- Author: Esther E Blanco
My friends recently moved to a beautiful new country home, which sits on an acre of land with a creek. While walking in their yard, they pointed to a large tree about 25-30 feet tall and full of what looked like blackberries hanging from the tree. I’d never seen a tree full of blackberries. I looked expecting to see thorns and vines twisting among the branches but they were actually growing from the tree. My friend explained that the wild turkeys come and jump up to eat the berries, so they didn’t think the berries were poisonous. I took a few pictures and started my search…
It turns out that my friends have several mulberry trees in their yard. I’d often heard of fruitless mulberry trees, but I had never seen one with fruit. I discovered there are 150 different varieties of mulberry trees (Morus spp.) and many, many hybrids. The Red mulberry or American mulberry (M. rubra) is native in the eastern United States. The White mulberry (Morus alba) trees were originally imported from Asia during early colonial times because they are used to raise silk worms.
The mulberry tree is deciduous and often grown near the edge of open woodlands and near fresh water, which described the location on their property perfectly. The fruit is edible and is used for pies and jams because of its sweet and slightly tart flavor. The color of the actual fruit, does not determine the variety. The fruit can be white, pink, red and black but the fruit is really not a berry. It’s an aggregate fruit, which means it’s composed of lots of little berries stuck together, each with its own seed. The fruit is long and shaped similar to a blackberry, but hangs from a short, slender fruit stalk. The fruit is supposed to be delicious however; the color from the fruit is used as dyes so can easily stains things that the juices seeps into. That also including the droppings from birds when eat the berry, so the tree has a bad reputation among suburban homeowners.
After looking at the shape of the leaves, I believe that my friends have the Black mulberry (Morus nigra ) species that is native to southwestern Asia. It’s a beautiful full size tree in their large backyard. It’s in a great location. I think they will be gathering lots of delicious black mulberries for many years to come.
Here we go round the mulberry bush, the mulberry bush, the mulberry bush…here we go around the mulberry bush so early in the morning…
- Author: Sharon L. Rico
We have two peach trees (Prunus persica) in our backyard. The old tree, original to the property, is a delicious cling (the flesh adheres to the pit). We are not sure what type of peach it is, but it is still producing fruit. Since the harvest is usually small, we eat these as fast as they ripen. Well, okay, we do share a few of them with family and neighbors. The newer tree is a ‘Red Haven’, which is a freestone (the flesh separates from the pit). Last year my husband grafted an ‘Elberta’ peach onto a branch of this tree and it has fruit for the first time. The newer tree is 13 years old and was one of the first fruit trees we planted in 1999. We have always had a bumper crop of fruit on this tree and our friends, family and neighbors know when it is ‘peach picking time’ at our house. The peaches are firm, sweet and delicious, and ripen early in the season. In years past, we have made peach pies, peach jam, peach syrup ice cream topping, peaches and cream dessert bars, (you get the picture). To get these wonderful peaches, both trees are pruned and fertilized once a year, sprayed twice a year with dormant spray and thinned heavily each year. Most peach trees require 600 to 900 hours of winter chill. Annual pruning renews fruiting wood and encourages fruiting throughout the tree rather than at the ends of weak branches that would break. My husband is very particular about thinning. His goal is to have large, beautiful fruit. It is not unusual for him to fill his wheelbarrow half way full of one inch wide peaches when he is thinning. His motto is to thin 8 to 10 inches apart and he sticks to this method. This dedication pays off with magnificent peaches.
- Author: Kathy Thomas-Rico
Here’s a suggestion that, if acted upon, may add some names to Santa’s “Nice” list. What if we all donated our surplus, homegrown produce and it was distributed to those in need?
Solano County is a longtime fruit-growing region. Agriculture is still king here, largely because our climate is perfect for growing a variety of crops. Homeowners have long taken advantage of our glorious climate, planting citrus trees, pomegranates, persimmons, or maintaining old walnut, pecan and almond trees that happen to stand in their yards. Right about now, all of those trees are heavy with fruit and nuts.
