Birthday bananas!

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.

WHL banana

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.

Bananas in the breezeway

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.

Pitanga season is here!

Pitanga fruit

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.

Surinam cherry tree

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).

Weekend fruit photo: Lychee tree

Isn’t this little Brewster lychee tree just gorgeous?

Brewster Lychee Sept 2005

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.

Back to fruit

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.