Don’t tread on my cherry tree!

Our Department of Fruitland Security has tried many things–with mixed success–to keep squirrels and other rodents, as well as birds, from getting the fruit before the humans can harvest and enjoy it. But a snake in the tree could be the most effective yet.

The problem with the snake-in-the-tree solution is, of course, that the snake doesn’t like to hang around in one spot. This one did, however–literally. It got itself caught in the bird netting draped over the cherry tree. To say the least, it was quite a shock for your orchardist as he went to harvest the cherries and was just about to sit down on the ground underneath the tree to untie the netting when he noticed the snake! (And I will admit that snakes give me the willies bad. I’ll put the photo on the inside branch in deference to others with the snake-willies. Click “more” at own risk!) Continue reading

Three peaches and a peach-plum on a plate!




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Originally uploaded by
laderafrutal.

Back left is ‘Red Baron’; back right is ‘Tri-Lite’ peach-plum hybrid; front left is ‘Arctic Supreme’; front right is ‘Double Jewel’.

All of these have been harvested in the last several days. The ‘Tri-Lite’ is certainly the most unusual. It looks like a peach–though the dappling would be somewhat more typical of a plum (or the ‘Dapple Dandy’ pluot)–and it has fuzzy skin. Its texture is more like that of a plum. The flesh is almost pure white, and its flavor is clearly a mix of the parents albeit leaning somewhat in the peach direction. Nonetheless, the finish is unmistakably plumlike. It is also a clingstone, like plums and unlike any peaches/nectarines I have ever grown. (There are, of course, clingstone peaches and nectarines, but I assume they are all high in chilling requirement, or otherwise unsuited to this climate.)

‘Red Baron’ is a very mild flavored and juicy yellow-fleshed peach. Its name comes from its spectacular spring display of double red blossoms–the only peach I know of with such vivid red blooms.

The ‘Double Jewel’ is also a flowering-fruiting peach, in this case with pink flowers. It is a very richly flavored peach, with an orange-yellow colored flesh. It is one of the best peaches you could ever eat!

I have not yet had a fully ripe ‘Arctic Supreme.’ All of last year’s crop was chomped prematurely by squirrels. The fruit depicted here dropped early and may not ripen properly (just as all fruit that is picked too early–such as the grocery-store imitations–do not ripen properly). There are many others on the tree. With luck I will get to taste at least some of them fully ripe!

As for chilling requirements, the two double-flowering varieties should be quite low. We have them planted up in one of the lower-chill portions of the finca and they bloom well every year. The other two are planted down in the corralito, where chilling would typically be 500-600 hours. The peach-plum is moderate chill (and so far, a shy bearer); the ‘Arctic Supreme’ was listed as needing 800 hours, but clearly does not need that much.

‘Earli Autumn’ apricot




EarliAut_04Aug06_2.JPG

Originally uploaded by
laderafrutal.

The ‘Earli Autumn’ apricots are just starting to ripen. They are pictured here moments before I transferred the bird netting from the ‘Moorpark,’ which is the next tree in the row. (If you think it is accidental that successively ripening varieties are planted right next to one another, you clearly have not read my “scientific farming” section of the Mission statement! It is a whole lot easier to move netting between two trees when they are within just a couple of feet of one another.).

‘Earli Autumn’ is obviously a slight misnomer (unless “earli” means “not yet”). And it is far from the best apricot (that would be the ‘Moorpark,’ as I frequently say, or the ‘Newcastle’). But who can complain about having tree-ripened apricots in the autumn–or even at the peak of summer? Up next (and, of course, also next in the row) is the ‘Autumn Glo,’ though its crop is far lighter than the ‘Earli Autumn.’

(This morning I managed while harvesting to embed something from the mulch in one of my fingers. Painful and hard to type!)

The donut and the donut hole

This is an example of the previously referenced ‘Donut’ peach, both before and after surgery. (Pardon the less than totally clear photos.)

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A legend–and I can’t provide a source or any claim that it is true–is that these pintau peaches (i.e. flat peaches) were favored by a Chinese emperor because he could eat the whole thing without ever getting his fingers sticky. (It is sort of possible; I tried it once, for the historical significance of it all.)

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And then you can look through it.

Fun with fruit!

The best part, of course, is the eating. These are great peaches.

