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5 top fruits to make tasty compote and how to grow them

01st March 2019

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Learn which fruits are best to make fruit compote and how to grow them

It’s National Fruit Compote day! Fruit compote is a simple sauce made from pieces of fresh, canned or dried fruit that has been stewed in a syrup of sugar along with other flavourings such as vanilla, cinnamon and citrus peel. Unlike jam, which is thick, sticky and spreadable, compote is a runnier mixture, often containing large chunks or whole pieces of your garden treats. It’s a great way to enjoy the texture and mouth-watering taste of your fresh garden berries and stone fruits without having to boil them down to a pulp. Drizzle your compote over pancakes, porridge or add it to ice cream and even savoury dishes. Below is a list of the top fruits to turn into compote and how to grow them so you can keep that sweet, fruity treat in mind when you’re caring for your crops on the veg patch.

1. Strawberries

Get the ground ready for the addition of a strawberry bed by digging in lots of compost or well-rotted manure and removing all weeds, especially perennial types, from the planting area. Strawberries grow best in a position with full sun that is sheltered from strong winds or prone to frost, although they will tolerate some shade throughout the day.
  It is possible to grow strawberries from seed but it might be easier to begin with already established plants, or runners. Plant your runners so there is 45cm between each one and 75cm between rows. Mulching your strawberries also helps to retain moisture, suppress weeds (which can smother your berries), and keeps your fruit nice and clean, by stopping them from sitting on the soil which can lead to rotting. Place your mulch or ground cover around the plants and carefully tuck it in, so that the leaves and berries are sitting on top.
  You might need to cover early varieties with fleece overnight if frost hits but remember to remove the protection during the day. This will allow bees and insects to get in among your plants and pollinate them. Pick your strawberries as soon as they’ve turned red because they have a tendency to turn mushy if you wait until later.

2. Raspberries

These soft and squishy little perennial fruits are available in summer or autumn-fruiting varieties that can be planted anytime between November and March. Raspberries prefer a moisture-retentive, but not soggy, weed-free soil that has a pH between 5.5 to 6.5. They do well in both sunny and sheltered positions, but it’s a good idea to turn the ground before planting to remove any weeds, and to add a bucketful of well-rotted organic matter and fertiliser per each plant to ensure they flourish. 
  Plant your raspberry canes into shallow holes 22cm wide and 7cm deep. Due to their long and gangly nature, they will need to be supported by a post and wire system. This requires you to hammer in two poles 3m apart at the end of the row, and support the canes with three wires at heights of 7cm, 1m and 1.5m that are stretched between them. Once the canes have been planted, cut them down to 30cm above ground level as this will encourage new shoots to grow.
  Spring-varieties will be ready for harvesting in early summer. Your raspberries will turn a deep pink colour and detach themselves from their woody, pithy core.

3. Blueberries

Blueberry bushes can be purchased at a young age from nurseries and planted directly in the ground or grown in pots. Young plants in two-litre containers or larger can be placed outside at any time of the year but it is best to wait until spring has arrived to prevent the chance of frost damage.
  Make sure the soil is free-draining and acidic, not above pH6 – if your not sure whether your plot is suitable, purchase a testing kit online. However, if the pH of your soil is too alkaline then you can use containers. Choose a position that has full sun for most of the day.
  Rainwater has a low pH balance, so use it to keep your berries well watered during the growing season. As your blueberry crops begin to grow, the older stems will need to be cut to ground level using a sharp pair of secateurs. Do this during winter or spring to encourage new growth.
  Harvest your crop from the end of June through to September. You will know when your berries are ready for picking, as they will begin to change colour from green to deep blue.

4. Cherries

Cherries can be grown in containers, as small open trees or trained as fans against walls or fences. You can grow sweet (desert) varieties which are great eaten fresh or sour (acid) types that are tart to the taste but are ideal for cooking – and for making that all important fruit compote, especially if you don’t want to make it too sweet. Self-fertile cherries grow well on their own, but you can expect to see bigger yields if a cherry of a different variety is grown nearby.
  As cherries tend to flower during April, it’s best to pick a sheltered position that is not prone to frost. Sweet cherries do best in lots of sun but acid types will tolerate some shade, which makes them a great choice for north-facing garden walls. They also prefer deep, fertile and free-draining soil with a pH between 6.5 to 6.7. Prepare the ground for planting by digging in lots of well-rotted compost or manure a month beforehand.
  Plant your bare-rooted tree in the dormant period between October to March, although they are best planted in November when the soil is still warm. You can then either grow your plant as a small tree (open-centred bush) or as fans against a wall or fence. If you choose to grow a small tree, you will need to tie it to a 30-50cm stake to prevent it from toppling over - especially during the first years of its life. Unfortunately, hungry birds, particularly blackbirds, are often tempted by these round, shiny and juicy treats, so you might need to cover your trees with netting pulled taught against the branches to prevent birds from getting trapped.
  Pick your cherries from July to August by hand or with a pair of scissors.

5. Pears

Plant your pear tree in the dormant period between late November and the middle of March. Bare-rooted trees are preferable, but you can also purchase pear trees in 5 litre pots or above. Pears grow best in a position with full sun and in loamy soil with a pH between 6.3 and 7.2. Choose a site that can be easily watered, as the quince rootstock pears are grafted to need to be kept well-irrigated throughout the spring and summer months, but make sure the ground does not become soggy, especially during winter.
  There are lots of different ways for you to grow pears. You can grow your tree in a container, but you will need to graft it to a suitable rootstock – the best one is Quince C. Alternatively, plant your bare-rooted tree in the garden. To do this, dig a hole that is no deeper than the roots but three times the diameter of the root system. Place your pear in the planting hole and pile the soil between and around the base of the plant, pressing down with the heel of your shoe as you go to eliminate air pockets. Pears also lend themselves to cordon or espalier training provided you have chosen either a Quince A (for espalier or bush trees) or Quince C (for cordons) rootstock.
  Fruits start to swell during late August and early September. Some pear varieties ripen early on the trees whilst others must be picked before they are ripe and stored in a cool environment.

To create your compote, cut up your fruit into small slices (apart from raspberries or cherries that can be added whole), tip into a large pan, and add a dash of water, sweetener and flavourings of your choice. Bring the mixture to the boil and simmer it for around 3-5 minutes. You can then mash it with a fork or a potato masher until it has reached your desired consistency. Leave your compote to cool slightly and then serve it warm or store it in the fridge and use it to add a punch of flavour to breakfasts, deserts and other dishes.

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