Hello and Welcome! This week’s Tendrils is a special edition, focusing on the wondrous world of the edible hedge (sometimes known as fedges – fruiting hedges or food hedges). I’m trying to come up with some hedgerow vegetables, so I can call them hedgetables, but I’m still working on that one. It has been a long week 😉
The blackberries may be over (almost – 10th October is the day the devil spits on the blackberries and renders them inedible), but the haws are out, and there are crab apples, and the sloe harvest is round the corner…. It’s a feast for wildlife and foragers, and adding an edible hedge to your garden is a low-maintenance way to feast on perennial fruits (and hedgetables!) whilst providing an impenetrable boundary (which can be spiky, if necessary!). (For more about blackberries, check out (B)eat your weeds: brambles and Write Club: a ramble about the bramble.)
I’m in the planning stages of adding an edible hedge zone to my Sunset Strip garden, which is right along the pavement and currently just has a small picket fence. I’ve grown potatoes and shark’s fin melon out there this year, and none of it has been bothered by passers-by. I haven’t quite conquered the weeds, though, so there’s still work to be done. But I need a home for my hazels and my sloe, for the balloon berries and the gojis. For my little plum that I grew from seed, for an aronia and a crab apple. I’d love a Szechuan pepper, a Rugosa rose (or a dog rose), a Japanese quince and a pheasant berry. I’m not sure there’s room for all of those (especially as we’d also like a rhubarb forest), we’ll have to see.
Anyway… the edible hedge. The lazy gardener’s approach to foraging 😉 Plus, we’re not all lucky enough to live near the ample hedges of the countryside. Hugh Fearnly-Whittingstall was writing in the Guardian about this time four years ago, celebrating the Haw (the fruit of the Hawthorn (usually Crataegus monogyna) in the UK) in Where the wild things are:
“Brambles are actually one of the earlier fruits of the hedgerow crop, delightful, juicy harbingers of the colourful and delicious harvest to come.
He gets points for using harbinger in a positive light, as well as for sharing Pam Corbin’s recipe for Haw-sin sauce. If you take the time to read the article then keep at it to the end – there’s a correction that’s worth reading 😉
Alys Fowler adds variety choices and growing instructions, plus a rough and ready recipe for haw ketchup in the pithily-titled haws. This is possibly not a topic to discuss in public with your deaf aunty….
The Telegraph has visited the topic of the edible hedge at least twice. The late, great Elspeth Thompson explained how to grow your own edible hedge in October 2009. Her reasons for planting an edible hedge? She mentions the growing popularity of foraging, and increasing competition in the best spots. “A liking for making jams and syrups and hedgerow tipples was one of the reasons that led me to this wild coastal stretch of Sussex eight years ago.”
Mark Diacono’s update a few years later brings us edible hedges and vertical allotments, although ‘linear orchard’ is possibly more evocative. “In an ideal world, the hedge would also allow our cats through but not anyone else’s. Alas.”
Mark also champions unusual fruits to grow in your garden, which would make ideal additions to your edible hedge. Chilean guava, blue honeysuckle and Japanese wineberries are his choices, because they all fruit at different times and offer harvests from May right through into November. My Chilean guavas are providing some edible hedge goodness in the front garden; I’ve given my Japanese wineberry a spot by the fence in the back garden. I have no plans to add blue honeysuckles (I’ve got blueberries and limited space), but perhaps a blue sausage tree should get a spot in the edible hedge? That would stop the passers-by in their tracks…. My shark’s fin melon has caught the eye of the old gent who always walks past on Thursday mornings.
Rather than drink their way through the hedgerow, Best4Hedging have been inspired by The Great British Bake Off to start baking with edible hedging. They’ve got a lovely image for a sea buckthorn tart, which looks delightful, but sadly it’s a stock photo with no accompanying recipe. So if you’ve got sea buckthorn berries and an adventurous spirit, see if you can recreate it and then come back and share your success!
Wrapping up plants for UK edible hedges, we’ve got nut trees for small gardens, Moaning Myrtle and two celebrations of the slow (Prunus spinosa). Sloes – more than just gin? and the sloe trilogy: how to make sloe wine, vodka and gin shine a light on this versatile hedgerow favourite.
For readers in the US, we have Growing an Edible Hedge, which considers some plants that aren’t normally used for hedging, as well as temporary hedges made from tall vegetables (yay, hedgetables!). And there’s How to Plant an Edible Hedge, which looks into the how and the why as well as the what. And Planning an Edible Fedge, or Food Hedge includes a suggestion of yaupon holly, as well as some species that enjoy being coppiced. Perhaps enjoy is the wrong word. Respond well… they respond well to be coppiced 😉
And on the other side of the world we have edible hedges in Australia, featuring species that thrive in warmer climates (I’m jealous) and Seven great edible hedges to grow in New Zealand, with exciting ideas such as tea, bay and passionfruit. I do have a bay that needs a home….
Phew! What a bumper edition of Tendrils! I need to crack open the sloe gin…. Don’t forget you can add your own edible hedge links in the comments. But for now, it’s time for Tendrils to disappear and germinate again next week. Enjoy your weekend 🙂