_____
Finally, a nomenclature note: These peaches are sometimes called ‘saturn’ peaches, but appropriate though that name may be, there is also a patented ‘Saturn’ variety that is not a flat (donut-type) peach, but rather a double-flowered tree with ‘ordinary’ fruit. I have seen them confused in some catalogs and other sources. As far as I know, there is no flat peach on the market that also has double flowers, so if you see such a variety advertised, ask some probing questions.

Shaa Kar Pareh

There was a bonus white apricot in the ‘Shaa Kar Pareh’ tree. This was right near the fruit I picked almost three weeks ago, but it was so small that I did not think it would ripen. But it did. Small, but packed with flavor and juice. A great “white” apricot, viewed here whole and sliced. If only I could post the taste!

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Shaa_Kar_Pareh_cut.JPG

Call the Cops: We Have Donut Crops!

The ‘Donut’ peaches will be ripe soon. Here you can see this year’s crop behind the netting that protects it from birds and other local thieves (we really do need orchard cops here!).

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‘Donut’–also known as ‘Stark Saturn’*–is one of several flat peaches. There is hardly any flesh between the stem and blossom end, so it is easy to cut the pit out and then you really do have a donut! (I will try to remember to perform this little bit of surgery and post a photo here once we have some ripe fruit.)

Like almost every other stone fruit this year, these are later to ripen than usual. We had a late winter.

‘Donut’ has white flesh and a very delicate texture. The flavor has a pleasant bitterness that some say is somewhat almond-like. It would rate pretty high on my list of favorite peaches.

We have two other flat peaches: ‘Sweet Bagel’ (yellow fleshed) and a mystery variety that was labeled by the nursery as ‘Silver Lode’ nectarine, but produced a flat peach (pictured below from last year) that was clearly neither ‘Donut’ nor ‘Sweet Bagel.’ No other flat peach varieties appear in any of my source books, so it really is a mystery.

Mystery flat peach Aug 2005.JPG


* Not to be confused with the fruiting-flowering variety simply known as ‘Saturn,’ which is not a flat peach. I have seen them confused in nursery catalogs, so buyer beware!

Apricot season: The orange, the black, and the white

This has been a great year for apricots. The ‘Newcastles’ are about done now, and the ‘Royals’ have just started. Once they are about done, we should be getting some fruit off the ‘Moorpark’ and then there will be a pause till the ‘Earli Autum’ and ‘Autumn Glo’ come in. Before the ‘Newcastle’ there was a smaller-than-last-year crop on the ‘Flavor Delight’ which is actually an aprium (i.e. an apricot-plum cross that leans more towards the former). Along the way we have also had ‘Katy’ (but only one fruit this year, which is no loss, as a subacid apricot is nothing remarkable) and, of course, the so-called black apricot, ‘Mesch Mesch Amrah,’ which is actually a type of plumcot (in this case, a Prunus x dasycarpa that is a naturally occuring plum-apricot cross). The Mesch Mesch Amrah had very few fruit this year, probably because of chilly wet weather during its bloom. But what it had was outstanding, as usual. I wish more people knew of and grew this rare fruit.

A special treat this year was my first ever taste of a white apricot. The ‘Shaa Kar Pareh,’ planted just two years ago, had one fruit. I have long sought a white apricot. The old Sunset Western Garden Book listed a variety called ‘Snowball.’ Much research in the mid-90s revealed that there is no evidence that this white-fleshed variety still exists. (Maybe someone has an old tree in the backyard and has no idea what a rarity it is!) As a result of my queries, Sunset quietly dropped the variety from its book a few years ago. More recently, Bay Laurel started offering two white-fleshed varieties, ‘Canadian White Blenheim’ (CWB) and the ‘Shaa Kar Pareh’ (SKP).

The CWB (planted in 2004) has bloomed (strangely for an apricot, only after being well leafed out) each of the last two years, but no fruit. As I have noted before, I suspect that the CWB has a a 600+ hours chilling requirement, but the SKP may be a good deal lower.

But I can report on the SKP. If this is what white apricots can be like, it was worth the wait! It was extremely sweet and juicy, probably more so than any other apricot I have tasted. I would say it was really only faintly like an apricot in some ways, in addition to the pinkish-whitish exterior color, being almost smooth of skin and vaguely plum-like in texture. But it was absolutely not, in flavor, a plum or aprium or plumcot. It was an apricot, just not like any other I have ever had.

