Edible Gardening

The History of Amateur Citrus Growing in America

By Darren Sherriff


Water Shortage Complicates Growing Citrus in California
Amateur citrus growers in California have been tasked with a heavy load as well. There are millions of homeowners throughout that state who enjoy having citrus trees in their backyards; unfortunately circumstances have arisen in which a homeowner cannot properly care for their trees. The high cost of water and prolonged drought conditions have caused many homeowners to stop irrigating their trees. The problem is the dead and dying citrus trees can still be a host for the citrus psyllid or even worse, Citrus Greening. This causes a concern for the citrus growers because these “abandoned” trees are inoculants for both the insect and disease, which will affect their lively hood. So the homeowners have been asked to either care for the trees or have them removed.

Growing Your Own Citrus Is Worth It Because It Tastes So Good
Even with all of these problems, there are many reasons for growing your own citrus. Other than the terrific feeling of picking your own, and the taste of fruit that is never any fresher than the one you picked 5 minutes ago, there is the diversity of cultivars. There are things that you will probably never see in the grocery store, and for some good reasons. Homeowners, who are not as dependent on how much fruit is produced, are more forgiving of seeds and thorns. With this article there are pictures of a Variegated Valencia orange (see cover photo above) and a Variegated Calamondin (photo below), which is a Kumquat hybrid. If you can get hooked up with a collector of citrus, you will also hear about varieties that are an outstanding piece of fruit flavor wise, but might be too seedy for the commercial industry. Then, there is the fruit that is so odd, weird looking, or does not have very many uses, that commercially it is almost a complete waste of prime growing space; Citrus medica ‘Buddha’s Hand’ comes to mind, which is also pictured with this article (photo below). There are a few things that the hand can be used for, such as candying the peel, making adult beverages, or freaking out your neighbors.

Variegated Calamondin

Variegated Calamondin is a hybrid of a kumquat, and tastes the same as its plain old sister. The leaves are variegated and the fruit is variegated until it is ripe, then it will be the normal orange you are accustomed to.

Buddha's Hand

This very odd looking citrus, Buddha’s Hand, has little to no juice or pulp. It is grown more for its odd shape, though the peel can be candied and used to make citrus flavored products.

Comparatively speaking, growing your own citrus is a lot easier than many other forms of tree fruit. Apples are practically begging to be sprayed with a fungicide, seemingly endlessly, not to mention that you have to have two different varieties to pollinate each other. Peaches are tough because of the fungicides, and there are so many different varieties, all with different chill hours required. Pears and plums also need two different ones to pollinate. Citrus only require one plant to produce fruit, can be grown on a dwarf rootstock so it works in containers, which means you can bring it in for the winter. Finally, citrus do not need to be pruned in a bunch of different shapes to produce better fruit, it is a beautiful plant and left to it’s own accord, will produce an abundance of sweetness that is the envy of every breakfast table.

I imagine that dooryard or amateur citrus growing will be around for a very long time, even with all of the quarantines and such. Sales of these dooryard trees are a profitable market channel for many citrus nurseries. Fruit clubs, societies and rare fruit groups are very passionate about their dooryard citrus trees and maintain extensive private collections, these people represent a loyal customer base for the nurseries.

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