Cor­nelian cherry re­cently af­ter try­ing me out on some of its red ber­ries, salted and pick­led and used like olives – I passed the test.

And I’m a firm con­vert to bar­ber­ries, Ber­beris vul­garis, so much so that, when a bush died re­cently, we in­stantly planted a re­place­ment. The fruits add a tart, lemony flavour to many Ira­nian rice dishes and mas­sively im­prove chicken and pheas­ant stuff­ings.

But you do need to tread care­fully with some other fruits. Like many of our gar­den favourites, sea buck­thorn, Eleag­nus rham­noides, makes a

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