Monday, April 25, 2011

The Citrus Report: Our Hidden Grapefruit Tree

Grapefruit tree tucked into corner of our yard, 2011.
Our small garden is backed with fruit-bearing trees.  We have an orange tree, a lemon tree, two loquat trees, an unknown (and seemingly inedible) green plum of some sort, and a grapefruit tree tucked into a small corner up by the house.

I find it hard to believe that the grapefruit tree grows at all, as shaded as it is by the large loquat tree in front of it.  In fact, it's so well-protected that we didn't realize that it was bearing fruit this year.  (The previous inhabitants of this house had a strict no-water policy, which although quite ecologically sound, didn't do much for the citrus crop during our first year in the house.)

We watered our garden through the hot, dry summer this year and by the time we were ready to turn off the sprinklers for the winter, our citrus trees began saying thank-you by giving us the gift of fresh fruit.

I've never grown any kind of citrus before so I wasn't sure when and how to harvest our fruit and I have a feeling we didn't do it quite right.  Our policy has been to pick what we need off the trees as we're ready to eat it.  I suspect this is why we ended up with a crop of over-ripe oranges.

Only the youngest member of our family has a taste for our very sour oranges, so it was hard to tell when the oranges were in their prime.  We just kept thinking they'd get sweeter.  They never did.   I think the fact that we waited too long to pick our oranges may be the reason that the marmalade I made from these oranges never gelled properly.  And once I realized that over-ripe oranges were to blame, I never worked up the energy to try another batch.  There are still oranges out back ready to be picked, but for now we're just leaving them for the birds.  Even the squirrels won't eat them!

In spite of our neglect, the lemon and grapefruit trees produced a bountiful crop as well.  While my parents were visiting from Virginia, they made fresh lemonade and homemade lemon bars, both of which were amazing.  It was fun to watch my parents' delight at being able to pick lemons straight off a tree-- something you just don't get to do in Virginia.
Mom's lemon bars, April 2011.
  Several weeks later, we're still enjoying the grapefruit from our hidden tree and have even created a house drink adapted from The Tar Pit's "Brown Derby" to showcase our home-grown grapefruit.  I'll be sure to post the recipe in a future report.
A day's worth of grapefruit in our yard, April 2011.