In the Garden
Q: Is it possible to harvest coffee beans from indoor coffee plants?
A: Yes, but coffee plants grown indoors rarely produce more than 2 pounds of berries per year. If you’re looking for an easy to grow, attractive houseplant, however, Coffea arabica won’t disappoint you. Coffee plants sport lush dark-green, 6-inch long, wavy-edged leaves, and produce clusters of small, fragrant white flowers in autumn. By spring, the attractive 1½-inch coffee beans ripen to purple or red. In order to thrive, they need only a bright location out of direct sunlight, regular watering, and monthly feeding with a soluble houseplant fertilizer in spring and summer. If you want to use the attractive berries for your morning coffee, you’ve got to roast them first. Put the beans in a vegetable steamer and place them in a preheated 400-degree oven for 7 minutes. Then up the temperature to 450, stirring occasionally until the beans begin to crackle. Keep stirring under heat until the beans turn light brown. As the berries cool they will continue cooking to a dark brown color, ready for grinding. By the way, if you don’t do this perfectly, the berries will burn and your house will stink to high heaven for months. I don’t know about you, but I might prefer to enjoy the plant for its beauty and visit the local coffee shop for my shot of espresso.
Q: I’ve heard the fruit on serviceberry is edible. Are there varieties that taste better than others?
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A: Serviceberry (Amelanchier) fruit is edible, high in vitamin C and tastes great eaten fresh or baked into pies. Hardy to -40 degrees, serviceberries come in tree or shrub form. All produce tasty fruit, but there are differences in flavor depending on the variety you choose. If you have room for a 20-foot-tall and wide tree, A. grandiflora ‘Autumn Brilliance’ has a beautiful open, airy form. In spring it’s covered with short-lived but lovely clusters of white flowers, and in fall the dark green leaves turn a brilliant blend of red, yellow and orange. The abundant red, small fruit ripen in midsummer, and taste (to me) like apples. If you don’t have room for a tall tree, selected varieties of our native A. alnifolia will rarely exceed 12-feet-tall by 6-feet-wide. These lower-growing Amelanchiers tend to grow as suckering shrubs, but they look fantastic trained to grow as single trunked trees. In fall, they turn bright yellow. Two of the best are ‘Theissen’, famous for producing the biggest of all serviceberry fruit, and ‘Smokey,’ boasting the sweetest berries of them all. There is one little problem that I failed to mention: The birds are so crazy about the fruit, it’s tough to beat them to enough of the berries to make one pie. Hey, plant one anyway. You’ll get a few to sample, and the birds will appreciate your generosity. These varieties are available bare-root at www.raintreenursery.com.
Ciscoe Morris: firstname.lastname@example.org “Gardening With Ciscoe” airs at 10 a.m. Saturdays on KING-TV.