Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Healthy Summer Eating


Last week I ran over a few thoughts on the raspberry and strawberry for a true taste of Scottish summer. This week I will also include others a bit less popular, but definitely far more healthier.
My only omission will be rhubarb as it is not a fruit, but we use it as such in jams, crumbles, and stewed for puddings and it ranks as high as most others as a delicious health product.

                                                    New SCRI Glen Fyne rasps

Black, red and white currants

These fruits are very high in both vitamin C and anti oxidants. Ben Connan, Ben Lomond and Ben Dorain the latest newcomer, were all bred at the Scottish Crops Research Institute and are heavy croppers and disease resistant. Blackcurrants make fantastic jam and are great in a summer pudding mixed with other soft fruits. If you have enough bushes and can spare the fruit, blackcurrants make a brilliant dessert wine.
Prune blackcurrants immediately after picking as this helps to ripen up the young shoots which will crop the following year.
I also grow Red Lake redcurrants and White Versailles white currants, though there are many more fine varieties. Red and white currants are excellent additions to summer puddings, or lightly stewed and sweetened for adding to morning muesli or Greek yoghurt with honey. They also make fantastic wine.


New varieties have emerged with resistance to mildew and SCRI hope to have a red fruited thornless variety available to the trade in a couple of years time.
Invicta is a superb dessert and cooking gooseberry, but picking is a nightmare. The bush will draw blood, but the fruit which is quite sweet, is heavenly eaten when ripe straight off the bush. Grow on a leg and remove all low growing branches too close to the ground and keep the centres open to assist picking.
Remove any sawfly caterpillars as soon as you spot them or they will very quickly defoliate the bush.


Blackberries are no longer a prickly problem when picking and pruning as most new cultivated types are thornless. They are perfect on a wall or shed or can be trained in rows along support wires. Flavour, fruit size and thornless stems as well as disease resistance has been bred into newer varieties such as Loch Tay and Loch Ness both from SCRI. Sweetness and aromatic flavour have been bred into Loch Maree, the latest newcomer.
I'd love to say they were my favourite, but Helen which crops in early August has seeds so small the fruit makes a perfect jam. No need to strain off the juice for making jelly.
Pruning to remove all the old fruiting wood can be done any time after fruiting, then tie in all the new young shoots which will fruit next year.


A mid to late summer soft fruit easy to grow if you have a moist but free draining acid soil or use containers with an ericaceous compost. Some varieties have very large fruit like the popular Bluecrop. Eat them fresh or in juices.
Soils can be made more acidic by incorporating leaf mould from pine woods and giving a dressing of sulphur chips. I give light dressings of acidic fertilisers such as sulphate of ammonia, sulphate of iron, and sulphate of potash.
They will need netting from birds during cropping.


Also known as Juneberry these fruiting forms of Amelanchier are the latest new fruit bush for a health conscious diet. They are high in vitamin C and many minerals as well as being very high in anti oxidants.
They are very easy to grow on most soils, have few pests or diseases and give a very heavy crop of black sweet berries great eaten fresh, or used in jams, yoghurt, pies, summer puddings and make an excellent wine.
I started picking my first berries in early July and will continue till the end of the month.
At present they are fairly unknown but becoming quite popular as word gets around. They will be on show at the Dundee Flower and Food Festival from 3rd to 5th September.
I have created a special Saskatoon page on my website detailing my experience with them over the last six years.

Other fruit

Figs grow and ripen perfectly in Dundee trained against a south wall though I have given my Brown Turkey variety a restricted root run in a sunken pit. My young bushes about four years old will give me about twenty delicious fruits in late summer.
Chokeberry, Aronia melanocarpa is grown very successfully around Dundee as our mild moist climate suits it perfectly. It is rated as one of the healthiest fruits on the planet, due to its very high levels of anti oxidants and vitamin C. However, although it is too astringent to be eaten raw it is perfect for blending into juices, smoothies and health drinks.
Goji berries are worth trying as a novelty, but they have been a bit over hyped with stories of living a very long life if you eat a lot of them daily. My two year old plants have still to show a berry, but I am patient. Grow them as a climber on a wall or fence.
Outdoor grapes are worth a try. I grow Brant on a south wall getting over one hundred small bunches of black sweet grapes every year. I keep growth in check with summer and winter pruning as they are very vigorous.
I am also trying other outdoor varieties on my allotment plot but as yet global warming at City Road allotment site has had no great impact.

In a later article I will mention my outdoor peach, plums, pears and apples.

Fruit for the Future

The Scottish Crops Research Institute held an open day on 15th July to show the direction and findings of recent research with raspberries, blackcurrants, blueberries and brambles.
Studies have started on berry crops on the effects of global warming which reduces the chilling time during winter dormancy. A cold period is necessary for most fruit otherwise flowering capacity is reduced the following year.
A programme of blueberry breeding is underway to find varieties suitable for Scottish conditions, having large healthy fruit, free from pest and diseases fruiting over as long a period as possible so local growers can meet a huge market demand which at present is met with imports.
New varieties of raspberries have large sweet fruit with an aromatic flavour cropping over a longer season. In a tasting session the varieties Glen Fyne and Glen Magna were absolutely delicious.


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