I’ve been known to sample just about any fruit or berry that I find in the garden or the neighboring woods that looks good enough to eat, so long as I’m confident it won’t kill me. I steer clear of pokeweed (below) and others that suspiciously look like they might be poisonous, but others must be okay or they’ve been consumed in small enough doses that I’m still here. Of course, your mother warned about dimwits like me, so you’re advised to obey her and not to follow my lead.
I’ve plucked more than a few mulberries and blackberries from the dense thicket that borders the garden, and I don’t expect anyone would argue that there’s any harm in this. In recent years I’ve been forced to chop out a small grove of weedy mulberry trees that arched too far over into the garden, bridging the gap so that an invasive Oriental bittersweet vine (below) became tangled in the uppermost branches of the lovely ‘Elizabeth’ magnolia. Plenty of smaller mulberries remain, but these are too shaded for now to produce fruit.
The bittersweet was chopped out, and though it didn’t give up without a fight, suckers from the roots have been controlled so that it appears I’m winning the battle to eradicate it from the thicket. Now, a week ago, I noticed fruit on one of the many grapevines that have spread through the brambles and seedling trees. And, once I paid more attention, the vine had spread to cover several small trees at the corner by the street. I’m afraid that I can’t identify a native grapevine from one of the invasives, but from cursory research I’ve decided this is a native and it will stay. In fact, the vine is not on my property, and at the moment it’s far enough on the other side of the thicket that the magnolia is in no danger.
Like the bittersweet, the the trunk of the grapevine (below) becomes thick enough, and the vine is anchored sufficiently into the upper limbs of trees that it is nearly impossible to remove. The bittersweet was removed almost completely from the tree canopy because it was hopelessly tangled into the five or six mulberries that were taken down. The mulberries and the thick trunked vine were cut, and the entire mess tumbled down. Since I’m doing nothing with the grapevine, I suspect it will overwhelm a few trees in its path, but these aren’t my trees, and I’m not nearly as concerned as with the bittersweet that it will become a neighborhood pest.
Since this was the first time that I’ve seen fruit on any of the grapevines, of course I had to sample one, and incredibly I chomped on a small fruit without considering for a moment that it would not be seedless. So, the hard seed came as a shock. And then the fruit was bitter, which was not such a surprise, but I questioned whether the one I sampled was sufficiently ripe, so another and another were tried. Yes, I decided, the fruit is bitter, and with a big seed in a small fruit there’s hardly any reason to go back for more.
At one time I planted a purple leafed grape to climb up into one of the garden’s arbors, but that was a while ago, and I suspect it was too shady, so the vine didn’t last. I don’t think it ever made it to the point where the grape had fruit, though pretty much every time I recall such a story my wife corrects me and points out that my memory is failing miserably and the truth is completely the opposite of what I’ve claimed. In fact, I don’t think my memory (or attention to detail) was ever very good, but I know for certain that the grape is long gone, and I doubt she knows I ever planted one, so on this story I think I’m in the clear.
Another semi edible fruit is on the way in the garden. I say semi edible because it’s difficult for me to determine when the egg shaped fruit of the passionflower vine (above) is ripe, and a year or two ago I waited and waited until it began to turn soft, and one day it was gone. I don’t know if it was ripe or if it became too heavy and fell off, but I don’t think it just fell and rolled away. I suspect it fell and one of the overnight visitors to the garden made off with it. Perhaps I’ll keep an closer eye on this one.