Most of us don’t think of homegrown fruit and vegetables as being plausible in the wintertime, but that’s not actually the case. There are many vegetables that thrive in the cold weather, and there are proven techniques for growing them without heated greenhouses. As for fruit, there are several fruit trees that aren’t harvested until late fall/early winter and some that hold fruit into the depths of winter.
The trick is to cultivate what works. Rather than concluding home-produced fresh fruit in the winter is not possible. We have to think beyond convention. That means we grow fruit trees that might not be the first we think of, and/or we might grow fruit trees in places we not immediately think of.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at some fruit trees that do, in fact, yield for wintertime harvests.
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The immediately thought for winter fruits should go to citrus. After all, December is the time when all those boxes of Cuties and bags of mandarins start overtake the produce section. It’s an exciting time for many, and it happens when it does because those fruits are in season. Now, the challenge with growing citrus in the cold is that they are semi-tropical fruits, usually unwilling to keep going below 25 degrees Fahrenheit. The good news is that many can be grown in containers, and that there are cold-hardy varieties.
Oranges, meaning larger sweet oranges as well as tangerines and mandarins and the whole collection of little fellas, are generally ripe for the winter harvest, even into January. The smaller, sweeter fruits like mandarins and tangerines are more cold-tolerant, surviving down into the low 20s. Dwarf varieties are also available and can be grown in pots, which can be moved to shelter for cold snaps.
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Lemons aren’t necessarily something we are excited to eat, but they do, however, show up in more recipes than any other citrus fruit. We use them often in the kitchen and in the teapot. So, they are worth growing. Several East Asian lemon varieties (Ichang, Tiwanica and Yuzu) survive down below the teens, and there are also popular potted choices like the Meyer, Eureka and Ponderosa.
Grapefruit is often overshadowed by oranges and lemons, but it is absolutely delicious and provides tasty juice to boot. Most grapefruits can survive into the mid-20s. As with the lemons and oranges, dwarf trees that can grow in pots are also available, though these aren’t as common. Grapefruits, like mandarins and tangerines, reach their peak at around Christmastime.
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But, citrus fruits aren’t the only fresh fruits available in the winter. Oddly, the next four on the list are often grown as ornamental plants, not necessarily as “fruit” trees. However, they produce tasty, nutritious food that can be harvested when homegrown crops are getting sparse. All of these are delicious and full of health benefits.
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Pomegranates are considered both bush shrubs and/or small trees. Like citrus, they can be grown in containers, moved in and out of shelter as needed. Pomegranates are another sub-tropical favorite and are in season through the fall and through most of the winter. These trees like arid climates and have been cultivated for thousands of years around the Mediterranean.
Persimmons and Sharon fruit (Oriental persimmons) are often overlooked because they don’t transport well when ripe and are ridiculously astringent (not delicious) when underdone. However, off the tree, at the right time (when soft), they are incredible. These are temperate trees and deal with the cold no problem. They are also beautiful and commonly planted for that reason alone.
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Hawthorne trees are often grown as ornamentals, but they have delicious, edible berries. (Note: The seeds, like apple seeds, are not edible and are slightly poisonous.) Hawthorne berries arrive in the fall, but as with persimmons, they can hang on until mid-winter. They aren’t a conventional treat, but they are a treat nonetheless.
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Mountain ash is another tree with edible berries that can be harvested in the winter. American mountain ash can be found in the wild throughout eastern North America, but as the name suggests, it doesn’t grow at low elevations. However, where they do grow, their fruits can be used to make tasty jams and jellies. The berries should be cooked before eating in order to break down small amounts of cyanide, which is in lots of foods we eat.
With these fruit trees yielding in the winter, as well as preserves from the summer and autumn, it is easy to have homegrown fruity goodness throughout the year in most places. Taking advantage of the seasonal production keeps our diets varied and interesting, as well as balanced and nutritious.
Lead Image Source: Leonid Ikan/Shutterstock