Friday, January 13, 2012


As I was out running this morning (don't stop reading - this is about Citrus!) I was noticing again how many citrus trees there in this area.  My regular runs around the local roads are wonderful opportunities to observe front gardens and plants. Citrus here are as common as apple and pear trees in gardens back in the UK. Amazingly despite the huge amount of fruit that ripens at this time of the year, so few people seem to pick it. Occasionally I see a bag of fruit  with a 'Help yourself' sign at the roadside and a local organisation called 'Hidden Harvest' attempts to pick and distribute unwanted fruit to the hungry. Last year they rescued 170 tonnes of donated fruit.

Amongst the fruit trees in gardens, I have seen many types of small orange, key limes, grapefruit and lemons. Less common are pummelos, huge football-sized grapefruit, citrons, rather warty looking lemons with a thick rind and dry flesh (not much use!) although the curious Buddha's hand is a fascinating fruit. Kumquats are tiny orange-like fruits sometimes seen as pot plants in the UK. They are distinct in that the rind is sweet and you can eat the whole fruit.

Buddha's Hand

Citrus are just used as landscape plants here - good evergreen trees with highly scented white flowers in early spring and ornamental fruit in the autumn.  There are also lemons and oranges with variegated foliage.

Variegated orange
In our own yard we have a  grapefruit which produces yellow flesh not unlike the typical tinned grapefruit - OK but a bit bland. Just outside is an enormous tree which bears huge crops of sweet, pink-fleshed grapefruit that we eat from November to April. Outside our neighbour's condo is a tangelo which produces great sweet tasting oranges , annoyingly filled with numerous pips. The fruit in the communal gardens is regarded as pick-your-own!

Citrus here are amazingly easy plants to grow, requiring minimum maintenance. Pruning is basically for shape only. Garden centres stock large fertiliser sticks, specifically formulated for citrus which can be driven into the root zone around the trees to keep them healthy and cropping. There is concern about occurrences of the Asian citrus psyllid, an aphid-like pest that spreads a fatal bacterial disease.

The citrus trees are wonderful to see and the fruit a great freebie - hand-picked lemons for a Tarte Citron, homemade marmalade and of course fresh lemon for my gin and tonic! So there - you see I didn't talk about running - but I did use a lemon energy drink as I ran!

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