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Gardening Fruit

The Prairie Gardener’s Go-To for Fruit

by (author) Janet Melrose & Sheryl Normandeau

TouchWood Editions
Initial publish date
Mar 2023
Fruit, General, Canada
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Mar 2023
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Mar 2023
    List Price

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Lifelong gardeners Janet Melrose and Sheryl Normandeau tackle the tasty topic of fruit in the seventh book in the Guides for the Prairie Gardener series.

Strawberries, blueberries, saskatoons, pears, plums, apricots, cherries, currants, kiwi . . . There are lots of great reasons to grow your own. There’s the unparalleled taste of fresh produce to consider, and the opportunity to help reduce ever-rising grocery bills. Then there’s the ornamental appeal (think grape vines and apple blossoms).

Whether you’re growing an orchard in a rural area, planting a couple of currant bushes or haskaps in a small urban yard, or a container of squash on a balcony, you’ll find help and inspiration here.

Janet and Sheryl answer your questions on things like

  • Placement for sun- and shade-loving plants
  • Pollination, propagation, and grafting
  • Mulching, hilling, trellises, and those oh-so-fancy espaliers
  • Troubleshooting pesky spots, scales, worms, flies, and other killjoys
  • Preventing weather damage and prepping your plants for winter
  • Harvesting and storage methods

With a primer on what exactly counts as fruit (scientifically and culturally) and Prairie-friendly lists of species and varietals for every space and inclination, you’ll soon know your drupes from your pomes, your berries from your pepos and be well on your way to harvesting the fruits of your own labour (yes, we went there).

About the authors

Janet Melrose is a garden educator and consultant, and an advocate for Calgary’s Sustainable Local Food System. She is a life-long gardener and holds a Prairie Horticulture Certificate and Home Farm Horticultural Therapy Certificate. She has a passion for Horticultural Therapy and facilitates numerous programs designed to integrate people marginalized by various disabilities into the larger community. She is a regular contributor to The Gardener for Canadian Climates magazine. She lives in Calgary where she runs her education and consulting company, Calgary’s Cottage Gardener.

Janet Melrose's profile page

Sheryl Normandeau is a life-long gardener, and holds a Prairie Horticulture Certificate and a Sustainable Urban Agriculture Certificate. She is a freelance writer specializing in gardening writing with hundreds of articles published. She is a regular contributor The Gardener for Canadian Climates, The Prairie Garden Annual, Herb Quarterly, Mother Earth Gardener, and many more. She lives in Calgary.

Sheryl Normandeau's profile page

Excerpt: The Prairie Gardener’s Go-To for Fruit (by (author) Janet Melrose & Sheryl Normandeau)

What is the botanical definition of a fruit?

We all know what fruit are. They are that sweet and crisp apple or peach with juice dripping down your arm. It’s the sun warmed raspberry you pop in your mouth or tart sour cherry on a loaded tree. Robins, bears, and squirrels, not to mention people adore fruit.

It’s not that simple though, as the term fruit is loaded with botanical, culinary, and even legal meanings, some of which are fun trivia, but others will impact your taxes. Some extra botanical knowledge will deepen your awe for the plant kingdom and how it has coevolved with other kingdoms. Not only that, such knowledge will help you be a successful and satisfied fruit gardener, especially when you are enjoying that strawberry you grew and got to harvest before anyone else!


Botanically, a fruit is a “mature ovary, along with its associated parts.” Another way of describing a fruit is an “edible reproductive body of a plant.” But what does all that really encompass exactly? In layman’s terms, a fruit is literally the end result of a plant flowering and being fertilized through their carpels receiving viable pollen, should we gardeners not snip off the blooms as they fade. Changes occur in a fertilized flower—with anthers and stamens withering away, petals dropping, and sepals either following or morphing for further use. The ovary within the flower enlarges with cell walls multiplying, expanding, and thickening as the ovules start to develop seed within; this ripened ovary is known as the pericarp. In some species, as the fruit near maturity, the hormone ethylene is released and the flesh of the fruit sweetens and softens. When mature, the fruit either remains on the plant, dehydrating until such time the mature seeds are released, or the entire fruit drops to the soil to eventually germinate where it lands after the pericarp degrades, assuming of course that no-one eats it first.

Botanically then, fruit are squash, legume pods, tomatoes, peppers, apples, pears, berries, nuts, and a plethora of others we may or may not think of as fruit. Hence the debate as to whether a tomato is a fruit or vegetable because, culturally and especially in our cuisine, we make the determination between vegetable and fruit as whether it is savory or sweet. An okra is not sweet at all, so it is a vegetable. But no one thinks of an apple as anything but a fruit. We even make the determination between fruit and vegetable based on whether it is a dessert or part of the main course. Or whether it is eaten raw or cooked. Though that one is easily debunked considering what we use to make salads these days. Yet the culinary definition of a vegetable is any part of a plant that is not the botanical fruit. We only eat the stalk of a rhubarb, so it is really a vegetable. But rhubarb gets to be a fruit because we enjoy it either dipped in sugar and eaten raw or cooked in sweet pies and cobblers. Thus, avocados are treated as vegetables because they go into salads, guacamole, or on toast. No-one particularly uses tomatoes as a dessert, though there is tomato soup cake to belie that assumption. Some common spices are also fruit. Think of the vanilla bean, not to mention paprika made from red peppers. Some nuts are actually fruit and vice versa. The debate goes on and on to lots of laughter and we learn as we delve deeper into botany.

Legally it gets rather interesting, yet still amusing, when you consider that, back in 1893, the United States Supreme Court made the determination that a tomato is a vegetable simply to ensure that tomatoes paid a ten percent import tariff rather than none at all if they were deemed to be fruit. —JM

Editorial Reviews

Praise for the Guides for the Prairie Gardener series

“The Prairie Gardener’s series offers knowledgeable yet accessible answers to questions covering a broad range of topics to help you cultivate garden success. Get growing!” —Lorene Edwards Forkner, gardener and author of Color In and Out of the Garden

“This is a beautiful and incredibly well-written series of books on earth-friendly gardening. Lavishly illustrated, with photos in every segment, the books are a pleasure just to leaf through, but the accessible writing and level of expertise makes them essential to any gardener’s library. Although they’re geared to prairie gardeners, I found great information that transfers anywhere, including where I live, in the Sierra Foothills, and will enjoy them for years to come. Well-indexed, to help you find solutions to elusive problems. Highly recommended!” —Diane Miessler, certified permaculture designer and author of Grow Your Soil!

“All your gardening questions answered! Reading the Prairie Gardener’s series is like sitting down with your friendly local master gardener. Delivers practical guidance that will leave you feeling confident and inspired.” —Andrea Bellamy, author of Small-Space Vegetable Gardens

Other titles by Janet Melrose

Other titles by Sheryl Normandeau