I was supposed to post a follow up to my journey above the tree line today; however, we are experiencing a heatwave that has made my office uninhabitable. Instead, to give myself a reprieve from this heat, I am posting a few shots of this gorgeous lily that I took in my garden just before dark yesterday evening.
Lilium auratum ‘Leichtlinii’ is a wild and very cold hardy native of Japan. I bought a small pot containing two bulbs back in early May at the Parkdale Horticultural Society sale. Apparently, this is not an easy plant to find, and I am glad that my friend David managed to talk me into spending $10 on it. At the time I had over-indulged in plant purchases and was hesitant to spend that much on another pretty flower, especially since I didn’t yet have a garden to put it in.
The original inspiration for a smaller, wilder lily came from last summer’s visit to Brian Bixley’s gardens at Lilactree Farm. There I saw two woodland lilies, one white and the other pink, that grow on tall stalks lined with the smallest lily blooms I have ever seen. My blooms are not nearly as tiny, but they are a bit smaller than the typical Asiatic lilies that are popular in this neighbourhood’s front gardens.
Kangaroo apple (Solanum laciniatum) is another in a line of marginally edible, strange solanums that I am growing this year. I say “marginally edible” because the fruit is edible when ripe and poisonous when green. Still, I’m not convinced it’s worth eating. Edible and worth eating are two different things entirely. Morelle de balbis fruit is edible, but is it worth growing if food is your priority? Not so much. Even still, I am growing that again this year, too.
The kangaroo apple is a subtropical plant that needs warm weather and a long season to produce fruit. I started my seeds very early — as early as January or February. Unfortunately, I can’t remember which and I lost my original tag.
TIP: I write the sow date on the tags when I sow seeds as a way to track each plant’s progress later on. This is especially helpful when growing long season plants like kangaroo apple. If they don’t set fruit in time then I can gauge how much earlier I need to start the following year in order to be successful.
If you’re interested in learning more about this plant, there’s some information on the Australian National Botanic Gardens website and through Tradewinds Fruit.
I purchased my seeds from Solana Seeds in Quebec.
I’ll update you on the progress of this plant as the season develops. I’m very curious about the fruit.
It’s mid-September (let’s pretend I did not say that out loud), and the glorious Morelle de Balbis plant is bearing ripe fruit. This process began a few weeks ago but I withheld my judgement until several were ready for picking.
I’ve had several opportunities to try them now and can report that the taste is, in a word, insipid. I read several descriptions shortly after purchasing the seeds and the fruit I am picking from our yardshare garden does not meet some of the more flattering accounts. They do have a slight citrus note, but watermelon and cherries… Please. Either my palette is unrefined or others’ are overambitious. Mind you I am basing my entire assessment on a single plant grown in a rather wet year, but still.
The texture of the fruit is very similar to a tomatillo or ground cherry. I suspect that cooking might be in order for the remaining harvest. If I can manage to harvest it all. Those spikes are deadly. Like a tomatillo, the husks pull back from the soft part of the fruit as they mature. This leaves a little bit of room to manage them but not much. Davin was unable to pick even one the other day without spearing his fingers on those spines. He claims they are poisoned in some way and that the ensuing welt was bigger and more painful than it should have been for a spine of that size. This is one crop I’d happily leave to the critters, but I doubt they’ll be bothered when there are still so many passive foodstuffs left to steal.
So let’s tally up the score. Litchi tomato is a hostile and belligerent plant that threatens personal injury at every turn and produces tasteless fruit that is damned near impossible to harvest.
Will I grow it again? YES!
Regardless of the outcome I’m glad I tried this plant and will definitely grow it again, especially when I’ve got more space. The flowers are gorgeous and have attracted an abundance of pollinators to the garden. Watching it’s progress has been a delightful experiment and a good start to my explorations in Solanum Family oddities. In the future I will grow it for show only without the expectation of a useful food crop at the end of the season.
Blackberries and greenberries aka Morelle verte (Solanum opacum)
The harvest is so bountiful this year. It’s no surprise really, considering the weather we’ve had. Dry and hot, then wet, followed again by heat. The plants love it. I collected enough herbs from our community garden plot yesterday to cover the kitchen floor. Literally. I then spent hours preparing it all to preserve by varying methods. Let’s just say, we’re not going to be short on herbs this winter.
If you’re looking for a way to use up some of those baseball bat-sized zucchinis, I highly recommend this zucchini bread recipe from Heidi of 101 Cookbooks. It is a revelation. We’ve made it several times, altering the optional ingredients, and it comes out perfect and incredibly delicious every single time. I will never use another zucchini bread recipe again. Go make some now. You will not regret it.
I made this last batch using a giant roll of cinnamon I brought back from Dominica. Look at the size of it against a typical supermarket piece! In fact, the small, locally purchased piece is probably not cinnamon, but cassia, a cinnamon substitute more commonly found in North American supermarkets. Grinding that big piece of cinnamon was very satisfying, the smell so wonderfully sweet and aromatic. I love that every time I use this spice — which judging by the size of it will be for a very long time — I will be taken back to our trip.
What are you making with your bounty?
Earlier this year I discovered that the fruit from the Kousa Dogwood tree (Cornus kousa) are edible and I’ve been waiting until the end of summer to get a taste.
The first fruit on my friend Barry’s tree are starting to ripen and I managed, over the weekend, to collect a few from out of the clutches of the neighborhood squirrels. The fruit are ripe and optimal eating when they turn from green to bright red, and from hard to squishy. You should be able to squish the orange fruit from the centre easily. That happens to be just how I ate my bounty. The skin is unpleasant tasting. It looks like a lychee, with the texture of some of my favourite tropicals, sugar apple and sour sop. The insides are bright orange and soft, with a couple of hard pits. It tastes like papaya.
I’ve read that there is a lot of variation between trees and varieties, so if you have the chance, I’d suggest trying fruit from a sampling of trees. The fruit I ate are small but tasty. They are from a landscape tree that is bred for the flowers, not the fruit. But there are varieties with much larger fruit that are worth searching out if you’re looking for more than a light snack.
- Paw Paw (Asimina triloba): A local and unusual tree fruit that is also coming into season.
- Search this site by the tag, Weird Edibles to find out about other unusual vegetables, herbs, and fruit to grow or forage.