Sadly, a good deal of this bounty goes to waste. Homeowners are often too busy or physically unable to harvest in time. And, ironically, there are lots of Solano County residents who don’t have regular access to fresh, locally grown produce.
See where I’m heading with this?
Wouldn’t it be cool if we all could step up and help, either by donating fruits or nuts from our own yards, or by volunteering to help with the harvesting? It can be done, and quite easily. Here are two local volunteer organizations that exist to share the wealth of Solano County produce. Share this information with your neighbors who have an overabundance of produce:
— The Vacaville Produce Pipeline. Call Fern Henry, 448-4792, or visit http://vacaproducepipeline.blogspot.com
— The Fairfield-Suisun Produce Pipeline. Call Karyl Hendrick, 399-7080, or visit http://fsproducepipeline.blogspot.com
Merry Christmas and happy New Year. May all your citrus be Solano grown!
- Author: Riva Flexer
When my friend Donna told me that roof rats were eating all her persimmons, I was incredulous. Roof rats? And what a mess they made, too! Eating half the fruit (the half you didn’t see), so that when you reached to pick it, your unsuspecting fingers sank into squishy soft, wet flesh, rather than the firm cool surface you had been expecting. She eventually had her husband put out large snap traps for them, traps that resembled oversize baited mousetraps, and her problem ended for this season.
So it’s my turn now. While cleaning up the windfalls under my unknown species apple tree (perhaps a variety of Red Delicious) I came upon what initially looked like edible windfalls which I collect and use, and some lovely firm fruit still hanging. But only half of the apple was there – the rest had been eaten on the tree. Oh dear. Roof rats…so that’s what my dog was barking at some nights ago. She was actually trying to climb that apple tree. At this point I’m reluctant to put out traps. I may have to, but I’m hoping that my dog’s presence will deter future foraging. We’ll see about that!
For more information about dealing with roof rats, see this link http://ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn74106.html.
- Author: Betty Homer
If you are a gardener, a history buff, someone who enjoys cooking, and/or cares about social causes, consider sowing some heirloom seeds (flowers, fruits and/or vegetables) the next time you do any planting.
Although there is no consensus on what an heirloom seed is, it is at a minimum, a plant whose seed is openly pollinated, or in the case of certain fruit trees, propagated through grafts and cuttings. Heirloom seeds are rich in history (frequently, the varieties date back at least 50 or more years, and sometimes, hundreds of years old), as they are often passed on by family and friends from one generation to the next, and often bear interesting names which offer insight into their fascinating history. Take for instance, the popular tomato that we know as 'Mortgage Lifter'. The story goes that during the 1940’s, an auto mechanic nicknamed “Radiator Charlie,” spent seven years breeding a tomato plant until he developed a sufficiently stable tomato plant which had all the traits and characteristics that he desired. Radiator Charlie, who was apparently, quite the marketer, sold his tomato seedlings for a $1.00 each (a small fortune in his day) and used the proceeds from those sales to pay off the mortgage on his house; hence, the name, 'Mortgage Lifter'.
Heirloom fruits and vegetables are difficult to find in supermarkets, as they tend to be delicate, have a shorter shelf-life than their commercial counterparts, and are not standardized in shape or size such that they can be packed and shipped over long distances. You may have better luck finding heirlooms at farmers markets. People who love to cook, swear by the texture, flavor, and appearance of heirloom vegetables and fruits, as no two vegetables or fruits of the same variety, look exactly alike.
Also, by growing heirlooms, and better yet, saving their seeds and passing them onto others, you help maintain genetic diversity and prevent the extinction of certain varieties of flowers, fruits and vegetables, which have been, and continue to, disappear at an alarming rate.
So as you peruse through your seed catalogs this winter while daydreaming of spring, consider giving heirlooms a try!