Beyond Citrus Trees
When we think about Florida one of the first things that come to mind is citrus: fresh juicy oranges and grapefruit, tangy lemons or limes. And we want to plant our own citrus. We planted half a dozen citrus trees eight years ago, but we fell victim to citrus greening like so many others. Even if you are not a victim of citrus greening you may want to go beyond citrus and plant other fruit trees to enjoy more of the marvelous fruits we can grow here. Below are a few of the fruits I have found that grow well here and are available in the winter.
Papaya is fast and easy to grow, and there is a good chance you will have fruit within the first year. If your only taste of papaya is one of those rock hard, expensive store bought ones then you are in for a real treat when you taste a fresh picked tree ripened fruit. It grows straight without a lot of foliage so it can be tucked in almost any area of your yard. It produces lots of fruit that ripen one at a time so you can enjoy them most of the winter and when green can also be used as a vegetable. You can plant a seedling from a nursery or friend or you can start your own with seeds from a store bought papaya. When young you don’t know if the papaya will be female, male, or both! If male, you won’t get fruit but it is needed either in your yard or in the neighborhood for pollination. I plant a bunch and see how they turn out so that we can have plenty of fruit and different varieties. Papayas are usually not long lived so I plant some every year to be sure to have them around. The Papaya unfortunately is susceptible to several diseases so you may lose some fruits but if you plant multiple trees you should still be able to enjoy fruits that avoid disease.
Loquat is a wonderful tree for Southwest Florida. It is great landscape tree, cold hardy, and produces loads of tasty golden yellow fruits. The fruits do not last long once picked so we dehydrate them for
Starfruit or Carambola is another versatile tree. It is a beautiful landscape tree and is extremely prolific producing loads of crisp, juicy fruit. Sliced fruits can also be dehydrated and are very tasty this way.
Jujube is a bit of an unknown but it is fast growing and we had fruit within the first year of planting. The green skinned fruits are like a small Granny Smith apple and have a nice juicy crunch. If you leave the fruits on the tree they will ripen into a date hence the tree is also called Chinese, Korean, or Indian Date depending on its origin.
Mulberry is another great fruit tree. The Red or Everbearing is native to the US. It is a fast growing shrub that should be pruned several times a year and produces tasty berries off the new growth. The berries are not as fat and juicy as the Asian mulberries which only produce in the spring. The Asian (Black or White) varieties can be very large trees so they should be pruned annually so that you can reach the fruit. The fruit will stain so be sure to plant away from anything you do not want discolored. Kids especially love them and will emerge from underneath a tree with purple stained faces.
Passionfruit is another tasty fruit. There are many varieties and the best fruit is from the Passiflora edulis. It is a fast growing vine so you need to have an arbor or fence to contain it. The flowers are a beautiful white and purple and the fruits can be either a reddish purple or yellow when mature. You let the fruits mature on the vine and when they turn color from green to purple or yellow and wrinkle they are ready. They may also drop first. You slice the hard fruit in half and scoop out the seeds and gel inside. It is very flavorful.
These are but a few of the many fruits we are fortunate to be able to grow in our area. I urge you to try them as an alternative or addition to citrus trees and you will enjoy fresh fruit for most of the winter season.
Greg and Linda Nelson are landscape designers who have transformed their Englewood yard using Permaculture techniques. They offer consultations, design services, and free monthly tours through their business: Love Your Yard. Contact them at email@example.com, 207-449-9012 or visit https://weloveyouryard.wixsite.com/swfl.