|Mediterranean Garden Society|
Citrus growing is a subject which interests nearly everyone who gardens in mediterranean-climate areas. Old gardens in town and country will almost certainly have at least one lemon tree and probably a Seville orange tree as well, while those of us planting new gardens will want to try out some of the many interesting citrus varieties. What could be more appealing – compact trees with bright green leaves all year round and wonderfully scented blossom, as well as fruit which can be harvested over a long season to be eaten fresh, squeezed for juice or made into tangy marmalade and other delicious food and drinks.
Many members of the MGS have become experts in citrus growing over the years and have offered their experience for all to share in articles printed below. For anyone interested in rare varieties Christoph Wieschus's article from back in 1999 is reprinted.
Two Citrus Orchards in the Sóller Valley, Mallorca
Lemons In Mediterranean-Climate Gardens
A Collection of Rare or Hardy Citrus Cultivars
Oh! My Marmalade
Lemons, Lemons…and… More Lemons
Citrus in California
Another citrus source is Four Winds Growers, a local legend in citrus. The Dillon family originated the Meyer Lemon, a cross between lemon and orange here in California that many people love. Their pages are full of excellent information about growing citrus in a mediterranean climate. The family is generous with speakers and answering questions online.”
by Peta & Birger Jensen, Jaime & Sacha Ruiz
In Mallorca there is a sunny, humid and fertile valley, between the Tramontana mountains and the sea, where traditionally orange trees are grown. Frosts are practically unknown here as the valley is well protected from all winds by the surrounding mountains. All these factors, together with its favourable soil (a mixture of clay and limestone), as well as a reasonable distance from the seashore, make it an ideal location for growing citrus trees. A century ago the fruit was exported from its port (Puerto de Sóller) to the south of France and, through many of the local families, strong commercial and cultural links were established between the two countries. The citrus orchards were small and worked by family members, some of whom were sent to handle their interests in France.
In recent years, many of the younger generation have preferred working in hotels or moving to the capital in Palma and some of the farms have passed into the hands of 'forasteros' and 'extranjeros' – i.e. those coming from mainland Spain or further afield.
This article is based on the pooled information of two such farms: Ca'n Frontera (Birger and Peta Jensen) and Ses Brises (Jaime and Sacha Ruiz) whose owners are members of the MGS, and amateurs in citrus-growing. During the past fifteen years the Ruizes have set up a tropical fruit section at Ses Brises (3,000 square metres with 140 citrus trees), described in TMG 69 and 70.
When the Jensens bought Ca'n Frontera in 1986 there were nearly 300 citrus trees on their 8,000 square metres of land. About 30 were removed to allow for the construction of terraces, a garden and a pool. Since then citrus trees that succumbed to old age or disease have been replaced by four avocados, three peaches, one apricot and new citrus trees. The 260 remaining are:
There was no Seville orange tree, so the Jensens planted one for marmalade. But the bitter oranges growing on the occasional branch of the original Mallorcan stock on to which other citrus types were grafted can also be used for marmalade.
Photographs by Jaime Ruiz
by Dick Handscombe
For two millennia or more, many gardens around the Mediterranean have had one or more lemon trees for their perfume, their fruit and their evergreen architectural effect. With the colonisation of the Americas and Australia, the lemon – like the olive tree – spread worldwide to all the mediterranean-climate locations in which MGS has branches today. The lemon tree could well be the emblem of the Society.
Choosing which variety to plant
With care from day one, there is no reason why lemon trees cannot grow into specimen trees that survive for many decades.
Some varieties of lemon trees by country/region
*Indicates the perpetual flowering/fruiting varieties
by Christoph Wieschus
Citrus species have been cultivated and hybridised for thousands of years, with the result that no one has been able to locate their natural place of origin with any certainty. The most probable area seems to be warm-temperate and subtropical Asia. The fruit is a berry-like hesperidium whose rind is dotted with glands that release ethereal oils, which may also reveal the type of tree when you crush its leaves. Another way of distinguishing citrus species is the size of the foliage and the wings along the stalk. Hybrids inherit such characteristics and thus often reveal their parentage by the appearance of their leaves.
