We’ve all heard of strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and their well-known cousins, but let’s face it: ordinary can be boring. Tasty? Yes! Easy to grow? Yes! Absolutely appreciated and at the top of the wish list? Yes — but still boring.

Here’s a little secret. For some of us, gardening is all about showing off. The crunchiest apple. The biggest peaches. The sweetest strawberries. County fairs have fed our passion to brag for eons, but for those of us — ahem, meaning me — who can’t garden WELL to save our lives, we still have a claim to fame: maybe we can’t garden well, but we can garden weird.

Folks, below is my top five list of some of the most unusual and yet easily available fruits (focusing on smaller berry-type fruits) that are winter-hardy enough to survive northern gardens. Enjoy!


Not gonna lie, I’m pretty sure most nurseries call this plant “aronia” because it’s much more appealing than the plant’s other name — which is black chokeberry. By all accounts, it’s a sorta-sweet, sorta-sour berry that’s more of a canning berry than it is one to eat fresh.

This is a big ‘ole shrub that can reach 8 feet tall (although the nursery you buy from might have plants that top out much smaller). Hardiness? Zone 3, peoples. A little ice and freezing temperatures don’t scare this bush!

The University of Maine has a lovely little summary of this oddball plant (just make sure you find the sidebar links to additional information — the landing page is very short and is meant as a springboard to the more informative links).

In a nutshell, aronia thrives in mildly acidic soil, can be propagated by seed or plant division, pruning needs are very low, and you’ll get maybe 5 pounds or so per plant. Disease wasn’t much of a problem, but it sounds like the local wildlife will give you a run for your money on the fruit!


I’ve always been a fan of citrus. When I saw advertisements for seaberries that likened their taste to a high-vitamin orange-citrus taste, I was super-excited. Berries! Easy to grow! Tastes like orangey-lemonade!

Then I checked Wikipedia. For starters, they refer to this as a sea buckthorn… mildly ominous. Info confirms they are “very thorny,” and goes on to say “Sea buckthorn berries are edible and nutritious, though astringent, sour and oily, unpleasant to eat raw,” and “harvesting is difficult because of the dense thorn arrangement among the berries on each branch.”

Ouch. I find my enthusiasm very diminished. I’d love to see these (and taste the berries) in person before spending the money, but I don’t know that anybody in the area grows them.

University of Nevada has a cool summary of the seaberry. According to their summary, the plant is CRAZY cold-hardy (down to -40 temperatures!), has few pest problems, and… wait for it… Russian astronauts apparently took seaberry juice into space to protect against “cosmic radiation,” whatever that means.

Honestly, my biggest argument against this plant is the thorn problem. We have non-fruiting buckthorns around, and they’re no joke. Once I figure out a remote planting area, they’re definitely moving high on my list.

(Note: Don’t confuse the “sea buckthorn” berry with the fruit of other buckthorns. The genus has over 100 different species, and not all the berries are edible – in fact, some are wildly toxic. Some were even used in the Middle Ages as a laxative. Yes. Gross. Don’t know exactly what berry you’re looking at? DON’T EAT IT.

Even “edible” berries may have toxic properties, so before eating an unfamiliar berry, make sure you’ve researched any processing needs!)


The lingonberry is basically a ground cover that bears fruit similar to cranberries (a relative). Hardy up to zone 4, temperatures and cold winds aren’t much of a problem — which is a big deal for northern gardeners.

I was initially attracted to this plant when I found out it spread by rhizomes. What a win for easy propagation! Cuttings are another way to increase your yield.

I love Cornell’s plant guides and information, and they have a fantastic summary of the lingonberry that answers all the important questions about growth, production, disease and more. (Summary: relatively disease free, watch the soil pH because acidity is important, and keep an eye on pollination and overcrowding.)

Personal note here: I have really struggled to get my lingonberries up and running. Pretty sure soil acid is my problem, but that’s just me. I think this is one of those plants like blueberries where if you have the right conditions, you’re golden — and if you don’t, you have to be prepared to put some extra work into your berry patch.


This is a fruit I haven’t seen a whole lot of “buzz” around, but it’s relatively easy to find in the major seed catalogs. There’s three general types (red, white and black), of which apparently black is the best tasting (thank you, Encyclopedia Britannica. I hope you’re right).

The berry itself looks like a weirdly malformed bramble berry, like a raspberry or blackberry that went to the dark side. It’s a very soft fruit and the taste is both tart and sweet. (Don’t eat them before they’re fully ripe unless you want to risk food poisoning.)

For more information, you can sift through Cornell’s guide to the mulberry. It’s short but informative. According to their summary, the plant is like the king of hardy plants; shade tolerant, cold tolerant, and doesn’t mind lousy (even salty!) soil. Apparently propagation isn’t a problem, because the article calls it invasive… if that’s not ease of growing, I don’t know what is.


In terms of weirdness, the cold-hardy kiwiberry is pretty weird. This definitely isn’t what you think of as a grocery-store kiwi; you’re looking more at a grape-sized fruit. Yield is nice, with older vines producing more (average 60 pounds, according to the guide below).

The taste is supposed to be sweet, but just heads up there’s like a billion different types out there (or 60, according to this kiwiberry guide from the University of Minnesota), and there’s a few “bad apples” in terms of taste among that bunch. You’re going to need both male and female plants for pollination, sturdy supports, and enough room for some sizeable vines.

There’s a very cool Creative Commons-licensed guide to growing kiwis in the northeast created by the New Hampshire Agricultural Experiment Station and funded by the USDA. Sure, it’s not all going to be relevant for cold-zone growers (I admit I didn’t read the section on global history of the kiwi… I wasn’t that into it), but don’t forget that the northeastern states register some pretty darn cold temperatures. The growing section of the guide is outstanding.


The honeyberry (also called haskap, and depending on your nursery the cultivars may be labeled as the registered trademark yezberry), is one of my new favorite in the soft fruit gardening world.

The fruit is very similar to a blueberry in both color and taste, but the shrub does NOT have the same pickiness about soil acidity. If your property doesn’t have the pH level to make a blueberry happy, you’re in luck; the honeyberry will probably thrive with no soil remediation efforts!

Fortunately for northern-climate gardeners, the honeyberry is wildly cold-hardy, with many cultivars hardy to zone 3. You’ll find relatives of this berry in Canada, Russia, and other reaaaally cold areas around the globe, so for zone 4 gardeners, the honeyberry is about as good as it gets.

If you’ve never grown the haskap before, you can check out some quick growing tips and information on my FAQs for Growing Honeyberries document. The page covers basic questions about fruit, growing conditions, and other information for new honeyberry gardeners.


These aren’t the only unusual cold-hardy fruits out there that will thrive in northern gardens. This is just the tip of the iceberg! (Looking for the full list? Check out my article on 45+ Fruits Cold-Hardy to Zone 4).

This selection makes my top-tier list because they are widely available and you won’t have to spend your life’s savings to bring one home, and yet they aren’t nearly as popular as their mass-market cousins — and yet, every one of these plants is tough enough to withstand a frigid winter. Weird gardeners, take heart. There’s hope!

This post was originally published in 2022. The post has since been updated to keep information and links current.

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