IF I COULD ONLY PLANT A FEW!
Ottillia (Toots) J. Bier
Must have a navel orange for winter into spring. Choose good old Washington navel orange (still the gold standard) or for novelty, try Cara Cara navel orange, a mutated Washington navel orange that produces pink-fleshed fruit.
Valencia for summer harvest and juice. May not have a choice of variety, but Midknight and Delta are seedless selections that are becoming very popular.
Blood orange for novelty. Red flesh and juice. Moro is the most common variety and most highly colored, but Tarocco has the best flavor.
Seedless kishu for early season harvest. Golf ball size seedless fruit, tender, sweet and juicy. Very easy to peel.
Gold Nugget is my personal favorite Matures in March and holds on the tree through the summer, if you can resist eating them all right away. Seedless, easy to peel, with a rich flavor.
Oroblanco is a grapefruit-pummelo hybrid. White-fleshed, seedless, mild and sweet. No sugar needed. This is the grapefruit for people who don’t like grapefruit.
Star Ruby grapefruit is the reddest of the red grapefruit if you insist on a red grapefruit, but its flavor is no where near as sweet as Oroblanco.
Lemons and Limes
If you must have a lemon, choose the Varigated pink-fleshed Eureka lemon, sometimes sold under the name ‘Pink Lemonade’. It is pretty with its marbled leaves, striped fruit, and pink flesh. No it won’t make pink lemonade, but it is a perfectly fine lemon.
If your taste runs more to the exotics, perhaps the Meyer lemon is for you. Meyer lemon is really a hybrid of lemon and orange. The tree tends to be small and quite attractive in the garden. The fruit has a smooth, ye1low-orange rind and a distinctive aroma. It is not a perfect substitute for a lemon, but many people prefer it’s milder, less acidic juice.
Bearss lime is the conventional lime you find in the supermarket. Seedless and a little more cold hardy than the Mexican (Key) lime. If you must have the Mexican lime, which is smaller, seedy, and more pungent in flavor, select the thornless Mexican lime. You won’t be sorry; lime thorns are nasty.
University of California Riverside
Citrus Variety Collection
CULTI VAR SEASON
Washington navel Dec-Apr
Cara Cara Pink navel Dec-Apr
Lane Late navel Jan-May+
Moro blood Jan-Mar
Tarocco blood Jan-Mar
Seedless Kishu Oct-Jan
Owari Satsuma Dec-Jan
Honey (Murcott) Jan-May
Minneola tangelo Feb-Apr
Gold Nugget Feb-July
*Ortanique tangor Feb-Aug+
Grapefruit. Pummelos and Hybrids
Marsh grapefruit Feb-Aug
Rio Red grapefruit Feb-Aug
Star Ruby grapefruit Feb-Aug
Oroblanco hybrid Dec-May
Melogold hybrid Dec-May
Chandler pummelo Jan-May
Cocktail ‘Grapefruit’ Dec-Apr
Eureka all year
Lisbon all year
Variegated Pink (Pink Lemonade) all year
Meyer all year
Ponderosa all year
* Sweet all year
*C. hystrix (KuffIre lime) all year (leaves only)
Nagami kumquat Nov-May
Meiwa kumquat Nov-May
*Indio mandarinquat Nov-May
Fingered citron all year
Calamondin all year
*Tavares limequat all year
* Varieties not commonly found in area nurseries and garden centers
From the September 2002 meeting of the Inland Empire Chapter
Toots' presentation on citrus
As advertised (check your September 2002 newsletter) the near legendary citrus expert, Ottillia "Toots" Bier was our very special guest speaker. She began by thanking us for the invite and went on to announce that she would be deviating from her usual slide presentation because rare fruit growers..."kinda know it all already." She assumed that we already had a decent varietal knowledge base and decided to concentrate on tips for growing citrus. In her opinion, the three main problem areas are fertilization, varietal selection, and site location. In case you didn’t know, Toots works for the University of California Riverside, Citrus Variety Collection. It is the repository for over 900 varieties of citrus, with new varieties being added all the time. The collection is so vast that it is not unusual for them to have the only example of a given tree left in the world. By her own admission, Toots has, arguably, one of the coolest jobs on the planet; she taste tests all the new varieties of citrus that come into California. Promising specimens are planted in four experimental stations throughout the state: Coachella Valley, Irvine, Riverside, and the central valley. She, in turn, then evaluates the fruit and reports where it does the best. She pointed out that we who live in the Riverside area are lucky as it has one of the best environments for growing citrus.
With a nod to the poet Joyce Kilmer, Toots believes that she shall never see anything as lovely as a citrus tree. To begin with, citrus trees are incredibly versatile. They scream Southern California and make a sonorous addition to almost any landscape scheme. They can be trained as stunningly beautiful wall espaliers. They have glossy, deep jade green leaves that offer cooling, renewing, inspiring shade all year round. Their heavenly scented flowers emit so delicate a perfume that shutting your eyes it’s easy to imagine that an angel had recently fluttered by, leaving this lingering ethereal fragrance in its wake. There are few plants more gorgeous than a citrus thickly covered with festively colored orbs resembling an ornately decorated Christmas tree. And, of course, citrus trees bear a wide range of flavorful succulent fruit; producing anything from a tangy sour pucker to a sticky sweet smile with everything in between by the blissful consumer.
