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Best tasting nitrogen fixing berry bush?

 
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Freyda Black wrote:

Walt Chase wrote:Autumn olive makes a very tasty jelly.  It is also good as  autumn olive/apple jelly or mixed with any other berry.



PLEASE people,

Do NOT plant Autumn Olive. Sure, the berries make good jam but THIS PLANT IS A HORRIBLE INVASIVE! Permaculture should mean that we respect and protect the natural environment. There is no way to prevent uncontrolled spread of this plant such that it crowds out native shrubs to the ultimate harm of not only our open land but forests, meadows, and all the pollinators, birds, and mammals, etc that depend upon that environment.

There are plenty of non-invasive berries, both native and non-native, that will serve your purposes. Among natives, Blueberries, cranberries, serviceberries (Amelanchier spp) black raspberries, red raspberries, blackberries, etc.
Among safe non-natives, bush cherries, currants, gooseberries, all easy to grow and super hardy.

Thanks for caring for the Earth!



Autumn Olive is not invasive everywhere, though it is an issue is some areas of the United States. Possibly the cultivated varieties are not as aggressive. I have two TM (trademarked) varieties that are very well behaved. It would be hard to enforce a trademark fruit that ends up growing wild in every ditch and field.

It's always best to not villainize plants with a broad stroke as they all have their niche somewhere in the world. I've been guilty of doing the same. In my area there is only one native blackberry, a timid ground growing delicate and delicious plant but it is threatened in many areas by several non-native blackberries. I'll include below a picture of me next to the invading Himalayan army in my yard that I posted yesterday in a different thread. Even though these varieties are invasive and very vigorous, there are laws that the cities can't spray it to kill it because so many people (and animals) used the wild fruit as a food source. But I'd never voluntarily plant them. I've had to tame my knee jerk reaction of horror whenever I read about people in other parts of the country/world planting blackberries in their gardens because I am not an expert on their specific ecosystem.

In general the best advice is to make sure you read and study about your specific ecosystem, its needs, its natives, and its threats before introducing any new plant- and studying that new plant as well and deciding if it has any characteristics that might become a threat.

Oops forgot to add the picture...
20220216_165432.jpg
The Himalayan blackberries grow over 10' in a year. This is an impenetrable wall of blackberry.
The Himalayan blackberries grow over 10' in a year. This is an impenetrable wall of blackberry.
 
pollinator
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I noticed Takota Coen in Canada sells his Seaberries in a tea mix of native berries. Semi-commercial, at least! You could also do a mix of frozen berries of different types. Not pitted, of course.
 
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I agree with the poster above - Autumn olive is not invasive everywhere, and is too good to completely rule out. I found autumn olive, especially, and goumi to have an amazing side benefit, the flowers were beautifully fragrant. Lovely scent.

Pricing wise - there are some great resources out there to buy named varieties of goumi and autumn olive.

One is from Fruitwood Nursery - they sell rooted plugs of many varieties of fruiting bushes. Here is their goumi and autumn olive page:
Goumi and Autumn Olive rooted cutting plugs

I've bought their $5 rooted cuttings and had wonderful results. I grow them out in a pot for a year, and have ended up with a plant that would be worth $30-$80 retail at that point depending on the plant/variety.



 
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Let's realize that we don't all live in the same climate. Autumn olive is invasive back east where you have rainy, humid summers. It is not invasive here in the west with our dry summers. If you live where it's invasive, don't plant it: find it.  If you live where it's not invasive, plant away.  It is apparently the best natural source of lycopene, with 17 times more than tomatoes. Every male should eat them, because every male will have prostate cancer if he lives long enough to be 85 years old.  

Jay-Goji doesn't thrive as well in the PNW and other low heat areas.  Mine only fruits in November-December and we get a lot more heat than western WA or BC.