As usual, among the more “typical” orange-fleshed apricots, the ‘Newcastle’ was outstanding. It has quite a complex flavor, not as rich as ‘Moorpark’ (which I eagerly await this year), but much more interesting than the more famous ‘Royal’ (a.k.a. ‘Blenheim). In fact, the latter is a fine fruit, but perhaps overrated. I can see why ‘Royal’ is favored for farmers markets (the big commercial growers long ago abandoned it for varieties like ‘Patterson’ and especially ‘Castlebrite’ that have a virtual suit of armor to allow them to withstand oppressive Central Valley heat and long-distance shipping). ‘Newcastle’ has two tendencies that would annoy growers, even those servicing the farmers markets: It often ripens unevenly (one side of a fruit sometimes remains rather under-ripe while another side is almost too soft and about ready literally to burst with juice), and it is so soft that it barely travels from the corralito to the house, let alone to a market. But these are not problems for the home grower, and ‘Newcastle’ gets my vote for the best home-orchard apricot for southern California. (I should add that, while I like ‘Moorpark’ probably best of all the orange-fleshed varieties, it is a bit of a shy bearer here, and probably has a chilling requirement of more than 500 hours, whereas ‘Newcastle’ has a chilling requirement under 400 and perhaps around 300.)

I need to re-graft that ‘Redsweet’ (an incredibly sweet and, yes, quite reddish, apricot) to complete the apricot rainbow!

Kuban burgundy plum




Kuban burg plum 04June06.JPG

Originally uploaded by laderafrutal.

This beautiful four-year old plum tree is a Kuban burgundy. Ordered from Raintree Nursery, which obtained the variety from Abkhazia (near which there is the Kuban river), it has a quite heavy fruit set this year. Even in the larger version of the photo, the fruit is hard to see, because it is almost the same color as the foliage. It is a very high quality fruit, rather early ripening (relative to any other variety I have grown), and it keeps this foliage color all summer long. A lesser known variety that deserves to be better known!

Also ripening this past week: Flavor Delight aprium and Flavorosa pluot.

Just starting to ripen now: Newcastle apricot.

Coming very soon to a tree near me: Mesch Mesch Amrah black apricot (plumcot), Royal apricot, Weeping Santa Rosa plum and many more!

Peaches: Last of the blooms, first of the fruits

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The ‘Double Jewel’ fruiting/flowering peach is about done flowering and well into its fruiting stage. Other branches are loaded with little developing fruits, and just these few branches remain in their full floral splendor.

Meanwhile, down the hedge…

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The early-blooming peaches are getting big. Those in the foreground are ‘Midpride,’ one of the finest low-chill peaches. Just behind them are the fruits of the ‘Earlitreat’ peach–the first trunk that is visible. ‘Earlitreat’ lives up to its name. Some years the first peach has been ripe on 30 April, though with our late chill and rains this year, everything is a bit delayed. You can almost watch these peaches expand. They go from bloom to relatively large peaches in an amazingly short time. It is not even one of the first to bloom here, but always the first to ripen. Quality varies. Some years it is quite rich and other years quite bland. I expect bland this year, because it has been unusually cool in March and April. But I won’t complain about fresh peaches bursting with juice in May!

Beyond the ‘Earlitreat’ in the photo is the runt of an ‘August Pride,’ then the ‘Arctic Star’ (a spectacularly sweet and juicy bald peach, i.e. nectarine), and then at the end of the hedge, the ‘Double Jewel’ again (note the blooms).

This hedgerow is on Ladera Frutal’s middle elevations, where the chilling is moderate (400 hours or less). All of these varieties need under 400 and some (like ‘Midpride’) probably under 200.

Fruit set in a wet spring

After hardly getting any rain all winter, we’ve had a very wet spring, with a series of storms–a few quite big–passing through in March and the first half of April.

The wet spring followed a winter with quite good chilling accumulation (despite some warm spells along the way that made a doubter of me). The Mesch Mesch Amrah black “apricot” (actually a plumcot) is always one of the harbingers of spring. It had a good bloom, and the early signs of a good fruit set. But the wet weather did it in, and nearly all the fruitlets aborted by the end of March.

Most of the real apricots, on the other hand, have set better than I have ever seen before!

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I am not sure now which apricot this is (shame on me, I know). It could be ‘Earli Autumn,’ ‘Autumn Glo,’ or ‘Blenheim.’ It does not matter,* because all of them (and also ‘Newcastle’) look like this. Look closely (especially on the large photo, which you can open in a new window by clicking the image) and you will see several very dense clusters of fruitlets!

