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Gumi; Cherry Elaeagnus (Elaeagnus multiflora)

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Harvest & Use
The fruit is juicy and slightly astringent. A mature plant can produce up to 15 lbs. of berries. The mourning dove and northern mockingbird nest in Elaeagnus species (Ortho: 32-33).
Appearance
Fruit is scarlet with silver specks, about half an inch wide, dangling from short stems. Flowers are drooping bells, cream colored, solitaire, and fragrant. The dark oval leaves average two inches in length, with hoary silver highlights that a dark background, such as an evergreen, will accentuate.
Cultivation
Will tolerate soil pH from 4 to 8, some salinity, smog, and drought. The gumi is a tough and tubby bush, growing 8' wide and tall. Fruit is borne on new growth, so pruning will be productive. All sources say it is easier to propagate the gumi by cuttings than seed (although they don't say it is easy with cuttings).
Comment
Native to China, and cultivated in Japan for fruit, ornament, and bonsai.
Cultivars of Repute
* Sweet Scarlet: bush is described as slightly smaller than average.
* `Crispa', `Ovata' and `Rotundifolia' are also mentioned by various sources, but I couldn't find any indication of traits or purpose behind their breeding.
General References
[C= cultivation; R = recipes; L = lore; A = all]
* Bryan [A]
* Reich [C, L]
* Simmons [C, L]

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Hickory (Carya ovata; C. laciniosa)

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Harvest & Use
Hickory has high fuel value, and smoke from hickory wood gives meat a distinctive flavor. The wood is tough, and traditionally used where resistance to force is needed, such as wagon wheels. The tree adapts well to disturbed areas, such as strip mines. Nut shells are notoriously hard; soaking in hot water for 20 minutes supposedly facilitates shelling. Shagbark nuts are smaller, thicker-shelled, but higher rated, than shellbark nuts. Hickory nuts are a staple in the diet of New England black bears and the fox squirrel, and many other nut-eating mammals. Some game birds, such as the wood duck and wild turkey, also eat the nuts. Don't ask me how they crack the shells (ask the wood duck).
Appearance
A shaggy, heavily tiled bark distinguishes these trees. Average dimensions are 70' tall with a spread of 25', and a trunk diameter slightly under two feet. Much larger dimensions (double the average) are known under ideal conditions. Shagbark tends to achieve more height than shellbark hickory. Leaves are compound, with five (shagbark) or seven (shellbark) leaflets, six to nine inches long. Flowers are green catkins.
Cultivation
Pruning is only needed early in life, to establish a good structure. There is a deep taproot. Consistent with its ability to recolonize strip-mined land, hickory appears to tolerate high soil levels of lead and zinc. Hickory is rarely browsed by deer or livestock. Trees take four decades to begin bearing in commercial quantities; three-hundred year-old trees may still bear small crops.
Comment
Carya species belong to the walnut family. There are two common, nut producing species that go by the name "hickory"--"shagbark" and "shellbark". Shagbark is C. ovata, and best-rated for nut quality. The hickories and pecans hybridize naturally. Shagbark grows naturally over most of eastern North America, from southern Canada to eastern Texas, and occasionally in northern Mexico. It often grows as a climax species with oak. Native Americans were discovered cultivating small plantations of shellbark hickories.
Cultivars of Repute
* Shagbark hickory nuts earn better reviews than shellbark nuts.
* Some hickory-pecan crosses are sold.
* 'Dunbar' is a named hybrid of shagbark and shellbark hickory.

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Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis)

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Harvest & Use
The leaves and stalk-tips are pungent and somewhat bitter; harvest before flowering. They are sometimes used for tea and in liqueurs. Hyssop tea is an old country remedy for rheumatism and cough. Hyssop is more aromatic fresh than dried. Culinary recommendations are not abundant, and usually restricted to robust dishes such as potatos and bean. The flowers, more delicately flavored than the leaves and stems, sometimes make their way into salads. The fragrant (or "skunky") flowers attract bees; heated dispute rages over whether/when they attract butterflies.
Appearance
A finely textured shrub growing 16-24" high in upright form, with white, blue, or rose flowers that come in summer. Hyssop's often used as an edging and in rock gardens.
Cultivation
Hyssop develops fungal problems in humid climates, and isn't so cheerful in a really hot summer either. Light, dry, infrequently watered, soil is best. Otherwise it isn't fussy; ideal pH is 6.7. The plant tends to grow woody as it ages; pruning is supposed to keep the leaves young and tender. Propagation by division, cuttings, or seed.
Comment
Hyssop was popular in the Middle Ages. The Bible fequently refers to an herb called "hyssop", but that isn't what we call "hyssop" now--H. officinalis didn't grow in Biblical spacetime. According to the Catholic Encylopedia, most scholars who have pondered the matter conclude that the Biblical hyssop is Origanum maru. Origanum and Hyssopus belong to the Labiatae (mint) family. Many species of the Hyssopus genus, and a number of other plants go by the name "Hyssop", so always check the botanical name when naming matters.
Cultivars of Repute
There are rumors of a dwarf variety, also of varieties with pink or white flowers.