John S
PDX OR
 
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I have goji, and though this thread is about nitrogen fixing (host plant to nitrogen fixing bacteria) and gojis don’t do much of that, they do attract and host nitrogen and phosphorus pooping birds 😊

My gojis thrive and bear heavily.  I use the berries in smoothies stews and soups for their nutrient blast.  They thrive in poor dry soil, and become invasive in rich soil with moderate water.

In my experience, the Russian Olive is not a friend.  As noted above they crowd out natives.  I had a large one and I never noticed birds on it, though there were plenty of birds on the neighboring cherry, apple, apricot trees.

Some like the smell of Russian olives in bloom, I do not, too sweet, too cloying, and the smell reminds me of their invasive presence, and their water wasting….

And I hear a lot of folks talking about adding sugar to the juice, and making jams and jellies, and I want to mention how dangerous sugar in excess is to our health.  In the UK, a person is cautioned to eat no more than 30 grams of “free sugar” per day.  You wouldn’t get much berry with that amount of sugar as jam or jelly or pie, so PLEASE keep that in mind!  Maybe learn to love sour and bitter, or to swallow the berries whole.  Like we sometimes swallow pills!
 
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So far I've only added Siberian Pea to my landscape, and that hardly qualifies as a berry.
Sea Buckthorn and Goumis are clearly beloved by most, and they fit the bill.
I will want named varieties of Goumis but it seems like that might not matter for the buckthorn.
The Buckthorn appeals to me deeply, even the hellish thorns will have their uses.
I wonder if the chickens will like the seeds ?

It sounds like a big no to Autumn Olives for my site, but I will try definitely eating them if I get a chance.

 
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Freyda,

You're right, it is terribly invasive. I've been watching their "invasiveness" very closely in my region (northern Michigan) ver closely for a number of years. They absolutely take over fallow fields and empty plots.

However, I don't see them competing with any native trees or shrubs. They litterally only grow in wide open degraded spaces.

But to your point, I think it would be wiser for people to seek out places they can forage this stuff locally rather than plant it on their property. It will spread to any open sunny spots.
 
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Nathanael Szobody wrote:Freyda,

You're right, it is terribly invasive. I've been watching their "invasiveness" very closely in my region (northern Michigan) ver closely for a number of years. They absolutely take over fallow fields and empty plots.

However, I don't see them competing with any native trees or shrubs. They literally only grow in wide open degraded spaces.

But to your point, I think it would be wiser for people to seek out places they can forage this stuff locally rather than plant it on their property. It will spread to any open sunny spots.


"Watching" is a key word here. I've done a lot of reading about "invasive" plants from different sources. There are observed cases were an "invasive" plant, actually prepared and supported the return of native vegetation - as Nathanial specifically said, "only grow in wide open degraded spaces" in his region.

There are people who've observed that when high nitrogen run-off is prevented from entering a wetland, supposedly "invasive purple loosestrife" no longer "outcompeted" the native plants which rebalanced the ecosystem with no other human intervention.

So I agree that some plants in some ecosystems deserve the label "invasive" and are best not planted, but many times, we need to be sure that plant isn't in it's own way, solving a problem such as too much nitrogen, not enough nitrogen, abused soil etc. Local to me, the fellow who had an Autumn Olive specifically identified that it would grow "in the worst soil". Is that it's assigned role in nature? Take the worst soil and improve if for the next generation? In my ecosystem, that seems to be the case. In a different ecosystem, it could outcompete native species.

 
Thekla McDaniels
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IMO, the concept of invasive species is a complex one.  And maybe I am going off topic a bit…

My plan is to use my invasive goji in a dry alkaline spot outside my fence, between the fence and the sidewalk.  It’s one thing deer don’t eat, and I am trying to make a perimeter of such plants, because we have deer as an “invasive species” in my town.  No predators in town and many favor the  presence of deer 🤔

But birds may eat the berries and carry some viable seeds.  So I am risking consequences far beyond my life span and my “property”.  Maybe beyond my knowledge.

