We Wish You a Merry Citrus!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Loaded Bearss Lime: Bird Back 40
We Wish You a Merry Citrus!
And a Happy New . . .Lime.


This is the train wreck that happens when writer's literally write themselves into a corner. Didn't know writers could do that? If you've read any of my previous stuff, you'll know that's entirely possible. I start out with what I think is a fairly good idea -- and then it just all goes to Heck in a Handbasket. Steve Mallory might suggest that I've "Gilded the Lilly," but that would require a lilly to begin with.

With the summer vegetable garden a distant memory and fall crops like onions, garlic and spinach poking out of the soil (let's not forget the fall potato crop!) -- it's time to appreciate the other nice things about fall and the impending onset of winter.

Bearss Lime Tree
The best part about this time of the season: It has to be the fresh citrus -- like the fresh Bearss Limes pictured above. This is the third year of production for the Bearss Lime that Venus and I planted into a barren side yard, and we're off to a nice little start. The lime appears to like where it's planted. It's growing quickly. And, after yielding a single, solitary lime last season, we've jumped ahead this year to about 30-40.

Not bad if I say so myself.

But the Bearss Lime isn't the only citrus tree offering in the North Natomas Ranch that's showing impressive color and production this year. Thanks to some mighty fine advice by a rather popular NewsTalk 1530, KFBK Garden Talk Show host -- the Birds are harvesting one of the sweetest, tartest pieces of citrus that I've ever tasted.

Ripe Owari Satsuma Mandarins
I wanted to plant the sweetest variety of citrus I could find. Venus, who is not a fan of the seeds found in the Dancy Tangerine, wanted something seedless. Farmer Fred Hoffman didn't think twice when he responded with the advice of "Owari Satsuma Mandarin."

I searched high and low for that Owari Satsuma Mandarin before I settled on a tree that had just been delivered to my local Home Depot. In most cases I get most of my fruit trees from local nurseries because they offer the Dave Wilson selections that I'm searching for, PLUS, the stock is better quality than what you'll find at your local Big Box Store. Plus, nurseries tend to stock those hard to find varieties that other places don't.

Owari Satsuma Mandarin: Year 1
But the story is different when it comes to citrus. Four Winds Growers, located in Winters, CA, is the primary supplier of citrus trees to all nurseries AND big box stores in Northern California. Nurseries tend to get better looking stock upon delivery, but if you camp out at your local big box store at just the right moment, you just might find yourself a steal of a deal.

That's where I discovered the Dancy Tangerine, loaded with bright orange tangerines I might add (a salivating sight to any lover of citrus), four short years ago. It's where I also picked up the Owari Satsuma just last year. It had just been unloaded from a delivery truck, but didn't last long in the Home Depot nursery aisle. It was the best looking one of the bunch delivered on that cold December day, and I must admit it looks pretty good in the backyard.

Dancy Tangerines
Although the vast majority of citrus ripens in the fall, not all varieties are ready for harvest at once. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the Owari Satsuma started to ripen in October and is now delivering a sweet and tasty crop of mandarins. The Dancy Tangerine, meanwhile, is still green. Based upon harvests from the previous years, these won't start coming ripe until around Christmas. That's right about when the mandarins will begin to play out.

As for the Meyer Lemons? The news is both good and bad. We have a heavy crop on one tree -- and nary a lemon to be found on the other. I was also rather SHOCKED to discover that the larger of the two Meyer lemons was GROWING multiple shoots and branches in this cold fall weather, after not doing much of anything this spring.

Fall Growth on the Meyer Lemon
Good news? I suppose so. But if a cold frost should decide to hit in the next week or six (some winters are worse than others), those tender new shoots are toast. They will freeze. They will burn. They'll turn a none-too-pleasant shade of black. I'd rather the Meyer Lemon send out loads of new growth in the spring, but let's be honest: Meyer Lemons don't exactly cooperate with what the owner wants. I suppose I should be happy with the new growth spurt and leave it at that.

Despite the good news, we're not done yet. In fact, you could say we're just getting started. We manage to plant something new every year -- and this year is no different. South Natomas grower and citrus aficionado Nels Christensen gifted us with a Cara Cara Orange tree late last spring and it is still sitting in a pot, waiting for its permanent home. The process of grafting will soon yield other varieties of citrus. Short and sweet? There's a long way to go.

I could write all day about citrus -- but alas -- it's time for dinner. Tonight's offering? Turkey Pho, with leftover turkey, and pho broth generously sprinkled with fresh lime juice.