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Pick, Mix, and Brew
A gardener inspired by little-known native fruits shares a few of his favorite culinary concoctions, and a list of tried-and-true nurseries that can supply plants. 

Fruit cultivator Lee Reich
Courtesy of Lee Reich

Lee Reich became interested in fruits early on in his gardening pursuits, mainly because he enjoys eating them so much. After getting a doctorate in horticulture, with a specialty in pomology (fruit culture), he went on to do research, mostly with apples, for Cornell University. What frustrated him was how difficult apples were to grow, especially with respect to pests, and how they dominate the market year-round. He began reading about, and eventually growing, some fruits that are not generally well known, yet have unique, delectable flavors and relative freedom from problems. As the years went by—more than three decades’ worth—he became organized and deliberate in sleuthing out some of these little-known treasures for a book titled “Uncommon Fruits for Every Garden.” He admits to having gone overboard with the extensiveness of his plantings, but—he tells himself—it’s all necessary research. Here he shares two of his favorite uncommon fruit recipes.—Rene Ebersole

Chilled Pawpaw Custard
Scoop out the flesh from the fruit and squeeze it between your fingers to remove the large seeds. Run the pulp through a food mill to make it smooth and even. Then spoon it into individual custard cups. Refrigerate until chilled and drizzle a little cassis on top before serving.

Persimmon Beer
Begin by mixing a 1.6 kilogram can of John Bull Dark Malt extract with 1 gallon water and 1 cup of Kent Golding leaf hops. Boil the mix for 45 minutes. Next add one quart of persimmon pulp, made by putting the fruit through a food mill, and a cup of Czech Saaz leaf hops. Let the mix stand for 20 minutes, then strain it through a colander and add water to bring the volume to 2.5 gallons in a 5-gallon carboy. Next comes a packet of Amsterdam Lager yeast, per directions. Then seal the top with a water-filled vapor lock. After two to four weeks at room temperature, fermentation should cease. To bottle the bear, prime it for carbonation with a solution of 3/8 cup of corn sugar dissolved in 3/8 cup of water. The beer should be ready to drink in another month.

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Where to Find Uncommon Fruits

Burnt Ridge Nursery and Orchards, 432 Burnt Ridge Road, Onalaska, WA 98570 (360-985-2873;

Edible Landscaping, 361 Spirit Ridge Lane, Afton, VA 22920 (800-524-4156;

Grimo Nut Nursery, R.R. 3 979 Lakeshore Rd., Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario LOS 1JO Canada (905-934-6887;

Hidden Springs Nursery, 170 Hidden Springs Lane, Cookeville, TN 38501 (931-268-2592;

Nolin River Nut Tree Nursery, 797 Port Wooden Road, Upton, KY 42784 (270-369-8551;

One Green World, 28696 South Cramer Road, Molalla, OR 97038 (877-353-4028;

Raintree Nursery, 391 Butts Road, Morton, WA 98356 (360-496-6400;

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Read related story: "Passion Fruits."

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