I agree that in some cases, invasive species give way to other species when conditions have been modified, but I don’t think it’s a good idea to count on that, or see it as natural law.  

There’s an additional phenomenon sometimes at play.  A species establishes itself in conditions where other species cannot grow.  Doing good so far, but that doesn’t mean the invasive species will not be able to thrive in the improved circumstances.  It may become even more rampant!

And there are certainly variables beyond our knowledge.  

The idea that we, a faction of, or we , the whole of humanity have complete understanding of any part of the biological realm seems to be where we see most frequently the unintended consequences of the hubris of man.

In my goji “risk”, I am thinking that I don’t have the only gojis in the region, and there are not many instances where goji seeds might germinate and reproduce.  My hubris is perhaps what allows me to plant more gojis in this instance.
 
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Jenny, that is an effective hedge of blackberries, which can be used like a fence. On my old property, on friends’ and on restoration sites I have had to tackle such brambles both with hand tools and with a tractor and backhoe. They can be removed with loppers and a mccloud (a wildfire and trail tool with a heavy hoe/rake double sided head), and layers of tough clothing. A backhoe or excavator claw works too. When you get to the soil the blackberries and the birds and insects they host have left behind, it is always very fertile and full of tilth. Birds always nest, shelter and feed in there, and often plant cascara and other trees in there. I use the canes as barbing for fencing and for refuges for fowl from predators.

Its also remarkable that himalayan blackberry may be the best example of the potential of “Burbanking”, wherein Luther Burbank bred plants in a method similar to Mark Shepherds’ Strategic Total and Utter Neglect. Basically he used a lot of seed, gave almost no support in the form of water or soil conditioning, and bred the badass plants that thrived anyway. Now we have their progeny all over the west.
 
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William Bronson wrote: So far I've only added Siberian Pea to my landscape, and that hardly qualifies as a berry.
Sea Buckthorn and Goumis are clearly beloved by most, and they fit the bill.
I will want named varieties of Goumis but it seems like that might not matter for the buckthorn...



I have planted a large number of Goumi on my property.  I started out with a mix of several N-fixing shrubs, including Sea Buckthorns.  They didn't do well for me, but the OP is in a much colder climate than am I, which is more appropriate for Buckthorn.  So, he might do okay.  For me, it was obvious after some years that Goumi were the ones that thrived here, so I replanted the empty spaces with more Goumi as each of the other species I'd tried failed.

I have several named Goumi cultivars plus some more generic selections, many examples of each, and they've been growing for many years now.  In my very non-scientific trials and observations, I haven't noticed any significant differences between them.  Not in taste, productivity, or general hardiness.  So, when buying more Goumi transplants, I would simply select whatever options happen to be on sale at the time.  I wouldn't stress over which variety I'm getting.

William Bronson wrote:...It sounds like a big no to Autumn Olives for my site, but I will try definitely eating them if I get a chance.



Personally, I think a lot of the concern over invasive species is not justified, or is based on misunderstanding.  As other's have written before, in many cases it is proven that invasive species are only "invasive" within degraded ecosystems.  They revert to simply being "naturalized," which is to say living in some degree of balance with natives, when the cause of the degradation is addressed.  Thus, I feel the efforts to demonize useful species because they might go invasive are largely misplaced.

Having said all that, I would not go around planting a potentially invasive species unless there were a very good reason to do so.  In the case of Autumn Olive, since there is a non-invasive, closely-related alternative widely available - that is to say, Goumi - I just don't see why anyone would bother with the risk of planting Autumn Olive.  To be fair, I've never actually tasted or seen one, as they don't grow in my area.  But I read that they are very similar to Goumi.
 
Jenny Wright
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Matthew Nistico wrote:
Having said all that, I would not go around planting a potentially invasive species unless there were a very good reason to do so.  In the case of Autumn Olive, since there is a non-invasive, closely-related alternative widely available - that is to say, Goumi - I just don't see why anyone would bother with the risk of planting Autumn Olive.  To be fair, I've never actually tasted or seen one, as they don't grow in my area.  But I read that they are very similar to Goumi.


