R. Wayne Mezitt is a third-generation nurseryman, a Massachusetts Certified Horticulturist, and Chairman of Weston Nurseries, Inc. located in Hopkinton and Chelmsford, MA. Wayne has served as president of the Massachusetts Nursery and Landscape Association, New England Nursery Association, and American Nursery and Landscape Association, which is based in Washington, DC.
Wayne is the horticultural consultant for GrowingWisdom.com with Dave Epstein.
A few weeks ago I was visiting with friends, enjoying some tomatoes and cucumbers I’d grown. One of them asked me a tough question: are these vegetables or fruits, and how do they differ. That’s not simple to answer. Botanically, because they mature from the flower of the plant, many of the foods we generally refer to as vegetables would technically be fruits – those tomatoes and cucumbers for example. But it’s certainly incorrect to classify an apple as a vegetable. In any case, for our taste buds, technical classifications like these are really of minor consequence.
Many of us maintain vegetable gardens and grow a fruit tree or two. And because so many types of apple, pear, plum and peach trees are readily available at garden centers, some of us actually have an area we use as an orchard. Working with Horticulture and Food (actually it’s the eating part) are two of my favorite activities. It surprises me that more people don’t take advantage of the fruit-producing capacity of plants in the landscapes around their homes. A goodly number of the so-called “ornamental” (I prefer the term “environmental”) trees, shrubs and vines that are commonly used for beautifying our homes also produce crops of fruit as a gastronomic bonus:
Trees and larger shrubs:
- Apple, some crabapple and cherry trees
- Dogwood – (Cornus mas and kousa)
- Fig, lemon, olive and orange trees (for you Southerners)
- Juneberry and shadbush (Amelanchier)
- Nut trees –chestnut, filbert, hickory, walnut
- Pear, persimmon (Diospyros), plum and quince trees
Smaller shrubs and groundcovers:
- Beachplum (Prunus maritima)
- Blueberries, both low- and highbush, cranberry and mountain cranberry (Vaccinium)
- Elderberry (Sambucus – ripe berries make a nice jam)
- Juniper – use the fruit of some types (actually it’s a cone!) for flavoring
- Rose (large edible hips on some varieties)
- Vines: grapes of all types, hops, Kiwi (Actinidia) and passionflower.
If multiple-use gardens spark an interest in you, here’s a recent book that puts edible landscaping into a wider perspective: Edible Forest Gardens by Dave Jacke. Whatever your level of interest, this is a great time of year to enjoy the fresh bounty from our vegetable gardens – and it’s also a perfect opportunity to explore the concept and add more edibles to your home landscape.