Packing a punch: a feast of fruit (we hope!)
We are watching our fruit trees, waiting on tenterhooks. Compared to last summer, we are promised a bumper harvest. In some cases that wouldn’t be difficult as we had nil, or a mere 4, fruits in 2015 partly because our trees are still quite young. In other cases, the trees have raced ahead this year. But it’s wise not to be over-confident: you never know what pests may creep in while the back is turned.
First, the date palm. We have a first crop of Zaghloul dates close to being ripe. Over the past month they have turned from green to a reddish colour, which means they will soon be ready to harvest. Widely cultivated in Egypt, the Zaghloul is long (up to 7cm or so) and slender, red turning brown to black as it over-ripens, with a woody texture and sweet taste but – to my way of thinking – a tendency to leave a dry sensation on the palate that is not so welcome.
Back in late March, my husband turned his hand for the first time to pollinating the strands, as many farmers and gardeners do. This meant clambering up a high step ladder with a bundle of pollen-filled staves obtained from a local “a’attar” shop, where you buy seeds and other basic supplies, and brushing them against the female inflorescence, hoping that enough pollen had been transferred to do the job.
It worked! This is the first time the date palm has borne fruit since we bought it 4 years ago, and it’s something of a triumph.
Next, the guava tree. Unexpectedly this has turned into one of my favourites; I had never previously liked the fruit for its tendency to be tart rather than sweet and for the unavoidable seeds, like so much grape shot seemingly designed to find gaps among the teeth. But closer acquaintance with the fruit of our tree, an apple guava, has persuaded me otherwise and I can’t wait to start gathering this season’s crop. They are still green and on the small side (see below, left), but hopefully by late August we shall start picking them.
An interesting point about the guava tree is its medicinal uses, particularly in alleviating coughs: it is used in cough medicine here in Egypt, and you can make an infusion of the leaves for the same purpose. The fruit is loaded with vitamin C: four times as much as an orange, in fact!
Meanwhile, the lemon tree has excelled, producing countless fruit after bearing just 4 last year (above, right). Although the fruit are on the very vigorous root stock – and there isn’t a single orange on the scion – we have much to be thankful for as lemons are a staple in our kitchen.
Just across the lawn from the lemon, near the pergola, we have a small satsuma tree. It hasn’t thrived since we planted it some 4 years ago, bearing no fruit at all after the first year. But TLC, in the form of compost and manure, and attention to the water supply, mean it now has a good crop of fruit, hopefully to be harvested in the winter – below, at left:
Then the kumquat (above right) – the biggest surprise of them all. Originally planted on the basis that it was a satsuma tree, it turned out to be of a different species and is now bearing a fourth generous crop. At first, I was mystified as to how I might use the fruit, but regular readers will know that I discovered the joy of marmalade-making, producing small batches of delicious, fully organic conserve that is sweet rather than bitter and packed with goodness. This season’s crop is eagerly anticipated!
Lastly, the pear tree. After several barren years, it has made a supreme effort and produced two fruit: one a normal size, the other somewhat stunted. We wonder, discuss, speculate about what the beautiful full-size pear will taste like: with each sun-filled day, it turns a little less green, a little more golden.
After the successes, the inevitable failures, not that I would wish to dwell on them: the grand total of two plums that simply disappeared while we were away in June; and the (reputed) lime trees that compensate for an absence of fruit by bearing the most atrocious thorns of any tree I know. Plus the figs, refusing to thrive even though I hear that figs are so hardy they “grow anywhere”. Not in our garden they don’t!