I have a goumi planted between two Autumn Olives, one is Ruby and the other is Golden. The goumi is ripe in late spring, early summer and the Autumn Olives are my last berries of the season ripening in October, after my fall raspberries start tasting insipid from too much rain and not enough sun. So for me they fill a gap when most fruit is done. Taste wise, they are very similar to goumi but goumi is a tiny bit sweeter and the tiniest bit bigger. The Autumn Olives produce a lot more berries than the goumi. They were about the same size when I planted them and are on the same location but the Autumn Olives are twice as big as the goumi now... Which is a good fact to know if someone is deciding between the two, a pro and/or a con depending on one's situation.
 
Jenny Wright
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Ben Zumeta wrote:Jenny, that is an effective hedge of blackberries, which can be used like a fence. On my old property, on friends’ and on restoration sites I have had to tackle such brambles both with hand tools and with a tractor and backhoe. They can be removed with loppers and a mccloud (a wildfire and trail tool with a heavy hoe/rake double sided head), and layers of tough clothing. A backhoe or excavator claw works too. When you get to the soil the blackberries and the birds and insects they host have left behind, it is always very fertile and full of tilth. Birds always nest, shelter and feed in there, and often plant cascara and other trees in there. I use the canes as barbing for fencing and for refuges for fowl from predators.

Its also remarkable that himalayan blackberry may be the best example of the potential of “Burbanking”, wherein Luther Burbank bred plants in a method similar to Mark Shepherds’ Strategic Total and Utter Neglect. Basically he used a lot of seed, gave almost no support in the form of water or soil conditioning, and bred the badass plants that thrived anyway. Now we have their progeny all over the west.


Our weapon of choice is some long handled loppers ánd long leather gloves and a metal rake. We chop as much as we can reach close to the ground and then rake the brambles out. The ground under them is so soft and loamy that the rake often pulls up the roots too.  I hadn't heard of a mcleod tool before so I looked it up. That definitely would be helpful! We chop as much as we can every sitting until they start blooming and then we stop for the summer because blackberries are one of my favorite fruits so that's my compromise. There are literally days in the summer when we just eat blackberries for breakfast and lunch.

(And sorry, I hope no one is bothered by this tangent on a non-nitrogen fixing plant!)
 
Kim Goodwin
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Jay Angler wrote:
"Watching" is a key word here. I've done a lot of reading about "invasive" plants from different sources. There are observed cases were an "invasive" plant, actually prepared and supported the return of native vegetation - as Nathanial specifically said, "only grow in wide open degraded spaces" in his region.



I think Jay makes great points about judging plants as invasive versus observing for the deeper connections to be learned from where, why and how a plant is growing in an environment.

There is a wonderful documentary illustrating this -  a man in New Zealand helped restore a forest through the use of gorse - a plant considered an almost invulnerable invasive in many countries. People thought he was nuts.  Some locals thought he was going to destroy the entire ecosystem and their tree farms along with it. I'm sure some people hated him, like they hated the plant.  And their worst fear did not materialize, in fact, the opposite happened ...with gorse as the pioneer species in New Zealand!

 
Ben Zumeta
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To your point Jenny, I think blackberries are a great example of a plant that may not necessarily be a nitrogen fixator in the technical sense of having symbiotic N-fixing bacterial rhizobia, but is a nutrient accumulator due to its symbiosis with many other organisms.

I also recently heard a soil biologist on Diego Footer’s podcast point out that n-fixators rarely make up more than 10% of natural plant biomass in any ecosystem, but current soil management practices often has them at 30-50%. This can cause over-nutrification downstream even when synthetic fertilizers are not used, though undoubtedly its still less harmful than those salts. As I understand, n-fixators are a key part of natural ecosystem succession, but much like how water is used and reused innumerable times in healthy ecosystems and good designs, nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus can be as well, and the key is biodiversity and habitats that support it. Thorns create refuge for small animals, and in return they provide fertilizernfor their host plants.
 
