Best of the Best in zone 3 or 4a

I am wondering what the very best item or two that Northerners in Zones 4a or 3 have grown. Is there a particularly successful variety of some fruit that is something everyone here should consider? For me the most successful and dependable so far have been Sparkle and Honoeye strawberries and Cortland apples. Rhubarb has also done well. Cherries and plums have pretty much been duds, and pears are just getting going good now. The Luscious pears were very tasty, but require a lot of thinning. I’m hoping I can give a lot more glowing reports of other items as time goes on. I have certainly planted a large variety of things.

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I’m going on year 7 of planting, so I don’t have a lot to report on apples and pears just yet. I do know that Whitney crab is pretty close to “bullet proof” so far. So are a number of wild crabs that were here before I bought the place. I also have two producing wild apples that are pretty tasty and obviously hardy enough to thrive here. Northwest Greening has done well so far. I’ve got 50+ varieties of apples and 12 varieties of pears currently growing, so I hope to be able to report much more in the future. Pears have been painfully slow growing. I’m hopeful to get some Ure, Early Gold, and Golden Spice fruit this year but I guess I’ll believe it when it happens. None of my other pears are even close to producing fruit yet.

Red raspberries do well here. So do the wild black raspberries and American plums.

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my bushes and trees are fairly young but red raspberries, any currants, strawberries, rhubarb, blueberries, russian mulberry, aronia, american hazels, elderberry , concord grapes and honeyberry all grow very well here. i have mini american plums ,montmorency, nanking and U of S cherries are growing very well but aren’t fruiting age yet so no reviews on those. have had fireblight kill every tree i try to grow here as my property is ringed w/ mountain ash. i suspect they are why fireblight is so bad here. i have 1 apple left. if i lose it I’m all done doing apples.

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Russian mulberry? Could you describe it? Thanks.

I am in the mountain foothills of central Montana at about 5400 feet elevation. We have a pretty short growing season. Winter temperatures commonly drop as low as negative 30 degrees F. We are also in the Chinook belt, so temps have been known to rebound into the mid 50’s or even 60’s during mid winter. I am on the North slope of the mountain, so I usually have abundant winter snow cover. Rhubarb is pretty much a sure thing. I have good luck with Latham Raspberries. Honeyberries grow well, but fruit yields have been quite variable. I have mature Chestnut and Whitney Crabs that have thrived and fruit regularly. I started a small home orchard with several cold hardy varieties of apples four years ago. The Yellow Transparent trees fruited last summer. All of the apple trees seem to be thriving. I have Cabot and a Golden Spice pear trees, they have survived but they have been slow to grow. I planted most of the US available varieties of U of Saskatchewan Cherries as well as a couple Adirondack Apricots. They all have suffered some die back, but so far all have survived. We have had a series of wet warm Falls that discouraged dormancy and hardening off before winter. A couple Carmine Jewels did have a few cherries on them last summer.


its Morus alba. got it from coldstream farms in MI. the most cold hardy mulberry there is. I’m going to plant a illinois everbearing mulberry next to it as i.e is self pollinating and russian mulberry has separate male and female plants. hopefully the russians a girl. also going to try and graft i.e to it. my russians in 3rd leaf and 6ft tall would be bigger but our deep snow last winter broke a lot of branches on it.

Aren’t Russian mulberries simply feral white (morus alba) mulberry seedlings? That’s what I always assumed anyway.

its not a cultivar. probably run of the mill Morus alba. don’t even know if its self pollinating, male, or female. its pretty fast growing considering my clay, rocky soil. was only a 12in. twig 3 springs ago and only gets about 6hrs. of full sun where its at.

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My tops for apple is Beacon. Mine have survived the ups and downs of z3 winters for forty years; the early ones in the very cold late 70’s/80’s with minimal care. Great fruit, too. Apples for the most part do well here based on the numerous very old, and not so old, orchards around and seedling trees lining the roads. I’ve started doing more grafting of unknown local trees that I find and like.
My Stacey pear is 15 yrs old and strong, healthy, hearty. It’s encouraged me to plant more pears. It and our 40 yr old rootstock pear - large, healthy, inedible fruit, but beautiful. So pears can do well here.
Blueberries and strawberries have been constant and reliable producers for me. We have sandy-loam acid soil that they love. Raspberries, too. I’ll second Latham as a variety; it’s my favorite. But Boyne is probably the hardiest, sturdy and shorter than Latham, I had it years ago and just planted it again.
Rhubarb is a given. It was my first ‘fruit’ 40 yrs ago and it has never failed me since!

I’m hoping someday my many plums will be a good source of fruit, as well as the growing cherries. But I certainly wouldn’t want to depend on them for my fruit needs. Gooseberries have just started producing but wild ones do well here so I expect the tame ones to do so, too. All other fruit I have planted is just interesting sidelines, not mainstays. Sue


Interesting sidelines. I’ll have to remember that phrase! I’ve a lot of those. I have found home-grown pears far superior to store bought, but for fresh the store-bought blueberries are much better.

