Tuesday, November 20

Juicy, fruity, berry delicious

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Celebrate World Food Day on Tuesday by considering how this fruit can boost your nutrient requirements

Berries are low in calories, rich in fibre and vitamins, and in cancer-fighting antioxidants that boost your immune system. The worldwide demand for health-giving berries continues to grow, fresh or frozen, in juices, jams, yoghurt, breakfast and baked goods.

Against the backdrop of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation Address, in which he called on agriculture to grow the country’s economy and jobs, local blueberry growers, OZBlu, launched the OZBlu Academy to train disadvantaged South Africans in blueberry production.

Blueberries

Blueberries thrive in well-drained acidic soil in full sun or semi-shade. Picture: Lucas Otto

Blueberries have one of the highest anti-oxidant properties and the demand for them grows annually.

The majority of blueberries grown commercially in the Western Cape are exported, with the remainder sold locally as fresh fruit or as frozen fruit, juice or in ice-cream, yoghurt, snacks and baked goods.

Blueberry plants are available in local garden centres. Plant blueberries in full sun or lightly filtered shade and in well-drained acidic soil with a pH of 4.5 to 5.5.

If your soil is alkaline, grow in containers in slightly acid, composted mix. Plant in raised beds if soil is poorly drained. Plants will die in waterlogged soil.

Avoid damage to roots when removing from the nursery container. Mulch after planting with pine bark or pine needles. Water regularly, especially when the bush is in flower. Rain water is best. Do not use grey water as this may raise the pH of the soil.

Newer cultivars have been developed for milder regions. Some are self-fertile so they do not need another plant for cross-pollination. In late spring fertilise with a liquid fertiliser.

Blueberries flower at the end of winter with small bell-shaped white-pink flowers. Berries are ripe when they can be easily twisted off the stems. After harvesting, plants will drop their leaves. Give a light pruning, cutting back thin stems.

“Star” is an early bearer; “Legacy” tolerates mild winters and bears fruit mid-season. “Sharp Blue” is self-pollinating, suits mild winters, has a long picking season and is recommended by Blue Delite Nursery for home growers.

Goji berries

Goji berries, or wolfberries (Lycium barbarum and L. chinense) originated in China, where they have been used in traditional medicine for 2000 years. They are rich in vitamins, fibre and minerals and are known as a “superfruit”.

Grow in full sun in well-drained, composted alkaline soil with a pH between 7.0 and 8.2. Goji plants have deep roots and flexible canes suitable for growing on a fence or trellis. They are cold and drought-hardy once established. Purple flowers appear in late spring or early summer followed by small, oval, bright red-orange berries. Berries are only edible when harvested ripe and are mainly sold dried.

Give an organic fertiliser every second month. Prune canes during the dormant season to encourage branching. Avoid goji berries if you have low blood sugar, low or high blood pressure or are on a blood thinner.

Strawberries

Strawberries need six hours of sunshine a day in well-drained soil, which must not dry out. Picture: Kay Montgomery

Strawberries don’t meet the definition of a berry that has a seed or seeds on the inside. Strawberries produce their seeds on the outside of the fruit and are considered “aggregate fruit”.

Strawberries need six hours of sun a day and well-drained soil with generous amounts of compost incorporated. Where soil is poorly drained, grow strawberries in raised beds or in pots. Strawberry pots have holes around the sides of the pot.

Strawberries need regular watering. Mulch with straw to retain moisture in soil and discourage weeds. Feed every six to eight weeks with a liquid organic fertiliser.

Tomatoes

Strawberries and tomatoes can be grown in pots for summer harvests. Picture: Papicselect

Nothing can equal the taste of a ripe tomato picked fresh from the garden, and just a few plants will provide for a family’s needs.

Botanically, a tomato is a fruit. However, the tomato is considered a “culinary vegetable” because of its savoury flavour and because it has a much lower sugar content than culinary fruits. It is typically served as part of a salad or a main course, rather than as a dessert.

Tomatoes need sun and soil rich in organic matter. Plant seedlings deep in the soil with the top four leaves above the surface as this helps develop a strong root system. A layer of mulch will keep the soil cool, conserve moisture and discourage weeds.

Water the root area thoroughly and regularly, avoiding water on leaves. Fertilise with a specially formulated tomato fertiliser according to instructions. For the best flavour, allow tomatoes to ripen on the vine.

Tomato fruit can be grown on two types of tomato plants.

* Short plants: Tomatoes are determinate if they produce a flower cluster at the terminal growing point that causes the plant to stop growing in height.

* Tall plants: Plants that continue to grow indefinitely are known as indeterminate and need to be grown up a trellis or wigwam.

Before adding new food to your diet, check with your doctor, especially if you are taking a blood thinner.

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