In Western countries the genus has been divided into 16 species by W. T. Swingle, while the Asian classification of T. Tanaka lists as many as 157 species. Two hundred different cultivars were described by Battista Ferrari in 1646, and more than 3,000 types have been recorded in the following centuries. However, nowadays the choice is once again as limited as in the days of Ferrari since selection does not only mean improvement but also reduction of the number of varieties. The universities of Bologna, Naples and Palermo are now working in co-operation with the Blumeninsel Mainau (Lake Constance) to gather the relics of the age of orangeries.
Mainau Citrus Cultivars (rare varieties mostly with old cultivar names)
This collection was started just a few years ago, with its focus mainly on Italy. The Sicilian nurseryman Dr. Messinas propagated many cultivars found in private gardens or in tiny nurseries run by part-time gardeners. In Malta the range of cultivars grown in nurseries is reduced to a few common types. If you are looking for treasures such as the Sweet Lemon (Citrus limon 'Dulcis') you would do better to ask a local farmer to supply some budwood for grafting. I assume that this situation is nothing new to most readers, and I hope that the above list will be of some a help in finding a specific citrus tree you might have been looking for.
Most varieties of citrus tree are grown for their delicious fruit but there are many others which produce ornamental fruit that may decorate the tree or the table. The bitter orange 'Corniculata', for instance, is one such eye-catcher with segments that do not all combine in a rounded fruit but sometimes grow attached as a horn. Grooved rind like a melon covers the fruit of 'Consolei'. The Swiss Guards of the Vatican wear trousers that resemble the cultivar 'Fasciata', while variegated foliage, grooved rind and green lines along the fruit make 'Listata' a very curious attraction; Citrus limon 'Fol. et Fruct. Variegatis' also has variegated rind together with green and white leaves. One of the most common oranges, the cultivar 'Washington Navel', grows a tiny fruit at the inner bottom of the large one, and such a double or ”pregnant” fruit is grown by the bitter orange 'Foetifera'. The ethereal oil of the bergamot (Citrus aurantium ssp. bergamia) is used to create perfumes or to flavour Earl Grey tea. Citrus grandis 'Maxima' grows “Jamboas” 15cm/6in in diameter with a tender taste which resembles that of the related grapefruit. The shrivelled lime of Citrus hystrix has been used by goldsmiths to clean jewellery. It has also been added to the water in which clothes are washed – in order to perfume rather than to clean.
Nowadays breeders try to produce plants that withstand pests, diseases and even frost. The hardiest citrus-like trees are Eremocitrus glauca (-8°C), Fortunella spp. (-8°C), Poncirus trifoliata (-25°C), Citrus ichangensis (-12°C) and Citrus reticulata ssp. unshiu (Satsuma, -6°C).
Hardy Citrus Cultivars
'Segentrange Curafora' (-10°C, fruit sweet, thin rind, easy to peel, few or no seeds, evergreen, F2-parents: (Poncirus trifoliata x Citrus sinensis) Cultivar 'Sanford' x C. reticulata ?)
