It was Houston Citrusfest this weekend at our local farmers market. This is a fantastic event for any prospective fruit tree grower who isn’t sure what to plant. Your average grocery store only carries 1 or 2 maximum types of each fruit (with the exception of maybe apples). Most people thing of oranges as being oranges. Lemons are lemons. This is definitely not the case. There are dozens of types of each fruit, some of which are better suited to different areas, climates, soils, etc… There are also dozens of varieties of shape, size, color, and most importantly flavor.
You won’t find most of these varieties in a store, so the first time you go to buy trees, it can be quite overwhelming. You have no idea what a naval orange tastes like in comparison to a cara cara or a blood orange. What the hell is the difference between all these grapefruit? Finding a chance to do some taste testing with the experts and see and feel the different types is a great way to figure out what all your options are and what you like. I didn’t make the event last year, so even though my backyard is now full of 22 fruit trees, I don’t think I’d tasted or seen half of these varieties.
The other best part of the event is getting a chance to chat with Dr. Bob Randall who is probably the most knowledgeable fruit tree and permaculture expert on the Houston region by a long shot. He’s been turning his own property into a food forest for longer than I’ve been alive. He was a founder of Urban Harvest, which runs our beloved farmer markets and actively teaches gardening classes on a variety of topics around Houston. He’s also written this great book – Year round vegetables, fruits, and flowers from metro Houston, that is a wealth of knowledge if you are in the Gulf Coast.
I’ve had a lot of problems with my own citrus this year. My trees have seen very little growth and a bit of die off on some of my smaller ones. Bob spent 10-15 minutes talking through my process, plants, location and giving me a few recommendations. I also heard some fun stories. If your in the area plan to check it out next year.
If your curious what I thought about the fruit, the Cara Cara Orange was by far my favorite with the blood orange a close second. I’m probably already stocked up on orange trees though, so if I add any more citrus, I’ll probably be choosing that Honey Manderin.