Printer Friendly

OH, CITRUS TREE: Tis the season to taste-test and choose the best variety for your yard.

ALTHOUGH MANY PLANTS are dormant and the days are drizzly, there's one Test Garden chore that always cheers us up this time of year: harvesting citrus. With citrus planting season coming up--around mid-February in mild-winter regions--we're sharing the tips and tricks we've learned from years of growing. And while there's a variety for every climate or garden size (and even some you can grow indoors), we're highlighting the more exotic types of citrus that have won us over. From finger limes to variegated kumquats, these fruits are both delicious to snack on and perfect in another winter antidote: cocktails.

TEST GARDEN PICKS

CITRUS ENVY

Impress your friends and thrill your taste buds with these varieties, recommended by Test Garden designer Stefani Bittner:

AUSTRALIAN FINGER LIME

Known as the caviar or Pop Rocks of citrus, these finger-shaped fruits are filled with juicy capsules that erupt with flavor. Trees are thorny, so plant away from pathways.

'CHINOTTO' SOUR ORANGE

Compact, with glossy myrtle-like leaves, this ornamental tree is elegant in any garden. Sour fruit will make you pucker, but its aromatic rinds are what's missing from your cocktails.

VARIEGATED KUMQUAT

Striped, snack-size fruit ripens orange, but can be eaten skin and all for a juicy sour kick. Cream-tinged leaves are a winner in the landscape.

PEST ALERT!

Clusters of tiny brown insects that feed at a 45[degrees] angle are a telltale sign of Asian citrus psyllids; visit saveourcitrus.org. These pests transmit Huanglongbing, an incurable disease that causes green, bitter, and misshapen fruit and can eventually kill the tree outright.

BY THE REGION

BEST IN THE WEST

With a nod to lesser-known varieties, Aaron Dillon, vice president and general manager at Four Winds Growers, has a recommendation for every part of the West (order at fourwindsgrowers.com, our go-to source for citrus trees):

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

Australian finger lime, 'Centennial' variegated kumquat, 'Seedless Kishu' mandarin

NORTHERN CALIFORNIA

Calamondin, 'Gold Nugget' seedless mandarin, 'Rangpur' sour acid mandarin

THE SOUTHWEST

'Fukushu' kumquat, 'Oroblanco' grapefruit, 'Trovita' sweet orange

THE NORTHWEST & MOUNTAIN REGIONS

'Flying Dragon' trifoliate orange, Lime Leaf, yuzu

PROTECT

WINTER LOVE

Citrus trees are sensitive to frost and temperatures below 30[degrees]F. In colder regions, always plant in pots and wheel indoors for the winter. In milder climates with occasional frost, move potted citrus next to your house until the spring--reflective surfaces create a warm microclimate. To protect in-ground trees, be sure to deeply water (freezing soil will stress and suck moisture from roots) and cover with a frost blanket before a frigid forecast.

HOW-TO

POTTED SOLUTIONS

Tight on space? Citrus grow happily in containers with drainage holes in a sunny, warm location in your garden or on a patio. Plant after Valentine's Day or when the danger of frost has passed:

STEP 1 Cut out dead or broken roots and loosen rootball by scraping with a garden knife.

STEP 2 Center tree inside container over a base of light-weight, well-draining potting soil. Avoid pots that are significantly larger than the rootball--excess soil space causes soggy conditions unfavorable to citrus.

STEP 3 Fill in edges with potting soil, tamping as you go. Root crown should sit above soil level. Add a layer of mulch, stake if necessary, and water deeply.

GOT ROOM IN THE GARDEN? In-ground citrus need the same conditions: plenty of heat and sun, plus good drainage.

YOUR CITRUS CARE GUIDE

1| Water deeply rather than frequently--young trees 2 to 3 times per week to get established, while mature trees need only a weekly soak.

2| Prune citrus trees for shape around Valentine's Day or after the last frost. Snip suckers growing below the root-stock at any time.

3| Fertilize with an organic, slow-release granular fertilizer formulated for citrus in late winter or early spring, mid-summer, and early fall.

4| Mulch with organic materials that decompose and provide nutrients--2 to 4 inches thick and 6 to 12 inches from trunk to prevent rot.

MORE THAN A TWIST

"I want people to think of citrus as more than a garnish," says Stefani Bittner, coauthor of Harvest and co-owner of Bay Area landscape design company Homestead Design Collective. With these three recipes, inspired by growing her own citrus trees and adapted with the help of her mother, she has us convinced. Citrus fruit aren't just rinds and slices to be squeezed and discarded--they deserve to be the star of the show.

RECIPE

KUMQUAT KUMBAYA

MAKES 1 DRINK
1/2  cup sugar
1    tbsp. orange flower water
6    variegated or regular kumquats,
     quartered lengthwise if large
1/2  oz. dry gin
1    oz. dry vermouth
1    oz. sweet vermouth
3    dashes each Peychaud's bitters
     and orange bitters
     Kumquat twist


Bring 1 cup water, the sugar, orange flower water, and kumquats to a boil in a small saucepan; boil for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool, then remove kumquats (discard liquid). For each drink, muddle 1 kumquat in a cocktail shaker. Add gin, dry and sweet vermouths, and both bitters; fill with ice. Shake, then strain into a coupe and garnish with kumquat twist.

RECIPE

FINGER LIME VODKA GIMLETS

MAKES 2 DRINKS
4  oz. vodka
2  oz. each regular lime juice and
   simple syrup
2  finger limes (*), cut in half lengthwise


Combine vodka, lime juice, and simple syrup over ice in a cocktail shaker. Shake, then strain into 2 martini glasses. Float a finger lime on each drink.

(*) Can't find Australian finger limes at the grocery store? Order online from Shanley Farms (shanleyfarms.com).

RECIPE

VIN D'ORANGE

MAKES 8 TO 12 DRINKS

Vin d'orange is a traditional French wine infusion made with Seville oranges. We've substituted 'Chinotto' sour oranges. Besides on the rocks, the drink can be served straight up as an aperitif, or used in cocktails instead of Lillet or sweet vermouth.
2  bottles (750 ml.) Sancerre or other
   Sauvignon Blanc
1  cup vodka
1  cup sugar
3  star anise
1  vanilla bean pod, cut in half
   lengthwise


About 20 'Chinotto' sour oranges, rinsed and thinly sliced crosswise (reserve some to cut into wedges for garnish)

1. Combine wine, vodka, and sugar in a 3-qt. wide-mouth glass jar or ceramic jug, and stir until sugar is dissolved. Add star anise, vanilla bean, and the oranges; stir to mix.

2. Cover tightly, and store in a cool, dark place, stirring occasionally, for a month. Taste (it should have a slightly bitter orange flavor); if you'd like a stronger flavor, let steep for about 10 more days.

3. Strain the vin d'orange twice through several layers of cheesecloth into another jar. Store in the refrigerator.

4. Serve over ice, garnished with orange wedges.

By Mike Irvine
COPYRIGHT 2017 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2017 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:PLANTING GUIDE
Author:Irvine, Mike
Publication:Sunset
Date:Dec 1, 2017
Words:1103
Previous Article:THE NEW WREATH: There's more to this winter standby than conifers and bells. Find inspiration in five inventive takes by floral designer Alethea...
Next Article:Making spirits bright: Get the kids together, and rock the paper and scissors for these holiday crafts.
Topics:

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2019 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters