Book Review

Uncommon Fruits For Every Garden

by Lee Reich

Published by Timber Press, Portland, OR. 308 pp, 51 color photos, 29 line drawings, 6" x 9", hardcover, ISBN 0- 88192-623-X. $24.95. May 2004
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Reviewed by Lon Rombough (7/2004)

If you aren't familiar with Lee Reich’s earlier book, Uncommon Fruits Worthy of Attention, the new book is a sequel as well as an update to it. If you have seen the first book, you'll probably notice that the jacket on Uncommon Fruits for Every Garden is much more eye-catching. In fact, the overall quality of the new book is a definite step up. It has a section of color photos not seen in the first, has better-quality paper, and the printed pages look sharper.

The list of fruits in this work includes Juneberry, Beach Plum, Alpine and Musk Strawberry, Pawpaw, Raisin tree, Lingonberry, Actinidia, Mulberry, Persimmons, Eleagnus, Gooseberry, Maypop, Che, Black Currant, Nanking Cherry, Cornelian Cherry, Red and White Currants, Asian Pear, Jostaberry, Lowbush Blueberry, Jujube, Shipova and Medlar. The author’s favorites are fairly apparent. For instance, if one notices the amount of detail on currants and gooseberries, it’s obvious he loves them. But the book isn't merely descriptions and cultural information; Dr. Reich always researches the background of each fruit and gives a good piece of history that adds interest. Knowing what publishers require, Reich did an admirable job of getting a lot of information into the space allotted.

Having grown or worked with all of the fruits in the book, I'm aware of information that I didn't see. But no grower should have problems because of this.

It is definitely advisable to read the book carefully, so as to get all the little details that are included—like the potential of Eleagnus to be a weed, or the need for young pawpaws to be shaded.

Dr. Reich’s results with various fruits may not be the same for everyone. For example, in New York, where he lives, he gets big crops of Prunus tomentosa, but in the Pacific Northwest, where I live, the species is vulnerable to our cold, wet springs, which bring on disease that attacks blossoms and blasts twigs. In summer, new shoots grow out and look wonderful, but the cycle repeats every year. I had Nanking cherries for ten years and never got a fruit.

When I tried Shipova, an apparent hybrid of pear and Mountain Ash, it had little of the flavor the author ascribes to it. I noted one burst of an unusual perfumed quality in the first bite, then just neutral sweetness. Nor is fruit set heavy, especially since it isn’t known exactly what will pollinate it well. In my area, I’d have to characterize it as an interesting ornamental that might produce a small amount of edible fruit.

Jostaberries produced for me; however, they cracked badly and dropped.

But these, and a few others, are merely cases of “your mileage may vary.” A big help with this is the large number of varieties identified in the book, enough to give you plenty of ideas about what may be best suited to your local climate and conditions.

I recommend enjoying this book and learning from it. It is a great one for fruit lovers because it lists more fruits to love.

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