Being haunted by an unusually cold, and slightly snowy spring (last year I almost had corn planted by now!), it was a nice surprise to receive a rather large package in the mail today. I knew what it was before even opening it – contained in the six foot tall, long skinny box was two Mountain Ash hybrids. Sorbus acuparia – Mountain Ash, or in Ireland and the United Kingdom known as a Rowan tree, caught my fancy this winter as I was flipping through all the different seed catalogs. After reading Gaia’s Garden by Toby Hemenway, I was on the lookout for new trees, shrubs and other perennials to add to our gardens both for food and for animal habitat. Previous to ordering these trees I knew what a Mountain Ash tree looked like, and also knew it had culinary uses. What I learned from some of these seed catalogs was that Sorbus acuparia had been crossed with both Aronia and Hawthorne. The famous Russian plant breeder Ivan Michurin, who performed these initial crosses is also their namesake – Ivan’s Beauty and Ivan’s Belle. The hybridization of Sorbus acuparia has left the fruit less bitter, more purple than orange, and a wonderful addition to any northern edible landscape. The berries that are produced on a Mountain Ash or any of the hybrids are high in vitamin C and can be used in a number of ways. Jams, jellies, and preserves are a traditional use; along with sauces as a condiment for wild game. One other use, and the one that sold me on these trees is the drying of the fruit. Being that the fruits are high in vitamin C, a tea made with dried Mountain Ash berries holds it’s place as a wonderful and tasty survival food here in the cold, snowy, white north. Here in Minnesota it is hard to come by vitamin C in the middle of the winter (the only other plant that comes to mind is rosehips), so if the grocery stores all of a sudden stop selling lemons, limes, and orange juice because gas prices sky-rocket, at least I won’t die of scurvy!! It will be a few years before I see any fruit from these trees, but it is the start of our future boulevard permaculture garden and animal habitat. Cheers!