- Author: Lanie Keystone
A few weeks ago, Master Gardeners of Solano County were treated to an outstanding talk about Asian Fruits and Berries given by one of our own Master Gardeners, Kathy Low. What made the talk most exciting—besides all of the fruits and nuts that she had on hand for a delicious taste treat samples--was that it marked the launching of her new book, Asian Fruits and Berries: Growing Them, Eating Them, Appreciating Their Lore. (McFarland & Company, ISBN 978-1-4766-7595-4 print; ISBN 978-1-4766-3772-3 e-book)
The book, like Kathy's talk, reflects her great interest and passion for her subject—one that, for most, is new and fascinating. She comes by her passion honestly, since she grew up surrounded by many of the Asian delicacies that she describes in the book growing in her own backyard.
Presenting the fruits alphabetically, from Asian Pears to Yuzu, the author presents 42 specimens. Some, like Asian Pears, Figs and Mandarin Oranges are familiar to us all and can commonly be found in our local grocery stores. But then, Low enters the world of rarified fruits with such wonders as Carambola, known as Star Fruit; Langsat, tasting something like a mild grapefruit; and Wampee who's taste, depending on the cultivar can be sweet, sour or acidic.
Along with a detailed description of each fruit, Kathy provides an elegant history of each along with, in many cases, plant characteristics as well as how to select and grow each of them. She even has a section on how to consume each fruit.
This writer's favorite section is the native lore that has grown up around each fruit. Who wouldn't want to believe the goji berry lore which dates back to the era of the first emperor of China—about 2800 BCE. Legend has it that the people of the Hunza in the Himalayas all live extraordinarily longs lives, well into their hundreds. Their secret, myth has it, is it's the goji berries growing near and falling into their water supply which creates a fountain of youth. Bring on the goji berries!
Kathy's research and scholarship are deep and complete, her writing is refreshingly clear and engaging and, best of all, you feel that she is sitting right beside you offering you a taste of each of these delicious delicacies . She ends her exceptional book with a helpful glossary and 4 appendices: 1) Fruit and Berry Food Safety; 2) USDA Plant Hardiness Zones; 3) Chilling Hours, and 4) Fertilizers.
After reading about these Asian fruits and berries, one wants to run out and sample as many as possible. The completeness of the book also makes it possible for the reader to actually take the next step after tasting—and try one's hand at successfully growing some of these exotic fruits.
Because this is a season of giving, I can think of no better gift to share with your favorite gardener than Kathy Low's Asian Fruits and Berries…even if that favorite gardener on your list is YOU!