Not as ripe as it looks
Last year we planted two American paw paw trees. By the start of this year they had both disappeared. Sad, but true. Probably eaten by deer, or maybe just not watered enough. Whatever the reason, it makes what I’m about to tell you seem a little weird.
For the last couple of weeks, we’ve been harvesting American paw paws. Not from the dead trees, I hasten to add. But around five years ago, it turns out, we bought an American paw paw seedling from a nursery in Warragul. We planted it, and more or less forgot about it, imagining that the burgeoning bush behind our rampant kiwi fruit vine was a noxious weed.
So when we saw large yellow fruit on the ground around its trunk, we imagined these were random quinces that had been mysteriously transported from the top paddock, where – if truth be told – they have performed without distinction. This attractive looking but so far entirely tasteless fruit turns out to be the Asimina triloba.
What I want to know now is whether anyone has ever actually eaten one. I’m going to follow up myself with Kentucky State University, which runs the world’s only full time (American) paw paw research program. The fruit we’ve tried so far has been less than ripe, despite its luscious appearance. But it’s June, and to be honest, at this time of year, any kind of harvest is remarkable enough as winter tightens its grip. Especially for something we’d given up for dead.
If you’ve ever eaten or even seen this fruit before, please let me know. I want to know what to expect next.
From the first crop from our Prune D'Agen tree
As a kid I was made to eat them. As I got older I gradually started to love them. But the notion that a prune is actually a dried plum has never quite clicked in my head. So when we planted our Prune D’Agen tree five years ago in our orchard paddock alongside various other plums, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. It didn’t fruit at all during last year’s summer from hell, so when we noticed bucketloads maturing on the tree about two months ago, we realised we were going to have some questions answered.
Two weeks ago, the fruit were ripe enough to eat straight off the tree, but they tasted like that of any other other plum, albeit a bit sharper. Then we noticed one caught in the net (not the internet) and one mouthful of this confirmed just how sugary they are when fully ripe.
Fruit on Prune D'Agen tree
This weekend we picked the lot of them – not quite bucketfuls, but two baskets worth (the birds did well to get the rest), and they’ve been in the drying machine ever since, where they are starting to look like – well, prunes. Yet however delicious these turn out to be, I reckon that the ripe but undried version of the prune – which originally comes from the south of France – is pretty special in itself. And so do Moose and Elka, who seem to have managed to eat quite a few of them whole that had landed in the grass before we picked them. Prunes might be good for dogs, but I can already assure you that there are repercussions.
Moose before the prune effect kicks in
It’s still the first half of August, and Icy Creek’s elevated enough to experience something approximating a period of winter dormancy. But today there were signs of spring, and not just the precocious daffodils and the exhuberant weeds. The budswell on our quince trees suggests that those awesome white/pink flowers might be about to unravel.
It must be spring - almost
Also planted ten chesnut trees today – an air of mystery surrounds the identity of the varietal, but I’m betting that they’re called Bouche de Betizac. I’m tagging the name, ever so hopefully, in case anybody else has heard of them.
Also planted this weekend, some Alinta strawberries, thornless blackberries (no, they’re not digital devices), and a couple of marionberry plants to boot.
It’s been a while since I’ve posted, and that’s partly because of the aforementioned dormancy (which I enjoy) and also because of a new publication a few of us have set up at La Trobe University called upstart – it’s an online magazine which is specifically designed to publish student and staff work, and to become a resource for emerging journalists. Our twitter address is http://twitter/upstartmagazine
Posted in Berries & Currants, Edible Gardening, Edible Landscaping, Fruit Trees, Hobby Farming, Quince, Strawberries, Thornless Blackberry
Tagged Alinta strawberries, Bouche de Betizac, Chestnuts, La Trobe University, marionberries, marionberry, thornless blackberries, Thornless Blackberry, upstart
Just planted: a pair of American pawpaw trees (Asimina triloba) which we bought at Yamina Rare Plants at Monbulk. These trees have long been celebrated in North America as “tropical” trees for temperate climates, and there’s some very interesting posts about them at The Fruit Blog, we as links to newspaper articles about them including this 2005 piece in USA today. The two cultivars we purchased were a Pennsylvania Gold, which was developed in 1982, and and Louis, which Yamina describe as a “large fruited form”.
As our climate at Icy Creek is a milder version of that experienced in the tree’s native New York State, it will be interesting to see how well they fruit. Certainly, the frost and occasional snow we get in winter shouldn’t be a problem.
In the meantime, if anyone else has experienced growing these trees, we’d really like to here from you. How big do they get? (According to the Flora of America site, can get as high as 14 meters, but Daley Fruit Tree site says they mostly grow to only 5 to 10 metres.) How long do they take to start fruiting? And – now here’s one I’m sure I don’t need to know yet – do they taste like bananas (which Istrongly dislike) or mangoes (which are my favourite fruit)?
A few weeks ago we were worried that even these notoriously hardy trees would be too stressed from the heat to hang on to their small crops. But by the end of the first week of March, we realised that the fruit, which turns the most intense of yellows as it ripens, had managed to cling on. We placed them all in a large pot along with some of our very ripe chinottos (this is a citrus, and they loved all the summer heat), and left them on the kitchen stove all day. More about our quinces here.
2009 Anzac peach harvest
A few more of this year’s Anzac peaches – a big effort for such a small tree.
An Anzac peach resting before lunch
There are two peach trees in our orchard at Icy Creek: the first planted was a Taylor Queen, and we got a good crop of sweet fruit from it at the end of last summer. This year, however, it’s our Anzac Peach (yes, it’s a local cultivar) that has taken the lead, providing large bunches of beautifully coloured fruit, the first of which passed its taste and juice tests yesterday. I worry that I’ll damage the tree with the net I’ve put over their still rather delicate branches. But the birds have already had their fill of so much of the orchard offerings this summer, so I’ll do anything to stop them from getting their sticky beaks on these.
Birdproof we hope!