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Fruit Trees As Your Low Cost Sustainable Food Solution

As more people look towards creating sustainable food solutions, fruit trees are receiving a lot more attention as a cost effective means of optimizing home-garden production.  With the capability of yielding hundreds of pounds of fruit each year over the course of one or two decades, a fruit tree may provide the best return on land space for your garden.  By selecting the right varieties and rotating the harvest times, it’s possible to have an abundance of fruit available for eating and juicing all year long.

Depending on the variety, fruit trees can be purchased for as little as $30 for a dwarf tree, to over $100 for semi-dwarf trees. For people who are looking to maximize their available growing space, the cost of adding fruit trees can add up quickly.  With a little research, exploration, and creativity, it may be possible to reduce your fruit-tree seedling outlay significantly.

Go Wild

Every region of the country has indigenous fruit trees that grow wild. In the southeast it’s Paw Paw trees. In the northern regions it’s wild apples and wild mulberry.  In many regions of the country persimmon trees sprout in the wild.  Your local forest service would have information on plants and trees that grow wild in the area.

As an example, in the northwest, you may live in a region where wild pear trees grow.  They can produce an abundance of tart, apple-like fruit that stays edible throughout the growing season.  They pollinate by their own seed so it’s likely you will see them growing in groups. It is also very likely that you will see some small trees and seedlings growing nearby.

The key is to do some research to narrow down the specific areas where they thrive.  It is also recommended that you study the characteristics of the tree so you will know one when you see it.  Plus, it is important to know when the tree goes dormant, as this is the time to remove the tree.  If you spot some seedlings while on a hike during the growing season, you can simply mark the spot so that you can return during the dormant season.

For small trees, you can wipe the roots clean of any dirt and then place the tree in a container of water to bring back home.  It is recommended that  the trees be replanted while they are still in their dormant time, no later than the beginning of the spring season.

Buy Internet Trees

Many of the larger nurseries offer online specials that can reduce your costs significantly, especially if they are purchased in bulk.  Recently, Nature Hills promoted a 40% off coupon on their already reduced prices. During this time, it was possible to buy some perennial fruit trees for less than $20 for four or more trees.

Another great site is Arborday.org where, for a small membership fee, you can search for many types of fruit trees.  The average cost is between $10 and $12 and you can search by growing zone to ensure you find trees that do well in your region.

Check Your State’s Forest Service Nursery

Each state has its own Forest Service nursery that offers locally adapted seedlings to state residents.  In some states, websites for these state nurseries offer sales on local varieties, but it is hit-or-miss as to whether there will be any fruit trees among them.  You may lucky enough to live in a state, such as New Hampshire, where they still give away trees for free.

Grow Free Trees from Your Local Market

Growing fruit trees from the pits of fruits such as peaches and apricots has always been an option for anyone with the time and inclination to do so.  While the price may be right, there is some work involved in growing a tree that bears fruit from a pit.  But, it can be done.

The tricky part is preparing the pit for planting.  It’s a relatively easy procedure that begins with taking the pit from the fruit and drying it. With care, the pit is cracked open and the seeds are retrieved. The seeds then need to be placed in the refrigerator to allow them to sprout. Then, during the dormant period, the seedling can be planted.

One of the problems with growing trees from pits is that you never really know what you’re going to get as they can produce a hybrid that you weren’t expecting.  It’s recommended that you plant several seedlings per growing space to see which ones will take.

In summary, growing a fruit tree orchard can be an extremely rewarding solution for anyone with the desire to produce sustainable food.  It doesn’t happen overnight, and there is some sweat equity involved.  The good news is that you don’t have to break the bank to do it.

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© 2008-2014 Off The Grid News

7 comments

  1. Better than just fruit trees are nut trees, you can eat acorns , if blanched or steeped to remove the tannins. Our Ag industry is bass ackward. Tree farming is the way to go. You can harvest nuts and fruits year after year from trees without plowing,and graze livestock under them also. The return of “eats” is as great or greater without any effort ie; plowing, weeding, planting, using gas or deisel or oil based bug killers or fertilisers! Seems like a no brainer but it has lost favor in the last century or so. We are not being smart about how we get eats!

  2. I have apple and pear trees in my yard….but have only been able to enjoy them once bug-free. How do I get edible fruits without toxic sprays?

    • sghender,
      You might try a product by Bonide, All Seasons Horticultural Spray. It’s pretty safe and effective, and one hates to see the bugs get all the harvest. Good luck!

  3. We purchased and moved to a home on a large plot of land, for an urban area. We have been identifying each plant for usefulness and have already pulled out several trees to be replaced with fruit or nut bearing.

    Today a master gardner finally identified a beautiful citrus tree with fruit that is so bad it will numb your tongue on contact, but it is beautiful. It is a Lakeland Limequat, a cross between a Kumquat and a Key Lime.

    HELP, are there any uses for this inedible fruit besides decorative? Something with the rind only? Any suggestions or it this beautiful looking tree destined to be uprooted too?

    • Have you tried watering the juice down? Perhaps using it in recipes where you can use a lot less of the juice than normally called for. Another thing is proper care of the tree. If it had been left to grow however it wished without proper pruning and nutrients, it’s flavor might have been affected. Changing it’s soil composition to something better suited to it or pruning it down might alter it’s taste to something a bit more manageable.

    • Limequat Curd (Or Any Citrus Curd)
      Adapted from a recipe from Chef Laura Gershuni
      (Makes approximately 2 cups)

      3 large eggs
      2/3 cup limequat juice (or other citrus juice)
      2 Tbsp limequat zest (or other citrus zest)
      1 cup sugar
      4 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
      pinch salt

      In a stainless steel bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water, whisk together the eggs, sugar and juice until blended. Cook, stirring constantly to prevent curdling, until the mixture becomes thick, (about 10 minutes).

      Remove from heat. Whisk butter pieces into the mixture, one at a time until the butter has melted. Mix in zest and a pinch of salt. Cover immediately with plastic wrap to prevent a “skin” from forming and refrigerate. (The curd will continue to thicken as it cools).

      1Wash kumquats and limequats (untreated) thoroughly under water and filet the orange. Slice both kumquats & limequats thinly, remove small seeds. Leave about one third (of the slices) or per your preference intact, puree the rest together with the orange filets. Add slices, puree and juice into a pot. In case larger amounts are used, make sure the pot is only filled half way (prevents it from boiling over).

      2For the sugar I chose the 1plus1 type (1 part sugar used with 1 part fruit) to make sure the outcome was not too bitter. Add the sugar and the vanilla bean (scraped out seeds and shell) to the pot and bring the mix to a boil rapidly, while stirring. When it begins to bubble vigorously, let boil for another 4-5 minutes. As the mixture thickens, keep stirring to prevent sticking.

      3Normally I would pay close attention to sterilizing the jam jars (washed empty jars with screw lids) with boiling water…however, since I knew the small jam jar wasn’t going to last more than 2 days I generously skipped that part.

      4Pour boiling hot jam into jars, cover and allow to cool down for a few hours.

      When shopping for limequats, choose fruits that are firm and fragrant. The color can range from bright yellow to orange-y yellow to green. Store limequats at room temperature for a few days or in a bag in the refrigerator for up to a couple of weeks

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