Toots then proceeded to the area of citrus taxonomy. In the beginning.., there was the lemon, the pummelo and the mandarin or tangerine. They are the ancestors of all of what we have today. She feels that one can
make a big mistake by choosing the wrong variety. Therefore, she brought along two very useful handouts (I hope if you did not get a couple, perhaps Joe can publish them in our newsletter) which listed common citrus varieties and their ripening times as well as a cheeky little list entitled, "If I Could Only Plant A Few." She mentioned this with a little laugh. I guess she knows that most of us don’t know the meaning of planting only a few. Toots then eased into the main body of her presentation by listing varieties that she likes or, as she says, if she could only plant a few. The seedless Kishu is a favorite of hers. It is the first thing to ripen. They call it "citrus candy" at the UCR Citrus Station. Other notable varieties in this same realm are the Satsuma and the Murcott/Honey, but if she had to live off only one it would be the Gold Nugget mandarin. It is not unusual to get six months of fruit from a tree and it has to be her personal favorite. Toots commented about something called TDE’s. She said only three out of four of the current varieties (Shasta, Tulare, & Yosemite Gold) have been released, but since there is a $500 licensing fee involved don’t bother looking for these at your local nursery. She likes the Chandler pummelo. Buddha’s Hand is a very nice ornamental in her opinion. Toots prefers the Chinotto sour orange for preparing marmalade. In Valencia oranges she likes Delta and Midnight. They have the desirable combination of reliability and seedless fruit. In the vein of blood oranges, Toots recommends Moro if you are going strictly for color and Tarocco if flavor is what you desire. She says to please not over ripen the fruit as the juice will then begin to taste like tobacco squeezings. Powell and Maciotto are two good late navel varieties. Cara Cara has pink flesh, but is still the same as a Washington navel. She pointed out that when an orange starts to change from orange back to green, it is even sweeter. The Star Ruby grapefruit is nice, but it is hard to grow around here.
She prefers Oro blanco. It grows better and tastes sweeter. The Pink Lemonade lemon has caught her attention. She likes the variegated look of it. Its juice tastes like yhe Eureka. The Meyer lemon is an exotic alternative. Toots’s rule of thumb is, "Grow things you really like that cost a lot of money. In limes there are the Baress and the Mexican (Key) lime. Toots says to be sure to look for the thornless Mexican lime as lime thorns are notoriously nasty. Limequats will grow where others won’t as it will take temperatures down to the low 200f. She said there are seedless Kumquats now- Lessyer and Skinner. The Calamondin’s flowers have a rich wonderful aroma and tend to flower all the time. She piqued several members’ interest when she finished off this section of her presentation by announcing there is a new Australian pink finger lime that is almost ready for release.
Toots then fired off a series of quick short bulleted remarks:
•Propagation - planting seeds (sexual reproduction) will drive you crazy. It takes too long to fruit. Bud grafting is the only way to go.
•Climate - Citrus don’t like a whole lot of cold. Location is important. Protection from wind is a good idea.
•Site Selection - Good drainage.
Irrigation- In Riverside, micro sprinklers work the best. Don’t get the trunk wet!
•Fertilizers - Use citrus, or vegetable, or rose, but be sure they have iron, zinc, and manganese in them. It is always easier to prevent a problem than cure one. Split up the feedings. In April or May, after 3/4 new growth appears use a foliar spray of the above micro nutrients.
•Pruning - Lemon okay, but normally not. Remove die back and crossing branches.
•Diseases - Always clean pruning tools with a 10% bleach solution to reduce the spread of disease. Again, it is easier to
prevent than cure. Clear out all the old fruit. Hose down the leaves every so often to keep clean as many detrimental problems thrive in a dusty dry environment. If you notice sucking insects look for the ants that are sure to be farming them. Ants will defend against natural predators. If the infected site is small, remove the twig. If you must spay use a smothering spray. She let us in a little secret that you will not find in any UCR handbook-the kitchen spray, Pam, works!
Toots then entertained a few questions:
0. "How do you feel about long skirts?"
A. She pointed out that the bottom of the tree is the most productive part. She likes the way they look. Therefore she likes them long. Ants can be a problem, though.
0. "When is the bud wood available from the UCR Citrus Collection?"
A. It is available three times a year, January, June and September. You can order it, but there is a minimum order requirement. Runs $0.75 a bud/twig. Best to pool an order with others. Check web site:
Q. "How do you handle broken and/or cut branches?"
A. Take back to where a branch is coming out; drop crotching
0. "How close do you plant citrus trees?"
A. Depending on root stock; Flying Dragon- 7’ apart; C-35 - 12’ apart; Corriso -14-16’ apart.