One of the most rewarding parts of homesteading is learning about the many varieties and cultivars of fruits and vegetables you can grow. Rather than sticking with the standards you find at any grocery store, caring for and tasting so many new kinds is a pleasure! Fruit trees, like all perennials, and the occasional fruiting vines, are a great addition to a homestead, especially when looking to implement permaculture.
The Good, the Bad and the Fruit
When planning to grow fruit trees, unlike you annual vegetables, there are many aspects to consider. Including the size, shape and height of the tree. While they can provide fruit for many years, they can also take several years to bring a good amount of fruit. In addition, if your fruiting trees are not placed correctly, they can shade out your sunny vegetable garden and are difficult to move once rooted.
You can find other fruit trees to consider, especially in the south, for more home grown food. Considering all your options with planting something more permanent like fruit trees and including some that may be better for your area but not commonly known can be a very strategic decision. Below are some great ones that people may not even realize are fruit trees!
Zones 9 and 10, but can survive down to 18 degrees
A citrus tree, similar to oranges, lemons, etc. that is evergreen with beautiful fragrant flowers. These can grow up to 15 feet but most only get to about 8 feet tall. They’re originally from Asia and are slow growing. They have more a bush-like habit than tree, depending on pruning, than other fruit trees.
Like all citrus, it does not do well being root bound, so if you try to grow it in a container you will need an extra large pot. They’re also sensitive to mulching and fertilizing so be cautious. Kumquats also ripen in the winter like all other citrus trees. Unlike other citrus, they do enter a period of dormancy and will not make new shoots when the weather is cold.
Unusually, kumquats are different from their other citrus counterparts in that the flesh is sweet and the juice inside is sour. Some varieties you can just pop in your mouth! Others, you can cut open, remove seeds, squeeze juice out and then eat. They also make a delicious marmalade!
Zones 5 to 9, depending on variety and origin (American are more hardy than Asian varieties)
Like many of the fruits on this list, persimmons do not ship well which is why they’re not usually available at your local super market. Native to Japan, it can easily withstand the frozen temperatures of parts of the Midwest and are consider a winter fruit due to their ripening after all of the leaves have fallen. The trees grow from 15 to 60 feet tall and are deciduous, meaning they shed their leaves in the fall.
While they prefer full sun, they can be grown in partial shade with good airflow. They require two trees to pollinate. The fruit is grown at the tips of the branches, so prune with care to give a sturdy tree that can withstand the fruit load when older without breakage. They do occasionally make their way into the grocery store in the winter because they ripen during this time depending on where you live.
You can easily just cut one open and eat it (but not the seeds) when it is ripe. The astringent varieties you need to wait until they’re soft or it will be absurdly bitter. Rodale’s has some unique uses including fun toast and even soup. Persimmons are packed with vitamin C like many winter producing fruits and is a nice boost in many ways. Tastes a little like a bitter peach meets a plum.
Zones 6 to 11, tolerant down to 10 degrees
Pomegranites are a fall fruit, similar to the citrus’ trees, they are ripe by the end of fall and can even handle a little snow. However, they are a deciduous and drop their leaves as their fruit finally ripens. They are deciduous and will lose their leaves in the fall.
Should be sheltered from extreme weather such as wind and heavy rain but also needs full sun. Can be pruned, heavily, especially for a good shape. One feature is they produce lots of branching and suckers. This makes them a wonderful hedge. Do not overwater, can get mold. They can tolerate drought, even for years, but will struggle with intermittent flooding and soggy conditions.
Many people struggle with the seeds, which are edible, but are unusually crunchy. Most people prefer them juiced and mixed in all sorts of drinks such as kombucha and lemonade. They are also a wonderful addition to a salad due to the tangy crunchy pop of the seeds.
Hardy Kiwi Fruit
Zones 6 to 11, does best in mild climates
The beauty of the the hardy kiwi is that it makes a wonderful landscape addition with pretty flowers, bright red stem and lush full leaves. They are native to China and grow quickly, recovering well from late frosts.
Likes full sun and well drained soil. It tolerates temperatures down to 10 degrees. Needs moist soil but not oversaturated for a long period and flowers may drop if it experiences a drought.
Sweeter and easier to eat than the kiwis you find in the grocery store. You can just pick them and pop them in your mouth. I am very excited to add this to my permaculture design…stay tuned.
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Zones 4 through 8
They live a long time, like some nut trees, they can live over 50 years. They are a large shrub or a small tree, depending on how you train it. Can grow up to 30 feet tall and just as wide. One of the best features of the Mayhaw is that it can withstand wind, tolerate drought and flooding. Makes another good hedge. Native to the deep south of the United States.
Grows well in moist, acidic conditions. Prefers full sun like all fruiting plants. Needs little care, rather disease and pest resistant. Just a good fertilizer in the spring. Most harvest in May and then use the juice for jellies and wine.
Do not eat raw. Tart and bitter like crabapples, can be turned into wines, jellies and syrups. Common in the South for many different processing recipes.
Zones 5 to 11, best in 7b to 11
A common landscaping trees that producing canes every year that usually have 2 inch small plum like fruits that are bright orange. Native to South America: Uruguay, Brazil and Argentina. Is every green because it is a tropical plant.
Grows in partial shade to full sun and is able to tolerate heavy pruning once established. Be sure to provide a good quality fertilizer but is otherwise easy to care. Very few pests will hurt these palms but will have nutritional deficiencies if not cared for properly.
I have eaten them right off the tree. The fruits have a large seed in the middle that you don’t eat and there is some debate on whether you should eat the skin. Most people turn it into jelly but it can also be made into wine.
There are so many other kinds of fruits and vegetables to grow on your homestead that can keep your family in yummy food all year. What other fruits do you like to grow?
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