The ‘Moorpark’ (as I have said before, my favorite) is still blooming. Fortunately, there have been some good sunny breaks between storms (inlcuding an 85-degree day on Friday), and it looks like it is setting.

Moorpark_14Apr06.JPG

Just today I noticed that the ‘Canadian White Blenheim’ had some blooms and several flower buds that are swelling. I have waited a long time to taste a true white-fleshed apricot. Could this be the year?
Continue reading

The blooms of March, part 1: A high (?) chill apricot

Apparently, we got some decent chill after all!

Look at this branch of the Earli Autumn apricot, which the catalog says needs 800 chill hours. (And don’t adjust your set: The digital camera insisted on focusing on the relatively bare branch behind.)

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Now, there is no way that we got 800 hours, and thus no way that this variety really needs 800 hours. A requirement of 500 hours is probably closer to reality, and 500 is probably more or less what we had reached as of around two weeks ago (when this trees’ buds began to swell, indicating their chilling needs had been met).

When you see a branch like this, with every bud about to burst, you know the tree is happy!

But as the photo on the “inside page” shows, the upper portion of the tree is not singing quite as loudly about the arrival of spring. Continue reading

The Last Pluot

Paul Brewer was kind enough to welcome this blog to the ‘sphere. But he also made the following observation about Fruits and Votes:

So far, the votes seem to be winning over the fruits

Well, he is quite right. I had envisioned this blog (and actually still do) as a nexus between my fruit-growing interests here at Ladera Frutal, and my interests in constitutional design and elections. (They are not as unrelated as they might seem, but that is a topic for a future post, if you can take the suspense.) [UPDATE: The suspense is no more! See “The Mission of F&V” link beneath the blog’s banner for an overview. Also the “I like hybrids” post that I linked below. More coming later, no doubt.]

Sure enough, events have focused my mind on the institutions (“votes”) side of things. No posts on fruits, unless one counts my post on lambic, which maybe one should.

So, here is the fruit post you have been waiting for.

Yesterday I harvested the season’s last pluot:
The last pluot

If you do not know what a pluot is, well, you are missing one of the real fruit sensations of our time. These are quite new hybrids by Floyd Zaiger, who is a modern-day Luther Burbank of fruit hybridization. And, yes, he does it the old fashioned way, as did Burbank; these are not gentically modified. This is painstaking controlled transfer of pollen from one variety’s flower to that of another, plant the seed, and see what you get. In fact, pluots are such complex hybrids that it takes generations of waiting for your seedlings to mature to fruiting age, and then repeating the cycle, in order to get the desired hybrid.

A pluot is roughly 3/4 plum and 1/4 apricot. There are now several crosses in the nursery trade, and some of them are having commercial success as well.

The fruit pictured above is a ‘Dapple Dandy.’ It was the last fruit on the tree, and you can see here the lengths I go to in order to protect fruit on the trees. Notice the netting around the fruit (keep birds and, less reliably, mice, away), and the silvery tape haning on the left side of the picture (scares birds, though it does best when it is windy so the thing twists and flashes).

And here is the beautiful 2.5-year-old tree from which that pluot came.

4 in 1 pluot

If you look closely at the base of the trunk, you will see yet another layer of defense—sheet metal. This makes it harder (nothing would ever make it impossible) for squirrels to climb the tree and steal the fruit. (Squirrels can easily rip right through that bird netting.)

This tree has four different varieties of pluot grafted on to it. Only two of them have fruited so far: The ‘Flavor King’ as well as the ‘Dapple Dandy.’

Both are incredibly richly flavored. These are fruits that, especially when tree-ripened, have the kind of complex layering of flavors that can be described by the kinds of phrases wine-tasters (or should I say, tasters of the finest ales, like lambics) use. In fact, the ‘Flavor King’ does almost taste like a wine!

Because the fruits are so complex and sweet, they can be harvested well before fully ripe and still be acceptable. In fact, eventually they may largely replace plums in the supermarkets for exactly that reason. But tree-ripened, they are in a league of their own.

Now, I wonder, when Paul wrote

…but the avocados have not yet begun to fight

did he know that Ladera Frutal includes a couple of acres of Hass avocados? Or was that just a lucky guess?