Gold Nugget or Crazy Good Mandarin?

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Gold Nugget Mandarin-Bird Back 40
I'll be honest. This past winter restored my faith in citrus. I had one of the best citrus harvests ever on the Dancy Mandarin. And since Mr. Freeze steered clear of much of the Bird Back 40 this past winter, my citrus and avocado plantings sailed right through a mild winter and bloomed like something special this spring.

Know what that means? It means a record harvest later this fall for the Bearss Lime, aka Gin and Tonic, tree. That's what it means! Because when it comes to a mean Gin and Tonic or a mean Tom Collins, a juicy Bearss Lime or three is absolutely essential. That my friends, is fresh drink heaven.

Mister Snow Miser (Not Kind to Citrus)
Last winter was also a far cry from the devastating winter of 2013. Yes -- 2013 was just as dry, if not more so, than 2014. But what 2013 had that 2014 didn't was a long and extended stay by Mister Snow Miser. Do you remember him from your ABC Holiday specials? He's got a thing or two for icicles, and unfortunately he stuck around for far too long in December 2013. By the time he finally departed, the lemons had shriveled into unappetizing black lumps. Oh -- and half of the Gin and Tonic tree decided to take a dirt nap.

Good riddance to 2013!

Part of this past weekend was dedicated to restoring the damage that took place during 2013. The Clementine Mandarin that also checked out permanently that year was replaced this past weekend by something rather special. Say hello to the Gold Nugget Mandarin, plus a little something else extra special.

Yours Truly With Gold Nugget Prize
Do you know how difficult it is to find and purchase a standard sized mandarin tree in this day and age? Try this one on for size: Extremely Difficult. The primary supplier for all things citrus in California, Four Winds Growers, will provide you with plenty of dwarf citrus offerings. You want a dwarf lemon? No problem! Dwarf lime? Got them right here in spades! Dwarf mandarin? Take your pick! Standard size lemon, lime, orange or mandarin? Better luck next year, son.

Why is the primary supplier of citrus in California focusing on dwarf selections? Good question! Ask! I've tried. It's tough to get a straight answer. So what's the problem with dwarf citrus offerings? Dwarf sizes often result in small harvests. The days of that 30 foot tall and 30 foot wide citrus tree are quickly disappearing. Say hello to citrus trees that grow no larger than six or seven feet -- and like it.

Mandarin Trees-Green Acres Nursery
This past weekend just happened to be that very special weekend that the Sacramento Chapter of the California Rare Fruit Growers (CRFG) held its annual citrus scion exchange. You want something special when it comes to all things citrus? Visit the CRFG exchange. You won't find everything under the sun there -- but it's pretty darn close.

I'd heard some good feedback about the Gold Nugget Mandarin. A recently released mandarin developed within the University of California, Riverside citrus breeding program, the Gold Nugget holds up well against freezing conditions (a plus) and also ripens at a time (early March) when most mandarins in the Bird Back 40 have come and gone.

Gold Nugget Mandarins
I tried to find a standard sized Gold Nugget tree. I failed. Miserably. Although the Bird Back 40 is studded with standard sized citrus trees of every shape and variety -- finding a standard sized Gold Nugget was proving to be rather impossible. So, I settled for what was available that day at Green Acres Nursery: a Gold Nugget mandarin tree on dwarf root stock.

BUT -- obtaining that Gold Nugget mandarin tree was just the first part of the battle. You see, that tree would become the root stock that I would use for other varieties offered through the CRFG citrus exchange. I was particularly interested in obtaining scions for two different varieties: the Minneola Tangelo and another variety offered by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). It's so new that it doesn't even have a name yet -- and may never have one. It's known only by number: The 6-15-150.

6-15-150 Mandarin
As soon as the wife that is Venus spotted the scions marked with the number of "15-150," she broke into a wide grin and blurted out "the 5150 mandarin? That's crazy good stuff." That's all she had to say. Consider us sold. Before we departed Maddox Park on this particular weekend, the Gold Nugget Mandarin had been outfitted with a graft of what promises to be a "crazy good mandarin."

The newest mandarin tree to grace the Bird Back 40 has already found it's permanent home. It sits in the spot once occupied by the long-gone Clementine. It's not that I've given up on the Clementine. That's also a right fine mandarin. But all mandarins are not the same. Some have a little more trouble standing up to deep freezes. The Clementine, unfortunately, isn't as cold tolerant as I would like. And since Mr.Snow Miser does like to pay a visit every once in awhile, it's probably best to stick with mandarin varieties that can survive an icicle-challenged night or two.

Dwarf Mandarin Trees-Green Acres Nursery
The graft, which is completely wrapped in grafting tape to keep it safe from water intrusion, hasn't sprouted yet. It may never sprout. Grafting isn't 100 percent foolproof. I know this to be true because my success with citrus grafting is nothing to write home about, unless the piece appears in "Failure Magazine." That's why I had someone with a more experienced hand do the grafting work for me. That's the advantage of membership in a group like the CRFG. That's where you find the really special scion wood -- and someone who knows what they are doing.

Will it turn out to be our favorite mandarin, provided the graft sprouts to life? Good question. I can't tell you. As one CRFG member is fond of saying, "my favorite mandarin happens to be the one I'm eating at that particular moment."

Wise words indeed.


Anonymous said...

If you are ever in the San Diego area, Clausen Nursery in Vista sells standard size Gold Nugget trees. I got mine from them a few years back and it's now my largest citrus tree. Their website is said...

Mandarins are awesome! They look so sunny and tasty! I bet they are sweet like a honey.