Sue , try currants. they are just as easy to grow as raspberries and elderberries. for jams, consort is one of the best and WPBR immune. crandall is sweeter and good for fresh eating, native to the midwest…drought tolerant and very ornamental as well. also WPBR resistant. tiben is a newer one that supposed to be good for fresh eating and a big producer. then there are the reds and white which i don’t have much experience yet as i only have 1 red perfection that is young. they are mostly disease free and need minimal care/ pruning. they are easy to grow from cuttings and produce as early as the 2nd year.

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contact me in early may and i can send you some cuttings. i think i have a few consort cutting left that are already rooted that i could send you. once you try the jam, its the only one you will want to eat!

Here are my “bulletproof” fruits and here’s why (can zone 4b here/ USDA 3b/4a?):

  • Evans and Montmorency sour cherries: beautiful trees, healthy, tasty fruits. Downside: birds love them. U of S cherries work as well, but I prefer Montmorency.
  • Disease resistant apples such as Redfree and Crimson crisp: healthy trees, short season, delicious fruits. Crabapples can be nice too. Would love to try Chestnut crabs!
  • BlackHawk black raspberries: delicious, reliable, big fruits… etc.
  • Somerset grapes: super sweet, crisp, non slip-skin, semi-seedless
  • Hinnomaki yellow and Jeanne gooseberries: these 2 are the best I have tasted until now. Crunchy, chewy, juicy, aromatic. Downside: currant worms!
  • Haskaps: some find them too tart, but I love them. They are super early, small, sour, juicy, flavorfull (strong “berry” flavor), they make great pies (if you add some corn starch or something… lol) !
  • Seabuckthorn berries: very healthy fruits, good looking plants, peculiar (nice) taste, nitrogen fixers!!
  • Strawberries, blueberries, wild blackberries and red raspberries: they simply are delicious.
  • Toka plums: juicy, sweet, very aromatic, very prolific.
  • If you can avoir CAR; saskatoon berries: blueberry texture, unique taste, beautiful little fruits.

i have a montmorency in 2nd leaf. i have ohio treasure black raspberries. they are very tasty and are primocane fruiting as well. i have 3 types of haskaps and find them vey tasty as i like tart fruit. also have seaberries and serviceberries, strawberries, blueberries , raspberries and native blackberries. try currants. you won’t regret it! :wink:

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Hi @moose71!

Is that a clove currant (odoratum) ?
Tiben is a euro currant (nigrum) ?

Which is best / your favorite?

I only had black currants from the local market and I have no clue if there were odoratum or nigrum. I liked them, but they had such a strong/weird aroma. They reminded me of… wait for it… chicken! That being said, I had currant jam before and it didn’t make me think of chicken at all…

for fresh eating i like crandall a lot. but for jam, consort rules! yes consort fresh has a very strong, musky smell/ taste to it. i like it fresh also but most don’t. but for jam it is the best I’ve ever tasted. also great as a side for version, pork or chicken ,much like cranberry. last x mas i mixed the jam with some real maple syrup and glazed a ham with it. it was phenomenal! there are newer more productive varieties out there but I’ve yet to sample them. consort and crandall are so easy to grow I’m content with them. :wink:

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I have a Redfree. The apples are kind of bland and don’t keep long, so I plan to try to graft over part of it. My Evans cherry has never produced a ripe cherry yet after about ten years or so. My Somerset grape isn’t very vigorous,either, and the grapes are tasty, but few. Some of those other items I am waiting for them to grow bigger. The home area I have has poor very sandy soil and is on a steep hill, so hard to add amendments or even to water, but my rural land has great soil, so I am hoping for great harvests eventually. I am looking forward to getting enough Consorts to make the jam everyone talks about.

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its replaced raspberry as my new favorite jam! can never get enough of it! i cold mash the berries with a little splenda and freezer pectin and make freezer jam. i can sit there and eat spoonfuls of it at a setting or for dessert. my mouth is watering talking about it! it has the most unique taste of all the fruits i grow. i give some to my family/ and friends and they can’t identify it but they all agree its awesome!


Cool idea Moose! Could you be more specific on how you make this “freezer” jam? Thanks

wash and drain your berries. you can crush your berries with a potato masher or if you want skins more chopped , use a food processor. add your freezer pectin per instructions. i use ball and they have directions on the back of the label for using splenda . once splenda/ pectin and fruit are added together you stir for 3 min. then add to your jars. freeze the ones your not eating right away. its real easy. i use a little less splenda as i like the jam more tart. adjust for your tastes. i add a good squirt of lemon also. you can even omit the actin all together as currants naturally have their own pectin but it won’t be as firm. I’ve done it both ways. i like it this way as you don’t have to heat and process after.

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