If you are a keen polytunnel gardener already, you may be aware that you do not have to restrict yourself to growing annual vegetable and fruit crops in your polytunnel. A polytunnel garden can also be a perennial growing space, where you can grow foods to feed your family year after year, without the need to sow or replant each growing season. While many polytunnel gardeners or those with fruit cages will already know the benefits of growing their own strawberries, raspberries or currants under cover, it is worthwhile expanding your growing repertoire and considering some more unusual fruit bushes.
This evergreen shrub grows to around 1.2m x 1m at a medium speed. It will thrive in a wide range of soil types. The shrub produces edible berries in late summer which have a sweet and pleasant flavour and can be eaten raw, cooked or dried for later use. A tea can also be made from the leaves.
Goumi Fruit Bushes
Elaeagnus multiflora, also known as Goumi or Cherry silverberry, is another interesting and somewhat unusual berry producing shrub. The shrub can grow to 3m x 2m but can be pruned to keep it smaller. The berries can be eaten raw or cooked, and have a pleasantly acid flavour when fully ripe. These are an excellent source of vitamins and minerals.
Another member of the same family, Elaeagnus umbellata also produces acidic but healthy and appetising fruits. One of the other benefits of both elaeagnus species is that they are nitrogen fixers, and so can help to improve the soil in your polytunnel for the benefit of surrounding plants.
Aronia melanocarpa, also known as black chokeberry, forms astringent fruits that can be cooked with sugar to create jams. These fruits are rich in pectin so can also help to create jams when added to those made with other low-pectin fruits. An infusion of the berries has also been used in the treatment of colds.
While you may already be familiar with and be growing raspberries, perhaps other similar crops like Tayberries, Boysenberries etc… you could also expand your growing repertoire by choosing to grow wineberries too. These fruit bushes produce a raspberry-like fruit, delicious raw or cooked.
The above are just some of the many edible plants that we can use to add biodiversity to our polytunnels, or to other growing areas in our gardens. What unusual plants do you grow in your polytunnel? Let us know in the comments below.
Elizabeth Waddington is a writer and green living consultant living in Scotland. Permaculture and sustainability are at the heart of everything she does, from designing gardens and farms around the world, to inspiring and facilitating positive change for small companies and individuals.
She also works on her own property, where she grows fruit and vegetables, keeps chickens and is working on the eco-renovation of an old stone barn.