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    Invasives came up... so of course I pop up with my annoying opinion...

    To me, weeds and invasives are primarily indicators of conditions that support them better than anything else. So there are a few main strategies I may employ, in the face of a weed or invasive incursion. The primary one is do nothing. This will work, if there is no systemic problem that pushes the system too far out of balance, but it might take too long. If I see that either of those are the case, I move to... The second strategy. I observe the growth of these plants, observe were they grow, collect information about what deficiencies, toxicities, microbes, water conditions and sun conditions favor them, and then ask, "How are these plants currently being favored?" "What will happen if I disfavor them in X way?" "What functions are they providing, that I/my system/the ecosystem benefit from?" "How can I replace these functions, if necessary?". Then, if this yields an obvious answer, I apply it. But if this incursion is in zone 1, I have a strategy that always works eventually, although in combination with appropriate soil amendments it works best: chop n' drop, then hay mulch. Do that a few times, and it's gone.

    But waiting is always the best strategy, for me. Because I don't let anyone make up my mind for me about most things, and this includes invasives. Dispassionately observing the plants doing their thing, and watching their effects, and wondering why they spread and what makes them tick is so much more productive, because I will inevitably find a good use for the plant. I restrict genocide to the first two zones, mostly zone one.
 
William Bronson
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The autumn olives sound like it's too hard to come by and not very marketable.
The seabuckthorn may well be invasive here, but our hills are covered with invasive honey suckle, that have little value even to wildlife.
I avoid introducing the "worst" kinds of plants, like running bamboo, but I don't presume to think I am in control of what grows where.


My hot pursuit of nitrogen fixing has faded somewhat.
Of the three major plant nutrients its the easiest to come by, and it also seems to promote leaves over fruiting.
Its strange then that nitrogen fixing trees and shrubs are promoted for orchards.
They seem like a better fit for silvopasture, or even growing maize.

 
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Can anybody tell me where I can buy some goumi berry plants near southern New Mexico?

I googled it and only Ison’s nursery came up and I wont buy anything else from them because I ordered from them last year and everything I got from them died.
Also it looks like goumi and goji seem to be interchangeable?
I have goji plants started from seeds last year. Im looking for anything that will grow in our alkaline soil and brutal sun and strong winds. I’m ammending my sandy soil but it’s going to take a while to even get it near neutral.

Are they easy to grow from seed?

 
Kim Goodwin
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Julie Bernhardt wrote:Can anybody tell me where I can buy some goumi berry plants near southern New Mexico?

I googled it and only Ison’s nursery came up and I wont buy anything else from them because I ordered from them last year and everything I got from them died.
Also it looks like goumi and goji seem to be interchangeable?
I have goji plants started from seeds last year. Im looking for anything that will grow in our alkaline soil and brutal sun and strong winds. I’m ammending my sandy soil but it’s going to take a while to even get it near neutral.

Are they easy to grow from seed?



They can be grown from seed.  You will get a new variety that way.

I'm down here in the desert, too.  I don't have any myself - trying to get some going right now.  

I looked at places I like to order from - all sold out so far.  Fruitwood Nursery is my fave - I think I got their last goumi cuttings available this year and I am now attempting to help them start in our greenhouse!  They were out of the rooted cutting plugs.  Their retail "sister" is Planting Justice (formerly Rolling River Nursery) is also out of the grown up plants, too.  I really love both of them, and they are worth considering for your projects in the future. They are in northern CA, which being a Mediterranean-ish climate is more comparable to the SW than most other locations. Fruitwood is an amazing resource and one of the earliest commercial permaculture farms in the US.

