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by Suzy Hancock of Portland Nursery
July brings the pleasure of fresh summer fruit from the garden. We have become accustomed to being able to buy most of our fruit year-round thanks to global shipping, but nothing compares to eating a sun-warmed raspberry just picked from your own fruit patch. Add a few blueberries and some strawberries, and it’s pretty much fruit nirvana. Then I discovered summer sauce: a whole new level of bliss. This simple sauce turns fruit into a dessert that will have everyone asking for the recipe. I promise to share, but more on the fruit first.
My strawberries always seem to ripen first, especially the June bearers, but by planting some everbearing varieties like ‘Seascape’ or ‘Hecker’, I get them to overlap my blueberries and raspberries. Blueberries come in early-, mid- and late-harvest varieties, so by planting some of each you can extend the season as well. This also helps with pollination. I like the combination of ‘Earlyblue’, ‘Bluecrop’ and ‘Chandler’. I also plant several different varieties of raspberries for a longer harvest: ‘Canby’, ‘Heritage’ and ‘Fall Gold’ will take you right into autumn. Of course, planting all these different varieties does take up some space, but even on a small patio, with enough sun you can grow some berries. Strawberries grow well in strawberry pots — the everbearing varieties do best. Or plant some ‘Tristar’ in hanging baskets. The new introduction in the fruit world is a line of dwarf raspberries and blueberries called BrazelBerries™. These have been hybridized to be smaller and do well in containers. ‘Raspberry Shortcake’ is dwarf and thornless but with full-sized fruit. ‘Jellybean’ and ‘Peach Sorbet’ are blueberries that are also small in size and suited to containers.
An early spring application of an organic fruit fertilizer will help with fruiting; a second application midsummer is a good idea for container-grown plants. A few other tips:
For more complete cultural information, visit our website at www.portlandnursery.com.
And, as promised, the recipe for Summer Sauce:
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
2 Tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
With a mixer, beat the cream cheese until softened. Add about 2/3 of the can of sweetened condensed milk. Once the cream cheese and condensed milk are thoroughly mixed, add the lemon juice and vanilla. Store in the refrigerator, but serve at room temperature. A dollop on a bowl of berries will always say summer to you!