Easy Edibles for the California Central Coast Food Forest – Part 3
Thanks for joining me as I explore some of the many edible perennial plants that are great to include in food forests in the California Central Coast, San Francisco Bay Area and beyond. Check out Part 1 of the series if you’re just getting started or read on for more easy edibles!
Persimmon (Diospyros kaki) is a beautiful deciduous fruit tree. It has gorgeous green foliage in spring and summer, brilliant fall colors, and bright orange fruits that hold onto the bare branches in winter providing natural decoration for the holiday season.
Different varieties of persimmon are available. The squat Fuyu fruits are great for eating fresh, just slice and enjoy. Hachiya is ripe to eat fresh when it is totally soft, it also makes a great dried fruit. All soft persimmons are good for baking too – check out my Persimmon Muffins recipe or share your favorite persimmon recipe in the comments below. ‘Chocolate’ and ‘Coffee Cake’ are some other yummy cultivars to try.
Persimmon trees are adaptable and like full to part sun. They like regular water with well-draining soil and can tolerate drought once established. Cold hardy down to 0° F. Can reach 20-25′ tall and wide.
Feijoa aka Pineapple Guava (Acca sellowiana) is an evergreen shrub that can be trained as a small tree or screening hedge. It has lovely large white to pink succulent flowers with bright red centers. The petals are edible and sweet!
The flowers give way to green guava-like fruits that can reach the size of eggs and drop to the ground when ripe. The flavor is similar to guava with the added tang of pineapple, some varieties have been described as having a bubblegum-like flavor. Scoop out with a spoon or slice to eat fresh, add to juice, make into jam or chutney.
A very forgiving plant, can reach up to 20′ tall by 15′ wide with age and easily kept much smaller with pruning. Drought tolerant, will produce larger and more fruits with regular watering. Likes full sun to part-sun. Hardy to at least 20° F. Gophers tend to seek them out in my garden so I plant them in gopher baskets for protection. Plant more than 1 for increased fruit production.
Macadamia Nut (Macadamia integrifolia x tetraphylla) is an excellent evergreen nut tree for the Coastal California food forest. Hybrid Macadamia trees such as the ‘Beaumont’ cultivar are well suited for coastal central and southern California.
Produces spectacular clusters of fragrant cream to pink flowers in the spring followed by sought after macadamia nuts. The nuts fall to the ground when ripe, and a tarp can be lain under the tree for ease of harvest. Squirrels love these nuts too and are the biggest issue I have with obtaining a yield.
Trees can reach 30-40′ tall and wide with age and planting more than 1 can help increase production. Mature trees can withstand temperatures down to 24° F, though flowers may be killed in weather below 28° F. Protect young trees from frost. They like regular water and are drought tolerant once established.
Silverberry and Goumi Berry (Elaeagnus spp.) are evergreen to semi-deciduous shrubs that produce reddish drupe fruits. They are astringent until very ripe, at which point they taste similar to cherry with a jelly-like texture. These fruits can be eaten fresh when ripe, cooked into jellies or pie fillings, and blended into ice creams and sorbets. Many Elaeagnus species are nitrogen-fixers, meaning they are able to produce their own nitrogen (a macronutrient essential for plant growth) thanks to a symbiotic relationship with a beneficial bacteria in their roots.
Goumi Berry (Elaeagnus multiflora) ‘Red Gem’ and ‘Sweet Scarlet’ are tasty cultivars that make small fruits great for snacking in the garden. ‘Catherine’s Find’ is an Elaeagnus variety that has been shared through the California Rare Fruit Growers, it makes sweet fruits that are much larger than most goumi berries. Russian Olive Elaeagnus angustifolia should not be planted in California as it is considered a moderately invasive plant here.
Elaeagnus usually grows as a small shrub reaching about 5′-8′ tall. They are very hardy and can survive temperatures to 0° F. Elaeagnus shrubs can tolerate sun to part-shade. They like good drainage and regular water but are tolerant of many soil types, wind and drought. Plant more than 1 variety for increased fruit production.
Stay tuned for more easy edible perennials!