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In my last post I highlighted 2 edible ground covers: strawberries and lingonberries. Both are delicious, popular in jams, sauces, baked goods and are nutrient rich foods.

Today I would like to suggest blueberries, maybe the low bush variety and cranberries as two more edible fruits to add to our landscapes.

1. Cranberries: Vaccinium species,  Cranberries are native to North America. The early settlers recognized them and used them for food because they resembled lingonberries found in the northern regions of Europe.

I was born and raised in New England. I have family who live on a cranberry bog. In the summer the bog is flooded to make harvest easier. These “ponds” create a beautiful back ground for their back yard viewing. Once harvested the pond is emptied, leaving heather like plants in the emptied pond-like space.

Water flooding is not necessary; They can grow in well drained beds like blueberries. Like blueberries they need a moist, acidic soil. Once planted these plants require little or no care.

Full sun; moist acidic soil

plant 1-2′ apart; self fertilize

Many of our Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners have cranberries featured on the menu. Its one of my favorite holiday treats. However, as I read labels, I was disappointed to see high fructose corn syrup or HFCS added to popular brands.There are many reports and studies that point to the potential harmful effects of eating HFCS and its possible link to the increase in diabetes and obesity. What are the health benefits of cranberries? Remember, by themselves cranberries are tart and we often add  a sweetener to render them more palatable. They do have calories because of the added sugar. Unsweetened cranberries are very low in calories.

Cranberries are a good source of vitamin C, fiber and vitamin E.1

Vitamin C – a powerful natural antioxidant capable of blocking some of the damage caused by free radicals, as well as boosting the body’s resistance against infectious agents, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Sailors once carried cranberries aboard their ships to avoid scurvy because of their high vitamin C content.

Fiber– According to the Department of Internal Medicine and Nutritional Sciences Program of the University of Kentucky, high fiber intakes are associated with significantly lower risks for developing coronary heart diseasestrokehypertension,diabetesobesity, and certain gastrointestinal diseases. Increased fiber intake has also been shown to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, improve insulin sensitivity, and enhance weight loss for obese individuals.

Vitamin E – a fat-soluble antioxidant involved in immune function that may help prevent or delay the chronic diseases associated with free radicals.2

Cranberries also contain vitamin K, manganese and a large array of phytonutrients, naturally occurring plant chemicals that help to protect the body from harmful free radicals and offer anti-inflammatory and cancer-preventing properties.1″

2. Blueberries: Vaccinium species: I have to admit that blueberries are one of my favorite fruits. Pick your own farms usually have a couple of varieties often plump and juicy. I have also foraged wild blueberries that were simply delicious. Pastel pink berries turn to powder blue then navy blue, colors I often associate with Cape Cod, Mass.

This year consider low bush blueberries for your edible landscape . They grow well in acidic soil like rhododendrons and azaleas and with enough sunlight can be great additions next to azaleas or their relatives filling in spaces in a hedge or shrubby area.

Prefer:Moist acidic soil: pH 4-5; some varieties tolerate higher pH; check with your nursery.

They do require a two year plan.

Click on the link provided to get the University of Maine’s recommendations for planting low bush blueberries.

On a health note, berries provide vitamin C and are usually high in antioxidants. Blueberries and their cousin, bilberry were given to pilots in England in WWII to help with night vision. Hence the association with blueberries and bilberries as antioxidant protection for eye structures. All berries contain trace minerals and fiber and make a healthy delicious addition to our diet

Four ground covers to consider for this years gardens: alpine strawberry, lingonberry, cranberry and blueberry. Placing food sources in between some of our favorite shrubs, trees, beds creates sustainable landscapes that not only feed us but provide habitat and food for wildlife. Also they are easy to maintain which for me means they are not fussy or time consuming. I have given you links to a couple of sources for organic plants. Just click on the links above. Enjoy shopping and garden design.

 

Any favorite recipes? I would especially enjoy a cranberry relish with minimum or no added sugar. Thanks.

Enjoy your day. Judith

 

 

 

 

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