This is how the bananas look this morning, after two nights of freezing temperatures.
Click the image to open a larger photo in a new window.
Compare how they looked just over three weeks ago.
These mornings were the first in the four and a half years of my record-keeping that it froze this far up the slope. This morning the low up here was 27 (compare 23 downslope at the corralito). Even up higher where the subtropicals are, it reached 28, so the young trees up there (shown in the subtropicals domain planting immediately before this one) may not have survived.
The Allspice tangelos are finally ripening–a few weeks later than usual.
Like any tangelo, ‘Allspice’ is a hybrid of a grapefruit and a mandarin (tangerine). It lives up to its name, having a flavor that I could not describe in any other way than as “spicy” (not in the hot chile sense, of course!).
The ‘Sarawak’ pummelos are also ripening.
These also have a somewhat spicy flavor. They taste sort of like a sweet lime, but with complex spicy overtones–unlike anything else you’d ever encounter in a citrus.
Both of these trees are among the thirty or so trees we dug up and moved from the pre-finca in Carlsbad just over four years ago. They have thrived here. The ‘Allspice’ (which tends to be rather tart) tastes much better here, where it gets more warmth, but the ‘Sarawak’ may actually get a more complex flavor in the cooler coastal climate.
Both are sensational, and unfortunately somewhat hard to find.
No, not higher ground to protect from flooding, even if Ladera Frutal is on the slope of Mt. Ararat (more on that later). These subtropical fruit trees, last pictured here in their pots in front of F&V HQ, have now been planted high up on the slope, above the highest level at which frost and freezing temperatures are expected.
With Ladera Frutal worker Martin standing by, this photo shows three subtropical trees high above our Hass avocado grove: A green sapote (left, foreground), a mamey sapote (to Martin’s left), and canistel (behind Martin, but barely visible against the avocado trees down the slope).
The photo above (especially its larger version, which you can get to by clicking the image) gives a good idea of just how high this spot is. In the canyon below (looking south), you can see a neighbor’s vineyard and the main road at the base of the hills of the opposite canyon wall. Below the trees are shown from a different angle, which gives an idea of how close this location is to the crest of the hill.
At one time, I intended to plant these trees all the way up and just over the crest of our one northeast-facing slope. But poaching off the existing irrigation system won out over installing a new one, and the elevation difference is minimal. This location might even be better. The two photos together give an impression of just how protected the location is. Just barely exposed to the normal sea breeze, and probably our most protected spot against the occasional dry northeast (Santa Ana) winds. The avocado trees, as well as the rocks (which act almost like radiators) and slope configuration (cold air flows like water and a south face gets more sunlight), should make this a great spot. Now, we await the growth and the fruit!
(As is usually the case at F&V, you may click on these photos to see larger versions, and also to get to the Ladera Frutal photostream.)
The puny stem in the center (above) is a different grafted variety than the rest of the tree. It had been allowed to be outgrown by the more vigorous main variety and numerous root suckers, but it has survived. The material that I pruned off lies beaneath the tree, as a mulch.
Pruning off the low branches and twigs allows the interesting bark and branching habit of the Jaboticaba to be exposed. Being able to see the trunks is a real plus with a Jaboticaba, given its unusual fruiting pattern.
Both of these trees are among the several that we dug up from old pre-finca in Carlsbad and moved here just over four years ago. The pitanga had fruited a bit in its former home, but the Jaboticaba had done next to nothing. Both are much happier with the greater sun and warmth here, and the Jaboticaba had a something that could be called a crop for the first time in June/July–though nothing like the one in the offsite photo linked above. The blog of that link–Leaves of Grass, from Brazil–also has photos of beautiful large pitanga trees. Both of the Ladera Frutal trees depicted here are only around five feet tall, and I have never seen specimens of either species get much more than fifteen feet in this region. Both species are native to South America.
(It’s not fruit, but don’t miss the photos of the Tabebuia, also at Leaves of Grass.)
If you like pitanga photos, see the full set (which periodically will be expanded).
