One of the drawbacks of being interested in rare or native fruits is trying to choose varieties for planting without knowing what they taste like. If you’re lucky enough to have a gardening club or fruit enthusiasts chapter nearby, you may be able to procure some samples that way; you could also grab your handy-dandy plant ID guide and try searching a state park emphasizing preserving native plants (if you can ensure they haven’t sprayed recently).
If all else fails – there’s always mailorder.
Here’s a few of the mailorder sites I’ve had good experience with. Save the garden space now, then come back to these sites in the fall and throw a tasting party for your family and friends.
- Chestnuts and hazelnuts: Badgersett Research Farm sells chestnuts and hazelnuts from their breeding programs in the late summer and early fall. They are also experimenting with finishing pork on chestnuts like In The Old Days, and the results are available in season through Grass Run Farm.
- Pawpaw and Persimmon: Oikos Tree Crops will ship you pawpaws and persimmons in the fall, but it may be worth paying for super-duper fast shipping as these fruits have been bred for taste over shipping-durability (and isn’t that the entire point?)
- Hawthorn berries are available dried through Horizon Herbs pretty much any time of the year. Their medicinal properties should be retained through the drying, and whichever use you intend to make of them.
- Applesource is a WONDERFUL way to trial an apple variety before you plant. They maintain over 80 varieties of dessert-quality apples traditional and modern, and offer them both in single-variety and sampler packs. I really appreciate the varietal descriptions, and the Tasting Party Plans they ship with every package. I gave the Antique Sampler Pack as Christmas presents last year, and will definitely be coming back for more as the season changes and the available varieties grow.
If you’ve found any other good sources for Northern-adapted rare or native fruits, I’d love to hear about them!