Clover Valley Fruits & Herbs
Cindy is the driving force behind our growing fruit operation. She is a “plant person” from way back. She works out the detail for propagating, planting and tending the fruits. Jeff and May are the culinary explorers that come up with delicious and inventive ways to create every kind of possible dish (See our Recipes).
Diversity is important in our orchards so we have a broad pallet of flavors, hardiness, and seasonality in our fruit crops. While we grow a lot of fruit, at this time we use all of it in our vinegars (see our Online Market Place)
We have been growing herbs since before we started farming. It always seemed like it was feast for famine… Too many or not enough. That’s what got us looking into different ways to preserve and use herbs. Drying works great for some things like garlic and the course leaved herbs like rosemary. However, the more tender herbs like basil are good when dried, they never had the same “fresh” flavor.
Our fruit enterprise includes tree fruits (i.e. apples, pears, cherries, plums) with an emphasis on heritage varieties, although we have plenty of modern varieties too. Aside from being a generally nostalgic person, Cindy likes heritage varieties because they often have a wider range of uses that simply for fresh eating. A good general use apple can be good fresh off the tree, in sauces, canning, pies and of course, cider…which dovetails nicely with the vinegar operation.
We use Integrated Pest Management (IPM) with a strong emphasis on only spraying when something is needed. The core idea behind IPM is to understand the life cycles of the plants being managed and the pests and diseases that can impact them. We monitor the phenology of our orchards as well as pests and diseases so we know what is present in our orchards at any given time. That information drives decisions about when or what to spray and more importantly when NOT to spray. We collect and submit our weekly data to the MN Department of Agriculture’s IPM newsletter which you can use to find local information about what conditions are being found around the state.
*previously undescribed varieties that we are propagating (see On-Farm Research for more)
- Honey Crisp
- Honey Gold
- Norland Red
- Red Baron
- Sweet Sixteen
- Yellow Transparent
- Allure’s Wild Red*
- Barb’s Bounty*
- Gitche Gummi Golden*
- Justin’s Jewel*
- Northern Exposure*
*unknown varieties that we are propagating from historic trees
- Summer Crisp
- Nelson’s Heritage*
We have a strong emphasis in native species and that fits well into an integrated perennial fruit system. All/most of our small fruits are perennial wood shrubs, with the possible exception of Elderberry which is technical not woody, but sure acts a lot like it!
Juneberry – Also known as “Service Berry”, this is a favorite of wild foragers. This Minnesota native shrub grows wild across the state along wood edges. The red young fruit turn to dark purple when they are ripe and are so sweet and luscious, it’s worth the effort to watch for them and try your best to beat the birds which seem to know the millisecond that they get ripe! They are the lead partner in our Juneberry-Currant Vinegars!
- Juneberry – true native (Amelanchier alnifolia, A. sanguinaria )
- Juneberry “Regent” –a very nice cultivar
Currants & Gooseberry– This is a large group of plants, all in the Genus “Ribies“. There are many native species (with & without thorns) and innumerable cultivars. European’s are most familiar with Black Currants which as a big, juicy and “substantial” berry are used in nearly all fruit jams, juices, sauces and syrups. The Red Currants we grow are much more fragile but have wonderfully sweet, slightly tart and very juicy berries. The Reds are the “co-star” in our Juneberry Currant Vinegars. The White Currants are similar in texture to the reds but more tart. As unsung heroes, they add a nice level of complexity to our vinegars!
- Black Currants (unknown cultivars)
- Red Currants “Red Lake” – a Minnesota cultivar
- White Currants “Primus”
Rhubarb – For those who like trivia, Rhubarb is actually the STEM of the leaf (called a petiole in botanical terms). It seems like everyone has some childhood memory or Rhubarb but I was pretty sure it wasn’t a native to North America. I finally Googled it and turns out it is thousands of years old, probably from China and has a long and storied history according to Wikipedia (very cool!)…
Rhubarb has been used for medical purposes by the Chinese for thousands of years, and appears in The Divine Farmer’s Herb-Root Classic which is thought to have been compiled about 2,700 years ago. Though Dioscurides‘ description of ρηον or ρά indicates that a medicinal root brought to Greece from beyond the Bosphorus may have been rhubarb, commerce in the drug did not become securely established until Islamic times. During Islamic times, it was imported along the Silk Road, reaching Europe in the 14th century through the ports of Aleppo and Smyrna, where it became known as “Turkish rhubarb”. Later, when the usual route lay through Russia, “Russian rhubarb” became the familiar term.
For centuries, the plant has grown wild along the banks of the River Volga, for which the ancient Scythian hydronym was Rhā. The cost of transportation across Asia made rhubarb expensive in medieval Europe. It was several times the price of other valuable herbs and spices such as cinnamon, opium, and saffron. The merchant explorer Marco Polo therefore searched for the place where the plant was grown and harvested, discovering that it was cultivated in the mountains of Tangut province. The value of rhubarb can be seen in Ruy Gonzáles de Clavijo‘s report of his embassy in 1403–05 to Timur in Samarkand: “The best of all merchandise coming to Samarkand was from China: especially silks, satins, musk, rubies, diamonds, pearls, and rhubarb…”
The term “rhubarb” is a combination of the Ancient Greek rha and barbarum; rha refers both to the plant and to the River Volga. Rhubarb first came to the United States in the 1820s, entering the country in Maine and Massachusetts and moving westwards with the European American settlers.
Elderberry – We grow the true native species (Sambucus canadensis) found in hardwood forests across Minnesota, as well as several cultivars including Bob Gordon, Erdu,
Choke Berry – This is an unfortunate name for a great native fruit (Aronia melanocarpa)! In many sources this is listed as “inedible” along with the “choke berry” name this implies it’s poisonous, which could not be further from the truth. It’s a very astringent fruit and almost no one would want to eat if fresh off the bush but it is backed full of anti-oxidants and amazing flavors. Add sugar to make fabulous jams, jellies, syrups and pitch in a bit of yeast to ferment it into a great wine. Be sure to save some of that wine for an equally amazing vinegar, look for this as a small run specialty vinegar in 2015!?
Wild Plum & Cherry – There are several species of Minnesota native wild cherries and plums in the Genus “Prunus“. Though not highly palatable fresh of the bush they are wonderful additions for any fruit concoction to which you may want to add more flavor.
- Choke Cherry – true native (Prunus pennsylvanica)
- Pin Cherry – true native (Prunus virginiana)
High Bush Cranberry – While not a true cranberry, it is a wonderful Minnesota native shrub fruit (Viburnum trilobum) with super red, tart fruit that are often grown for birds along with it’s cousin Nannyberry (Viburnum lentago). We LOVE it in jams and syrups. Like so many of our native wild fruits, they are just packed full of nutrients and antioxidants and …they are pretty darn easy to grow, so long as you can keep the deer away
Blueberry (unknown cultivars)…we really only have a few bushes for our own use, Sharry’s Berries down the road from us has the best blueberry patch in the area!
Honeyberry (several varieties planted in 2014…not looking so good but we will keep trying!)