Tag Archives: fruits

summer at last

Summer finally arrived last week. A humid mass of high pressure from Mexico hopped the border fence and gave us some hot days and tropical-looking morning clouds that lit up brilliantly as the sun rose.

After almost four months with a total natural rainfall of .05 inches much of the garden has been heading into its defensive dormancy. But a few plants seem to be reveling in the arrival of some real summer heat. Top of the list is this California fuchsia, the ‘Route 66’ cultivar, which opened its flowers to coincide with the hot weather. Some Epilobium species and clones have fairly small, gray-colored leaves, but this is one of those where the leaves a smidge larger and greener, a bright contrast to the screaming orange flowers.

Desert marigold, Baileya multiradiata, has been blooming away with the help of a little additional water, but not much.

In the bed that gets some irrigation the gingers are the current stars of the show. Coinciding with the California fuchsia was this kahili ginger, Hedychium gardnerianum, a plant that I’ve been growing since my early teens, a hand-me-down plant from one of my mother’s gardening friends. Sitting in the back yard after sunset is a treat with this insanely fragrant ginger nearby.

Of course summer isn’t all about the flowers. The fig tree is hitting its peak fruit production this week. It’s the variety ‘Brown Turkey,’ which is supposed to do well with less heat than what most other varieties require. This has been one its best years ever for me. I’m trying to figure out what went right this year, and I’m thinking the success has something to do with water. This past winter and spring actually delivered a slightly-over normal rainfall that was spaced evenly throughout several months. Also, last year I applied some water-conserving woodchip mulch over the bed that contains the fig. And John’ has made a point of watering the zone around the fig every other week or so. I hope to be able to repeat the success next year, which according to the prognosticators could be a drier than average La Niña year.

The garden herbs are doing well. A sixpack of parsley several months back is turning out to be way more than two people who use parsley once or twice a week. At least it’s a pleasantly textured plant for the front of a border.

A sixpack of basil, however, hasn’t seemed to produce nearly enough. Maybe the basil will pick up with the warmer weather.

Surprisingly the tropical lemongrass plants (both the East- and West-Indian versions) haven’t been sulking and are overproducing just like the parsley.

Adding to the pile of edibles, our neighbor Olinda stopped by with her grandson. It was all she could do to carry this giant watermelon. John was impressed with its size and suggested I weigh it: 30.8 pounds.

It’s one of the with-seed varieties that stores these days don’t seem to stock much anymore. Stunning rind, don’t you think? One of the many things we’re losing in part because of big agra.

I was hoping to save the watermelon for a day or two, until we had room in the fridge, but I was a little clumsy photographing its cool rind in detail. Now I know what a melon dropped 3 feet off a table onto a brick patio does. It stays in one piece, but you have to deal with it right away.

High summer also means the best cantaloupes of the season. This is Scooter helping us out by finishing a couple of half-melons we had for breakfast. The melon came from the local hybrid grocery-farmer’s market.

And so our summer begins: a little too much melon and a garden peaking with fruit and herbs. Life is good.

once an orchard

I wanted to find the quince tree again.

It probably had been close to ten years since I last hiked my nearby Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve. Still I clearly remembered coming upon an ancient but still fruiting quince in one of the tributary canyon bottoms. Unwatered for decades and tended only by the wildlife, it had seemed like a miracle of survival in San Diego’s desert climate.

Survivor quinceLast Saturday I scootered up to the preserve and started a slow stroll through the native willows and sycamores and oaks that line the dry creek in López Canyon. I only vaguely remembered the location, but less than half a mile in, right by the side of the trail, there it was, still very much alive, green and loaded with fruit.

Fruit on old quince tree

Nearby, in the shade of an old sycamore and crowded with some robust shrubs–including poison oak–I found a second tree with fruit on its branches.

Quince and poison oak

And then I started looking around in earnest. Off to the left stood a different kind of tree, either a different quince or maybe even a pear. It had a thick, creased trunk and the plant was clearly old. But the tree still drooped a little from the weight of the fruit.

Quince or pear treeQuince or pear fruit

Old apricot in Lopez CanyonNot far ahead stood another specimen. Though without fruit it was clearly another fruiting tree, probably an apricot, judging by its leaves, a month after the last of its offerings would have been ripe.

So that made for four trees that I could find without crawling through more poison oak or further through the snakey grass. I’m certain all the trees were many decades old, but exactly how old I couldn’t say for sure.

Local history places an orchard operator in this canyon as late as 1921, so some of the trees may date to then, though this area has been ranched and cultivated at least as early as the early 1800s, when this area was contained in the first of the Mexican land grants in Alta California, to as recently as 1962, when the land was acquired by the County.

Ruiz-Alvarado adobe, San DiegoNearby, under a protective shelter at the confluence of López Canyon and Los Peñasquitos Canyon, stand the remains of the Ruiz-Alvarado Adobe, one of the oldest structures in San Diego County.

Anything older than a hundred years around these parts is considered a relic. If you were to believe the most wishful of the sources the adobe would date all the way back to 1815, though more reliable sources place its construction at 1857. This small adobe, along with a later, grander one to the east, became part of a thriving concern dedicated to ranching.

Ruiz-Alvarado adobe, San DiegoMaybe it’s wishful and over-romanticizing on my own part–or maybe not–to imagine that the settlers who lived in this adobe planted the fruit trees in López Canyon. But the trees are as much of the human history of this area as are the few remaining adobe walls. Here we need all the history that we’ve got.