This ‘Dwarf Manwah’ banana stalk turned horizontal from the weight of the ripening fruit shortly before we left for Montreal. I cut it and we froze the fruit for future use (e.g. in smoothies). Excellent banana.
And this and the other bananas and assorted subtropicals must be thrilled with this week’s weather. Highly atypical for this time of year (or really, any), it has been cloudy and humid with high temperatures the last three days from 35 to 38 (a.k.a. 96 to 101) and even some showers and thunderstorms. Too bad we don’t have this kind of subtropical flow more often.
The fruit was a tad astringent, but good nonetheless. Yellow sapotes, also called canistel or eggfruit, are not juicy. Their best use is to thicken and flavor smoothies, but it is hard to make a smoothy with one little fruit (I forget to photograph the fruit before eating it, but see the above link!). So I mashed it in a bowl with a little milk and nutmeg for a tasty treat. Look very closely at the photo (or its larger version that you can see by clicking on it) and you can see that the tree is loaded with flower buds!
The tree is currently in a large pot in front of F&V HQ. On the right of the photo is another sapote, the Mamey (a favorite of mine from past fruit exploration in southern Florida and South America). It’s the tree with the arching candelabra style branches. To the left is the green sapote.
Growing subtropicals in pots till they develop a good root system is recommended, given the marginality of our climate. That way, when they reach ground, they are somewhat more mature than the 5-gallon size at which they were purchased. The pots also allow one to undertake the back-breaking but plant-saving practice of bringing them into the garage when frost is expected.
Soon, these trees will be planted–up high in Ladera Frutal’s subtropical block, where frost is unlikely and on the eastern slope to minimize exposure to ocean wind. (Can’t do much about those drying Santa Anas, other than water intensively when they are blowing, but luckily the terrain here does not favor the extreme Santa Anas of other nearby locations.)
The fruits are not all that is (sub)tropical these days. We are currently having a very rare (especially for June) ‘Monsoonal’ flow, for humid weather, variable high clouds, and even a nearby thunderstorm yesterday morning. Today the temperature was 33 (Celsius, obviously) before noon. Very odd, but a welcome respite from the usual June gloom.
The Latin names for these fruits are:
Yellow sapote–Pouteria campechiana
Green sapote–Pouteria virdis
Mamey sapote–Pouteria sapota
(There are lots of sweet tropical fruits from the Americas called ‘sapote’ and many of them are unrelated; these three happen to be from the same genus)
Apricots and other stone fruits are not the only things blooming now at Ladera Frutal. Below is our Lemon Merengue mango variety. You can see several flower sprays, especially on the left side (albeit blending in with the frost-burned leaves of the banana behind).
Unfortunately, the photo also shows some of the perils of growing mangoes here: Powdery midew (or other fungus). Mangoes do not like damp cold conditions. (They come from India and other parts of south Asia, so they love humidity, but along with much more heat than they get here.) (more…)
The avocado grove–especially after a good pruning–is a pleasant place to enjoy the dappled sun and hear the breeze rustle the leathery leaves, and to admire the fruit and hope it portends better crops and prices to stave off the threat of any rigid pressure.
This is our row of mandarins, all different varieties. Six trees in all, with the Page being up front and the first to ripen, and I just tried my first one. Still a bit tart, but I would not be one to complain about that. And with this current weather (low around 45 this morning, high around 78 and more of the same to come), it is perfect weather for bringing out the bright color and the blend of acid and sugar that makes Page one of the finest mandarins.
Next down the row is the Pixie, which ripens much later, but you can see some of the fruit starting to color. Then there is the very ordinary Owari Satsuma (no fruit this year), followed by another real prize: a rare Russian Satsuma. (Where is it warm enough in Russia to grow citrus? Along their short Black Sea coast, I suppose.) There are three more varieties farther down the row, but they are obscured in this view by the monstrosity of a Eureka lemon. Off in the far distance you can see one of the nearby massive Hass avocado groves that make this area the avocado capital of the world.
These trees don’t grow very fast, so it is pretty exciting when it puts on a growth flush. This is actually its third flush of the year. Each one puts on a few inches, at best. Man, how long till it fruits?
