Category Archives: Fruit trees

Making a living from ancient olive trees

In more traditional American forestry circles, one can still hear “old growth” being used as a synonym for “over-mature,” the stage in the life of a tree or stand at which it begins to lose value as saw-timber. It’s worth remembering, however, that trees have many other economic values (to say nothing of cultural and ecological values) besides wood production — and sometimes these values actually increase with age. Examples include carbon sequestration, water storage and purification services, and the size of fruit or nut crops for certain species. Both sugar maples and rubber trees give more sap the older they get, so maple sugar and natural rubber production can take place within virtually unaltered old-growth landscapes. And many species of prized mushrooms do best in old-growth forests.

A less wild but still impressive example of the economic usefulness of ancient trees is exemplified by a new post at Spicelines blog, “Spain: From the Time of the Romans, an Ancient Olive Tree Bears Fruit.” The author visits a small-scale olive grower in Andalucia.

At least one of these ancient trees, which he calls “the millenary olive,” is estimated to be 1,800 years old, and may been planted in the time of the Romans. It’s an Hojiblanco and from a distance, it is an ungainly creature with branches, some broken or split, jutting at awkward angles. Only as we get closer do I see how massive the trunk is and how it spreads over the ground. It’s pockmarked with holes and deep crevasses, and on one side, where the wood has rotted away, there is a child-size hollow. “This is where I would hide myself when I was little,” Fermin says, laughing at the memory. “I would stay here for hours.”

This handsome relic still produces olives which lend their peppery, almond-like flavor to Vizcantar oils.

I’d heard that olive trees of great age were still producing oil all around the Mediterranean, so I was pleased to get this virtual tour of one such grove. Read the rest.

“Food forest” planned for Seattle

The locavore and livable cites movements have found common cause in Seattle, according to TakePart:

Seattle’s vision of an urban food oasis is going forward. A seven-acre plot of land in the city’s Beacon Hill neighborhood will be planted with hundreds of different kinds of edibles: walnut and chestnut trees; blueberry and raspberry bushes; fruit trees, including apples and pears; exotics like pineapple, yuzu citrus, guava, persimmons, honeyberries, and lingonberries; herbs; and more. All will be available for public plucking to anyone who wanders into the city’s first food forest.

“This is totally innovative, and has never been done before in a public park,” Margarett Harrison, lead landscape architect for the Beacon Food Forest project, tells TakePart. Harrison is working on construction and permit drawings now and expects to break ground this summer.

Read the rest.

Etrogcello for the New Year of the Trees

Rabbi Rachel Barenblat saved the etrogs from last Sukkot and has been soaking them in vodka, making etrogcello to celebrate the trees.

But really the reason I make the etrogcello is so that we can drink it at Tu BiShvat. The New Year of the Trees; the birthday, according to Talmud, of every tree, no matter when it was planted. The date when (our tradition says) the sap begins to rise to feed the trees for the year to come; the time when cosmic sap begins to rise, renewing our spiritual energy for the welter of spring festivals ahead. How better to celebrate Tu BiShvat than with this pri etz hadar, this fruit of a goodly tree, which we so cherished back at Sukkot? It stitches the harvest season to this moment in deepest New England winter. It reminds me that everything which has been dormant can once again bear fruit.

Read the rest.

Clayton Bell, guerrilla orchardist

Clayton Bell is “an environmental hydrogeologist in Houston, Texas who is obsessed with growing fruit trees,” and his blog The Bell House is the latest addition to our linkroll of blogs about trees and forests. He blogs about pomegranates, Japanese lemons, trifoliate orange trees, how to root fig cuttings, and more. His latest post, “Squat Orchard,” describes how he started a pecan plantation on a vacant lot.

I planted the trees approximately 35 feet apart along the northern edge of the lot where they should be fairly out of the way. It also looks like water from the nearby homes drains to that area, which will be big plus if we have another brutally dry summer. I placed a 3-gallon pot with the bottom cut out around each tree to protect the trunk, and marked them with orange pin flags, small t-posts with some orange flag tape, and metal tags with the variety names. I’m hoping that this will be enough to keep the mowers that come around every couple of months from cutting them down. If I can fool the mowers into thinking that those trees are supposed to be there, then the trees’ chances of survival will be that much better. I’m going to go back later and add some printed labels with an official sounding name, for a little extra insurance.

Read the rest.

The Annato Tree: Friend or Foe?

That’s the title of a new post in a Belizean blog, Lower Dover Field Journal — a fascinating look at a tree fruit whose growing use in processed foods may be triggering food-related allergies.

Orchard-visiting wassail: a holiday tradition with pagan roots

Most people associate Wassail with Christmas caroling, but as the Wikipedia reminds us, it’s also the ancient, probably pre-Christian tradition of “drinking (and singing) the health of trees in the hopes that they might better thrive. … Perhaps unbeknown to the general public, this ancient English tradition is still very much thriving today.”

A web search (kindly conducted by rr of Twisted Rib blog) turned up several listings of events from recent years. Real Cider blog shared a select list of Wassail events 2011, ranging from the 6th to the 23rd of January. Several more are listed on the British Christmas Customs and Traditions page for Wassailing (which also includes some useful information about the custom). This list from 2009 is the most comprehensive we’ve seen, though it may be out of date. And the best documented single event on the web appears to be the wassailing at the village of Whimple in east Devon.

Whimple Wassailing was re-started in 1993 under the auspices of Whimple History Society who saw it as their duty to try to revive this industry so vital to the well-being of the area and, of course, the national interest. Our ritual follows the traditional well-tried and tested ceremony of our predecessors with the Mayor in his robes of office and the Princess carrying lightly toasted bread in her delicately trimmed flasket, whilst the Queen, wearing her crown of Ivy, Lichen and Mistletoe, recites the traditional verse.

The original Whimple Incantation
has been retained:-

Here’s to thee, old apple tree,
That blooms well, bears well.
Hats full, caps full,
Three bushel bags full,
An’ all under one tree.
Hurrah! Hurrah!

Her Majesty is then gently but manfully assisted up the tree in order to place the cyder-soaked toast in the branches whilst the assembled throng, accompanied by a group of talented musicians, sing the Wassail Song and dance around the tree. The Mulled Cider or ‘Wassail Cup’ is produced and everyone takes a sample with their ‘Clayen Cup’.

The Guns are fired and a general rumpus is created by the crowd banging their saucepan lids and playing a variety of percussion ‘instruments’ of all shapes and sizes to wake up the tree ready for the next crop.

Sounds like a good time!

Guerrilla Grafters make San Francisco’s trees bear fruit

Via Katie Scott’s blog at Wired.co.uk. (Watch on YouTube.) As Katie puts it,

We have guerrilla gardeners here in London, but a group in San Francisco has taken the concept and made it more, well, fruitful.

The Guerrilla Grafters are on a mission to “undo civilisation one branch at a time” by grafting fruit bearing branches onto the non-fruit bearing fruit trees that line their city streets. The ultimate aim is “to turn city streets into food forests”.

The team has created a web app to help the city’s citizens find “graftable” trees, and offer instructions as to how to help the new branch take. The Guerrilla Grafters themselves are keeping tabs on how the grafts are doing; and whether the trees have borne any fruit.

Unfortunately, their website appears to be down at the moment.

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