I'm not familiar with this nursery, but they seem like a nice small operation and they have good mature plants for sale at a reasonable price:
Hidden Springs Nursery

Another option is Etsy or Ebay- but only use companies with lots of really good reviews, and of course, from the US. (Sending plants across international borders is not an easy thing to do.)

Places like Burnt Ridge Nursery, Raintree and One Green World also tend to carry them, but usually at higher costs.
 
Jenny Wright
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Ben Zumeta wrote:
I also recently heard a soil biologist on Diego Footer’s podcast point out that n-fixators rarely make up more than 10% of natural plant biomass in any ecosystem, but current soil management practices often has them at 30-50%. This can cause over-nutrification downstream even when synthetic fertilizers are not used, though undoubtedly its still less harmful than those salts. As I understand, n-fixators are a key part of natural ecosystem succession, but much like how water is used and reused innumerable times in healthy ecosystems and good designs, nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus can be as well, and the key is biodiversity and habitats that support it. Thorns create refuge for small animals, and in return they provide fertilizernfor their host plants.


Oh that's very interesting. It goes to show that there's never one "miracle" plant or plant family. Like the food we eat, moderation and balance is the key to health.
 
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Julie Bernhardt wrote:
Also it looks like goumi and goji seem to be interchangeable?


Are you talking taste? I think there's a better tasting variety than what I had but in my experience goji was very bitter and nothing like goumi berries.
 
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William Bronson wrote:My hot pursuit of nitrogen fixing has faded somewhat.
Of the three major plant nutrients its the easiest to come by, and it also seems to promote leaves over fruiting.
Its strange then that nitrogen fixing trees and shrubs are promoted for orchards.
They seem like a better fit for silvopasture, or even growing maize.


Ben Zumata wrote:I also recently heard a soil biologist on Diego Footer’s podcast point out that n-fixators rarely make up more than 10% of natural plant biomass in any ecosystem, but current soil management practices often has them at 30-50%.


I think this is particularly an issue when you consider how many of our soils are low on carbon, rather than nitrogen. I believe it was Joel Salatin that said something like, "farms need to be carbon hoarders". If nitrogen fixers help you grow something that's a good source of carbon - like maize as William mentions - that's a good thing.
Just getting one's land off drugs and minimally tilling, can go a long way to having acceptable nitrogen levels to keep most polycultures happy. It's like our soils have become "Nitrogen addicts" and we need to wean them off  and promote healthy soil life.

I can see putting a nitrogen fixer near a baby fruit tree that needs to grow fast to survive (we have pretty impressive deer pressure here!) It also gives the deer something else to eat than the fruit tree... yes, the plum tree lived, but the Seaberry succumbed!

Plants that put out good root systems that die back in the fall seems to me to be a great way to get carbon back underground? Does that make sense to others?
 
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Jay Angler wrote:

Joshua LeDuc wrote:I haven't seen any posts on this thread mentioning goji berry yet.  I started some of these from seed and am looking forward to adding them to some of my guilds.  Does anybody have an opinion on goji's?

There seems to be two different plants whose fruits are called "goji" and the one I have is definitely *not* a nitrogen-fixer. However it is a plant that doesn't require much nitrogen - and I read somewhere that it actually doesn't like additional nitrogen fertilizer. Unfortunately, my goji wasn't happy in either of the places I planted it and I suspect it didn't make it through this winter. I liked the fruit myself - what little I got.



10-4.  Thanks for that Jay.
 
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Location: Japan, zone 9a/b, annual rainfall 2550mm, avg temp 1.5-32 C
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Bayberries! (Myrica) are nitrogen fixing (trees). Too tall to fit in an understory, but they haven't been mentioned. I find them delicious. I don't know if they are available in your area.

"If I had a million dollars, Well I'd buy you ... an orchard with bayberries, persimmons, citrus, and apricots, ume, and goumi, and tree nuts galore" - My upcoming permaculture rendition of the classic B.N.L. song. (not really I just felt silly)
 
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