In this photo, the tree’s new growth is backlit by the late-afternoon sun on a somewhat foggy day last week.
Yes, October 21 is my birthday, and I have spent it off an on out in the orchard and here in front of the computer. One thing I have not done is work. It just seems that one is entitled to a day off on one’s birthday, if one can manage it, and with this being a non-teaching, no-meeting kind of day, I could manage it.
I was out admiring the banana grove and noticed that one of the banana fruit stocks had split, and the fruit was on the ground. The variety is marked on my tag as WHL, which I assume is an abbreviation for its full name, but I can’t recall what that was.
I am not sure when this damage happened, but it must have been during the rare October cutoff low that blew in with 20 MPH northeast winds on Sunday, and dropped .84 of an inch here on Ladera Frutal over a three-day period. (This was the same low that was dumping steady rain on what proved to be the final game of the Angels-White Sox series in Anaheim. Significant rain in October is prety rare around here; last year we had 5.14 inches in October, which was just unheard of.)
The bananas get regular southwest winds of 20+, but they don’t get winds from the other direction too often, and so that, coupled with the weight of the developing fruit was apparently just too much.
The good news is that most of the fruit looks OK. It is ripening and, except for a few that got invaded by bugs while lying on the ground, I think we’ll have some fruit for fresh eating and smoothies and other treats. Now the fruit is hanging in the breezeway beside the house.
Letting ripening bananas hang in a shady place with good air circulation is the ideal way to bring them to full flavor. (A lot better than letting them sit in cold storage on a ship from thousands of miles away or in a bin at the grocery store under bright lights!) As this photo shows, we had some good strong bicycle hooks installed in the breezeway ceiling for this purpose.
The pitanga is not one of our better known fruits, but it deserves to be better known. As its alternate name, Surinam cherry, implies, it comes from northern South America. The small and interesting-shaped fruits are packed with flavor–quite complex and with a sort of “wild” flavor (if it were meat, one might say “gamey”). The fruit shown above is about 1.25 inches in diameter, which is HUGE for a pitanga.
This is our tree, which has grown really well since we moved it from Carlsbad just over three years ago. It is still under six feet tall, and these trees rarely top twelve feet in this climate (though I have seen a few very old ones that were taller). They are quite attractive all year round, as well as producers of tasty exotic fruit.
At various places in the tree, you can see red dots (ripe fruit, which I picked immediately after taking the photo), orange dots (fruit that will be ripe in a few days), green dots (blending in with the leaves, fruit that will ripen in a week or two), little white blooms, and if you really look closely, flower buds. Once these trees get going, they have several cycles of fruit in a short period of time.
If you like pitanga photos, see the full set (which periodically will be expanded).
Isn’t this little Brewster lychee tree just gorgeous?
Of course, it will be even more gorgeous some day, I hope.
My tree has been in the ground for about a year and has put on a good deal of growth. For a lychee growing in the Western USA, that is.
This tree is located on the eastern side of the house, which both gives it morning reflected heat (well, when the sun is actually out in the morning) and protects it from the daily onslaught of cool winds from the west/southwest. Just an example of how one needs to use whatever microclimates one can find when growing fruits marginal to one’s (macro) climate.
Interesting review of tropical fruits here, reporting on the poster’s recent trip to Asia.
Some of these fruits can be grown here at Ladera Frutal, and I have a lychee tree that I just planted earlier this year. It is growing well (for a lychee, which tends to be very slow-growing, at least in subtropical areas like here). One day, I hope my tree looks like this photo!
Jackfruits are one of my favorites. I have seen a tree in El Cajon, east of San Diego, loaded with fruit. My conditions here might be just a bit too cold for them, however. Here is a photo that shows the scale of these incredible fruits.
Dragon fruit has actually become somewhat a sensation lately. I have even seen soft drinks with Dragon fruit flavor.
If by my laws you walk, and my commands you keep, and observe them,
then I will give-forth your rains in their set-time,
so that the earth gives-forth its yield
and the trees of the field give-forth their fruit.
--Vayikra 26: 3-4