The Fruits of My Labor . . . Have Flavor!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Tree Ripened Flavortop Nectarine
Isn't that just a clever little title? I thought of it all by myself. Are you impressed? Please, stop laughing.

I mean it, please stop laughing.

Now that we have proper introductions out of the way - may I introduce you to my latest "sweetheart" in the kitchen? No, the wife that is Venus has not been replaced. She has not taken a sabbatical (she'd better not!). She did not "fly the coop."

That sweetness -- pictured top right -- is none other than the Flavortop Nectarine. It is now coming ripe by the dozens in the Front Yard of Bird and is one of three varieties that I have stuck right next to one another in a crazy madness known as Backyard Orchard Culture (BOC).

Three nectarine trees instead of one!
But -- in this case? The plantings are in the front yard. Nevertheless -- it's still crazy. A fruit lover must be slightly off his or her rocker to try something like this. But the proof is in the Nectarine Pudding. The close planting of fruit trees does work -- and I have the lip-smacking, juicy, tree-ripened Flavortop Nectarines to prove it.

This is the second year for our nectarine plantings. These trees really aren't supposed to produce a large amount of fruit until the third year and successive years after that. But who am I to argue with a nectarine tree like Flavortop? If it wants to produce two or three dozen nectarines in just it's second year of growth? You won't get any arguments from Bill and Venus Bird.

Not hardly.

Flavortop Nectarines ready for slicing!
This is also just the start of fresh nectarine season? Still to come? The best tasting white nectarine on the market I'm told -- the Arctic Jay White nectarine. It's absolutely loaded with second year production. And as for the largest tree in the bunch? The Fantasia nectarine? It didn't produce so much as a single piece of fruit.

Go figure.

The Arctic Jay nectarines are still a good 5-7 days from that "soft to the touch" kind of ripeness that orchard culture freakniks like myself crave. And that is the method to the Backyard Orchard Culture (BOC) madness. The goal isn't to produce a boatload of fruit from every single tree. The goal is to produce just enough to keep you  in nectarine flavor heaven, until the next variety ripens up.

Sliced Flavortop Nectarines
As for the Arctic Jay? It is a tried and true Taste Test Winner: best of all fruits at the Dave Wilson Nursery blind fruit tasting held July 5th, 1996. The variety gets an enthusiastic two thumbs up from none other than Farmer Fred Hoffman, and others who have this treasured tree as part of a backyard planting. This is truly one productive variety.

The three nectarine trees pictured below are all in need of a "haircut." That's the beauty of BOC. You never allow these trees to reach a height of more than six or seven feet. Constant pruning is a must. But I've come to find that fruit trees react and react well to constant pruning. It's not difficult -- and the fun part is -- you get to choose the size and shape. Does tall and thin work for you? Round and large? A nectarine hedge perchance? The decision is yours.

A little off the top barber!
But not everything is wine and roses either. The nectarine trees -- much like the peach trees planted in the Bird Back 40 -- suffered from a bout of peach leaf curl thanks to a wetter than normal spring. The new growth and shoots that would later emerge from the trees were covered with a shade of white -- which is not a good thing children. That's powdery mildew and it can and did affect fruit production.

Some of the nectarines were covered with a frosting of white that would not wash off, no matter how hard I tried or whatever method I employed. While the trees did eventually recover from the mildew attack, some of the fruit did not and there was considerable damage to the nectarine skin. UC Davis documents powdery mildew here, and another excellent resource for home growers comes from West Virginia University.

Powdery Mildew damage on fruit skin
Fortunately? The mildew did not penetrate any of the fruit itself. The flesh literally glistened with sweet juices. The taste? Hard to describe. You're not going to find nectarines that taste like this in your local grocery store. Nectarines at Farmer's Markets are allowed to sit on the tree a little while longer, but still cannot compare to the sweet, tree-ripened fruit that comes from your own fruit tree.

I will never forget the steps I took two winters ago to plant these bare root fruit trees. An ugly hedge stood in my way during the NFL playoffs. But rather than watch the Saints, who would go on to win the Big Enchilada that year, Bill and Venus Bird were outside in a light rain, setting up the first BOC "experiment."

After one taste of a tree-ripened Flavortop Nectarine? Consider this a wise step in a wonderful experiment for home fruit production.

In other words, I don't miss that hedge.

1 comment: