“Sun-warmed fruit eaten straight from the tree is one of life’s great simple pleasures.” Authors Barbara Edwards (no relation) and Mary Olivella hooked me with that opening sentence in their new book, From Tree to Table. Edible gardening handbooks so often stop short of the very reason we gardeners choose to cultivate food: to EAT! Backyard fruit is, literally, for the birds unless picked and savored in season, or preserved for later enjoyment.
Taking the discussion to the next level, Edwards and Olivella place homegrown fruit within a larger “locavore” story as well. The Local Food movement maintains that fruit, vegetables, meat, and dairy, if produced and consumed in season and within a few hundred miles of their harvest, are healthier for individuals and the planet. Beyond clocked food miles and fossil fuel calculations, anyone who’s tasted a juicy California peach or crisp Washington apple can tell you a thing or two about flavor!
“If you are looking for great taste and nutrition, secure local food, and an all-around solid long-term investment, you could do no better than to plant a tree with the potential of providing food for you, your children, and possibly your grandchildren.”
Avowed tree-lovers, these passionate and enthusiastic gardeners have put together a comprehensive guide to cultivating fruit trees specific to the Pacific coastal maritime climate—a region roughly extending from Vancouver, BC, to San Francisco, from the foothills to the ocean.
Chapters 1, 2, and 3 outline detailed cultural information beginning with hardiness, rootstocks, and chilling hours. That horticultural axiom, “right plant, right place,” counts even more when placing a tree that has the potential to produce for a generation or two. Planting, feeding, watering, pollination, pests, and disease are topics covered in simple, concise language. Pruning, perhaps the most intimidating task for all beginning tree fruit growers, gets a chapter all its own.
Subsequent chapters offer profiles of fruit trees that thrive in the Pacific maritime region. The familiar canon of apples and pears, citrus, and stone fruits is accompanied by fig, persimmon, and quince. Lesser-known fruits like mulberry, medlar, jujube, and loquat, are not forgotten and make the cut as well.
Detailed cultural information for each fruit tree profiled is followed by suggested varieties, or “best bets,” according to regional fruit tree experts whom Edwards and Olivella consulted in the course of their research, with the recommendations broken down zone by zone. But I won’t kid you: my favorite part of From Tree to Table, and what I think sets it apart from the next grow-this/prune-here title, are the cooking tips and recipes contributed by regional chefs and cookbook authors. Listed fruit by fruit are tasty instructions for creating apple cinnamon scones with maple glaze or a fresh green salad topped with grilled, prosciutto-wrapped peaches. The culinary how-to sets my mouth watering.
Whether you’re looking to grow your own food or simply choosing a tree for your landscape, pick up a copy of From Tree to Table and discover the many delicious possibilities.
Lorene Edwards Forkner, garden writer