'Segentrange Hybrid 119' (-12°C, fruit sweet, juicy, 7cm/3” diameter, early, evergreen, F2-parents: (Poncirus trifoliata x Citrus ´ paradisi 'Duncan') x Citrus sinensis 'Succory')
'Segentrange Thomasville' (-10°C, fruit sweet, juicy, egg-shape and -size, evergreen, F2-parents: (Poncirus trifoliata x Citrus sinensis) Cultivar 'Willits' x Fortunella margarita 'Oval')
(Segentrange = Second Generation Citrange)
Fruit for Lemonade (resembling a Lemon):
Citrus ´ wilsonii 'Ichang Lemon' (-10°C, fruit sour, juicy, scented, 10cm/4” diameter, yellow, thick rind, many seeds, evergreen, F1-parents: Citrus maxima ´ Citrus ichangensis)
Fruit for Marmalade:
'Citrandarin' (-18°C, shrub, trifoliate leaves, semi-deciduous, fruit juicy, round, bitter, sour, early, thin rind, F1-parents: Poncirus trifoliata 'English Large' x Citrus reticulata 'Changsha')
'Citrange Rusk' (F1-parents: Poncirus trifoliata x Citrus sinensis 'Ruby')
'Citromelo Swingle' (F1-parents: Poncirus trifoliata x Citrus ´ paradisi)
'Citradia Brownell' (F1-parents: Poncirus trifoliata x Citrus aurantium)
'Troyer Citrange' (F1-parents Poncirus trifoliata x Citrus sinensis)
'Swingle Citromelo' (F1-parents Poncirus trifoliata x Citrus ´ paradisi)
Unless you do not give supplementary watering, budding should be done in early autumn, whereas irrigated shrubs do best when grafted in early summer. Usually it is recommended to prune shrubs and trees before or after dormancy. However, when flowers overlap with the previous year's crop it is difficult to define the time of rest. In the Mediterranean climate late spring is the season to thin out citrus, bearing in mind that they do not like much trimming. Blooming can also be forced by some cold or carefully applied drought. Dropped foliage is not replaced by latent buds. Raising the pH to above 6.5 is usually indicated by chlorosis; iron chelate is an essential nutrient for citrus planted in lime. If grown in pots citrus require lots of humus (compost rather than peat) and should not be relocated without marking and maintaining the plant's alignment to the sun. Citrus rind decomposes easily when no chemical pesticides have been applied although the rind of citrus fruit bought in the supermarket will not be humified but will rot and reduce the number of organisms in your compost heap.
by Mary Wilbur
Seville orange marmalade
8 medium bitter oranges
Cut oranges and lemons in half, remove seeds and squeeze juice into a large bowl. Put seeds in a small bowl and cover completely with cold water. Slice oranges and lemons (thin or thicker, according to taste) and add to juice in large bowl. Cover with the 8 cups of water. Let both bowls stand, covered, for 24 hours.
Transfer contents of large bowl to preserving pan. Pour contents of small bowl through a sieve, mashing the seeds to extract the pectin. Discard the seeds and add the gelatinous remains to the pan. (Alternatively, pour the seeds and liquid into a bag of cheesecloth and add to the preserving pan.)
Simmer mixture gently for about one hour, until the peel is soft and the contents of the pan are reduced. Add the sugar to the pulp and bring to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Boil rapidly for about 45 minutes or until two drops form on the edge of a spoon and drop off simultaneously. For a stiffer marmalade, continue cooking until the drops run together as they fall off the spoon. Pour into sterilized jars and seal.
by Helene Pizzi
Two recipes from the article
Peel just the yellow rind of 1 kilo of lemons (the white pith is bitter). Place the rinds in a glass bowl together with 1 litre of pure 95% proof alcohol. Cover and set in a dark cupboard for 10 days. Boil 750gm sugar with 750gm water to make a syrup and cool completely. Pour the syrup into the alcohol and rinds. Stir well, then strain through a sieve and pour into pretty bottles (the bottles are important; choose interesting ones). Serve iced.
Elena’s Pasta all’ Limone
This very quick pasta dish is as delicious as it is easy to prepare. Put a large pot of water on the stove, and while you wait for the water to boil, prepare the sauce.
In a large serving bowl place the juice of 1 lemon, ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, 2 tablespoons butter and 50gm (about a teacup full) of freshly grated Parmesan cheese. When the water comes to the boil, salt to taste and cook 500gm (1lb) spaghetti (or short macaroni, or shell-shaped pasta), tucking the pasta under the water with a wooden fork and then giving it a good stir to separate the strands while cooking. Just before the pasta is cooked, add 2 spoons of the pasta water to the sauce. When the spaghetti is al dente, quickly drain in a colander, pour into the serving bowl and toss well. Serve hot, with extra Parmesan and black pepper, with a bottle of chilled white wine.