Repurposed for the Garden: Critter Keeper Offer (aka Tie a Bag Around It)

Kangaroo apple (Solanum laciniatum) is one in a long line of marginally edible foods that I have been experimenting with in the garden. The fruits are considered poisonous when green and unripe, and edible when they turn orange.

That hasn’t stopped the squirrels. As I waited patiently for the fruit to ripen so I could have my first taste, the squirrels got there ahead of me and stole their fill while the fruit was still green, rock hard, and supposedly poisonous. Not only did it not kill them or give them so much as a tummy ache, they probably liked this plant more than any other treat in the garden. Proving once again that the squirrels are superior beings that will be roaming the earth harassing and poaching from some other more evolved humanoid-type creature in the distant future once the aliens have come in the name of interplanetary peace but then accidentally reveal their true intention to farm us for food, which leads to a terrible and epic battle for the lives of all humankind.

Spoiler: We do not win. Squirrels survive on the planet for another 50 million years.

I never imagined that I would need to protect this crop, and it was already too late by the time I caught one of our acrobatic circus-performing squirrels dangling upside down off of the plant.

It’s fall now and the plant is still holding on through the frosts. There are four fruit left, two of which are right on the cusp of full maturity. Although their flavour will likely be ruined by the cold, I am determined to get my taste of this fruit before the winter takes the plant down. While sifting through some boxes of garden stuff, I came upon this cotton muslin drawstring bag and the idea hit me to cover the remaining fruit to keep the squirrels out. The bag is light and open-weaved. It lets light and air in easily, and provides a smidgen of extra warmth as an added bonus.

So far it has worked brilliantly. The squirrels are still out there everyday, doing their nasty business messing the garden and undoing every bit of work I do immediately after I do it, but the kangaroo apple fruit remains completely untouched. Ha! Take that suckers!

If I decide to grow the plant again next year, I will most definitely employ this strategy right from the start, as soon as those first (supposedly) tantalizing morsels appear on the plant. I’m also planning to use it on my most prized and anticipated tomatoes, peppers, eggplant… you name it.

Me: 1 – Squirrels: 1million (But I’m catching up!)

Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

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4 thoughts on “Repurposed for the Garden: Critter Keeper Offer (aka Tie a Bag Around It)

  1. Great idea. I lost my only two winter-sown tomatoes to the little menaces this year just one bite in each, and then the ants got ‘em. Grrrrrr. Some thrift-store organza curtains might be just the material. Even more light permeable.

  2. Hi there
    interesting to read about Australian native plants being grown as food elsewhere (apart from macadamia’s that is). I had a bit of a read in my reference books and somewhat worryingly see that AB and JW Cribb, Wild Food in Australia, 1987, note in their epilogue “Two species of Solanum, S.aviculare and S.lanciniatum,… are under cultivation in the Soviet Union [sic] for the production of steroid drugs”.
    Watch out for those super squirrels!

    Apart from that I can highly recommend growing Warrigal greens (aka New Zealand Spinach) Tetragonia tetragonioides, a great ‘spinich’ substitute. I’m also trying out this year Sea Celery, Apium prostratum, a combined celery/parsley herb described in the 1830′s by botanist Daniel Bunce as “an excellent ingredient in soup, and otherwise may be used as a pot herb”.

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