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Jostaberry (Ribes nidigrolaria)

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Harvest & Use
The jostaberry usually yields about 12 lbs of fruit, ripening in late June or July. I like them fresh, but everybody raves about them as preserves. The berry is high in vitamin C; it freezes well.
Appearance
The jostaberry favors its black currant parent. It is an upright, thornless shrub, vigorously growing 6-10' tall. The flowers are pretty, but so dinky you have to peer up close to appreciate them.
Cultivation
The jostaberry probably has the same environmental needs as the black currant, except it may tolerate heat slightly better. It grows vigorously. Frost damages the flowers, which can be a problem because the plant blooms early in spring. Most of the fruit forms on two or three year old wood. The jostaberry resists various mildews better than most Ribes species.
Comment
Jostaberry (R. nidigrolaria) is a new "invention," and little is known about it. It was invented by the German, Rudolf Bauer. It can be espaliered. Another hybrid of black currant and gooseberry is Orus 8, which favors its gooseberry parent: It is thorned, slower growing than the jostaberry. Orus 8 leafs out early in spring, and frost has little effect on production; its fruit is mediorce for fresh eating--small, thick-skinned, pulpy--but may be okay for preserves. (There's an Orus 10 in the works.)
General References
[C= cultivation; R = recipes; L = lore; A = all]
* Reich [C, L]

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Jujube; Chinese Date (Ziziphus jujuba)

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Harvest & Use
The date-like fruits may be picked under-ripe, at the cost of sweetness. The taste is somewhere between a dried apple and a date; more like an apple in the early stages of ripeness, more like a date in its wrinkled, later stages. At one time, an oil was extracted from the kernel in southern India. Ideal storage temperature is between 40-50 F.
Appearance
The leaves are oval, no more than two inches long, and glossy green turning yellow in fall; branches are spiny, and slightly weeping. The plant suckers aggressively, and the suckers have thorns. The fruit is mahogany, about 1 1/2" long. Jujube trees tend to lose their thorns with age.
Cultivation
The jujube is only partly self-fertile: cross-pollination increases productivity. The jujube must have very hot summers to fruit, and in fact there seems to be no such thing as too much heat for a jujube. It tolerates alkaline soil, salinity, and drought. The inconspicuous flowers come late; pollinators seem to be wind and insects other than bees. The trees send up aggressive, thorny suckers which need to be controlled, e.g. by mowing.
Comment
The jujube is native to Asia, and the Chinese have developed hundreds of cultivars over the past four milennia. The Chinese often make bowls for the game wei-chi (usually called "go", in English) from jujube wood. It came to Rome from Syria during the reign of Augustus, and subsequently spread throughout the southern regions of the Roman empire. Simmons alludes to a rumor that Christ's crown of thorns was fashioned from jujube branches.
Cultivars of Repute
* Chico: top-rated fruit; ripens late.
* Lang: top-rated fruit; fewer spines than most; ripens mid-season.
* Li: top-rated fruit; more upright form than average; ripens early.
* Silverhill: average fruit quality, high reliability; fewer thorns than most; ripens late.
* So: a semi-dwarf with an ornamental, zig-zagging branch pattern; ripens mid-season.
General References
[C= cultivation; R = recipes; L = lore; A = all]
* Reich [C, L]
* Simmons [C, L]

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Kiwi, Arctic Beauty (Actinidia kolomitka)

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Harvest & Use
Arctic beauty has the most vitamin C of any actinidia, over ten times as much as an orange per unit of weight. All kiwis are usually harvested while firm and allowed to ripen off the vine for a week or so (flavor is held to be superior when ripened off the vine). Store the fruit refrigerated in a plastic bag with stems attached (or can them).
Appearance
The fruit is under an inch in diameter, smooth-skinned, and can be eaten whole. The leaves are variegated pink and white, especially in the mature male; shade reduces the variegation.
Cultivation
Arctic beauty is less vigorous than the other kiwis, and can be successfully trained on a fence. All kiwis are intolerant of soggy soil. They climb by twining around vertical supports; they lack tendrils and do not climb up horizontal supports. All actinidias require a male (non-fruiting) pollinator within 30 ft; he can fertilize roughly 8 females at a time, but not without boasting. The pollinizer and pollinized may be different species, so long as their bloom-times overlap. New foliage and blooms come early in spring and are killed by freezes, so choose a site protected from low winter sun to delay premature growth. Actinidias are subject to crown rot when planted in soggy soil; the primary symptom is small, yellowish leaves. Soil pH between 5 and 6.5 is recommended. The fruit will burn if unshaded in hot summer areas and deserts. Actinidias occasionally interest cats like catnip, usually to the detriment of the plant. Propagation is usually by softwood cuttings and grafting.
Comment
The genus actinidia has 3 good-fruiting species: A. deliciosa (the common kiwifruit, and least hardy), a. arguta ("hardy kiwi"), and a. kolomikta ("arctic beauty," hardy to -40 F). All originated in Asia, probably the hills and mountains of southwest China, where they climb into trees and bushes. Most arctic beauty breeding has been carried out in Russia, as the names of the cultivars attest.
Cultivars of Repute
* Krupnopladnaya: largest fruit.
* Matovya: earliest ripening, high in vitamin C.
* Orozainaya: prolific, very sweet.
* Pautske: most vigorous.
General References
[C= cultivation; R = recipes; L = lore; A = all]
* Reich [C, L]

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Hickory Carya ovata; C. laciniosa Kiwi, Arctic Beauty Actinidia kolomitka