Atlanta Fruitman’s Blog

Loquat Wisdom
March 24, 2009, 1:14 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

This is the last of the old post. My fruit explorations still occur. I hope  to write about them to share with people and hear about there gems of knowledge along the way.

This past winter was one of the mildest I have seen in a while. I think we may have gotten down to only 20 degrees briefly. None of my hardy plants even got any leaf burn. I covered my Jelly palm, Ichang Lemon and Thomasville Citrangequat, but I don’t even think that was necessary.

The surprising result of this mild winter was that all the blooms on my Loquat tree in the front of my yard had all survived!  Loquats bloom during winter, which seem to always get killed by our >10 degree low temperatures; I have searched high and low for a variety that may bloom later in the season with no luck. If I could find a tree that blooms in mid February, I would escape most of the harsh freezes and get a good crop each year. The past few years I may get few that survive with a bit of care, but with no severe freezes this year, I did do anything this year and got bumper crop. It is hard to tell immediately whether the loquat blooms survive a chill or where they are even pollinated, the flower is small, pretty and mildly fragrant, but behind the flower is a just mass of fuzz. It is not until weeks later that you will begin to see the swelling for the forming fruit or the shriveling dead flower stalks. To my surprise, I was seeing a lot of swelling fruit. As spring approached I was anticipating some automatic thinning, but the tree kept all its fruit. I tried to do some thinning on my own. This was very hard for me, I waited so long for such crop and I didn’t want sacrifice any. I thinned very few. I only thinned fruit that were misshapen or to close together or to high to be effectively pick, Thinning will give me a good size, but just could not do it the way it needed to be done. At the last NAFEX/CRFG meeting I was fortunate enough to sit in on a talk on loquats, I was told to get optimum size you will need to thin to 3 fruits per cluster. Mine were more like 5 or 6. I was lucky to get any; I did want to look a gift horse in the mouth.

Oh well, I will just wait to see what happens. The fruits got larger and larger and soon a yellow hue was starting to show. The clusters were getting heavy. I thought the branches would break from the weight of the fruit. I was beside myself with excitement. I started to be concerned about how I would keep the squirrels and birds away from my prize. Usually I cover the 2 or 3 surviving fruits with foil or a bag, but there are so many now, I didn’t know if it would be worth it.  I decided to chance it. I would let some of the Nanking bushes carry some fruit to keep the birds occupied while the Loquats ripened.

(Oddly enough the Nanking cherries seem to be a good diversionary crop to have in general. My Stella sweet cherry and Goumis are not bothered as long as there are Nankings available. I think that because these cherries are the first fruits to ripen and they are the right size for a bird to swallow and not have to take somewhere and pick at, they seem focus on that one type of fruit till it is all gone. Nankings tend to produce heavily too, so it will be a while to get through them all if you can keep the big flocks away from them or attract territorial birds.)

This strategy seems to work too, but there were other things to worry about.
I noticed on of my neighbors eyeing the tree from time to time. He is not much of a fruit lover and doesn’t care for my tastes, but for some reason he was interested in this tree, though he has never heard of it before. He is generally a good soul and very nice to me. So if he wants some once they are ripe I would be happy to share. The fruit swelled more as they turned yellow and softened. My neighbor would ask my every time he saw me if they were ready, I told him,” no, I wanted them to be completely golden before they are picked”. He was eyeing two very large fruits facing the street that were nestled invitingly in a flush of leaves right at shoulders length. I told him I was saving those for my friend Ghaleb who introduced me to the tree and I wanted to share them with him next time we meet. About another week past and I was asked again about the fruit. This time I was told that they are ready and are quite good, He decided to just start without me; this kind of disappointed me. I wanted to be there when he had his first bite and I also thought it was kind of rude to go behind my back like that. He would now pick a few whenever he past my house. This was fine. He has given me things over the years, so I liked that enjoyed something mine. Soon other people were coming out of the woodwork to taste my fruits. People were stopping along the street asking me what that tree was and what the fruit taste like. People who would never even look at me before were now being very nice. A kid would stop me while being outside ask me to ask me if he could try one of the fruits. Now why would a kid even know this is edible I asked myself. I briskly stated the fruits may make you sick and continued working.  The kid responded, “no they wont, the ones I had yesterday were very good”. This child of about 10 years old just told on himself, but also crushing my lie that I made up on the spot. I told him to take a few but don’t eat them all at once, because I did want his mom saying I made her kid sick, which with this litigious society we live in, this may be a real concern. This just further irritated me. Then I hear people walking along the road would just pick some fruit to carry home with them. Do people not ask anymore!? Do they not have sense of propriety?  The next few days I want our to pick the large fruit I want to give to my friend Ghaleb only to find that it was gone! I was boiling!!  I felt violated! I waited so long and took so much care and to have it swiped just like that. I really felt my neighbors had turned on me. Luckily none of them were around, because I would have taken back my fruit and freely shared a piece of my mind!  I picked a few fruits and I stormed back in doors.

Later that day, with my friend Galeb I sat and we feasted on a few of the fruits. It pleased me to see his face when he bit into them. These fruits reminded him of his youth in the Middle East.  You don’t see loquats in the shops here, so it is rare for him to get a treat. That experience warmed my heart a bit. As
I shared my fruit with others to try, I really felt proud to give them a new taste experience. Soon I began to realize that I had plenty to share (and not just of my fruit). It was silly for me to get so angry. I thought back on the little boy that asked me about the fruit. Instead of pushing him away, I think I missed a real opportunity. This may have been a real chance for me to give to him something special, something more than just a sweet snack to someone who really may have been open to learning. Learning about the natural world – learning about where fruit and food comes from. I could have shared a piece of my knowledge and maybe opened his eyes to growing some things of his own. I could have told him to plant the 2 to 4 seeds in the fruit in his yard, and watch it grow to have a tree of his own. Who knows what that would have sparked in his mind? I could have even had a young new friend.

Soon I began to share the fruits with all my friends. These became quite the conversation starter.  People, who knew of them, ate them as a kid from Florida or California. They smiled, as their mind was a wash or memories.  The other people, for whom these fruits were a new pleasure, had all kind of questions about them. Some even wanted to plant the seeds to see what would happen. Simple pleasures like these seem to make me want to explore more fruits and share even more. I always jump at the chance to talk to friends of mine about what I am doing and to help them start with a few fruits if I can.

I never saw the kid again. I am sure one of these days I will see him passing down the street. I hope I be in the frame of mind to sit and talk to him for a while. Maybe even give him a plant seedling. I am always planting seeds of various plants. Maybe I can plant a few seeds in a small fertile mind as well.

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