Saturday, December 16, 2017

The Porch-spit Seed-grown Orange Tree Flavor Mystery ...SOLVED.

A lot of things go over the porch rail here at Pure Florida HeadQuarters (PFHQ).
Things like coffee grounds, vegetable scraps from making salads, onion peels, and a host of other plant-based compostables.
All of this is considered sheet compost for the sandy,nutrient-poor Florida "soil".

This dumping is socially acceptable here, where it might not be in your suburban yard because we have no neighbors in visual range.

PFHQ sits in a hole in our forest, smack in the center of our 10-acre kingdom.

You could sip tea on the porch in your birthday suit all day and maybe only surprise the UPS guy on rare occasions.

Every once in a while, I throw a little dirt on the composting veggie scraps and turn the soil. We call this a flower bed, but it's really made up of perennials like amaryllis, daylilies, plumbago shrubs, a lemon tree, and cape honeysuckle.

Point is, it's more green than flowery anyway and all this green hides the compostieness of it all.

But what about the Porch-spit Seed-grown Orange Tree Flavor Mystery?

I'm getting to that... just setting the scene.

See, there is one other thing that gets launched over the porch rail.


Got a juicy peach or pear?
Eat it over the porch rail and spit seeds.
Watermelon slice? 
Same SOP.
Juicy orange?

It's that last one that started the mystery.
Sometime, about 8 years ago, an orange seed arced over the rail and landed in just the right place beneath the plumbago where no weeding or tilling ever happened.
And it grew.

I remember first spotting it and thinking, "I should dig up that little guy and move it."
But I didn't.

When the little seedling survived the record-setting winter of 2009-2010, I decided 2 things.

1) This must be a sour-orange tree. They are notoriously cold hardy.
2) Any citrus that survived weeks (1-inch thick ice in the goldfish pond that lasted for 10 days!) of below-freezing temps deserved to live.

The thing about citrus tree varieties is that many are hybrids and seeds from that supermarket orange often don't produce the same fruit you ate. In fact, they seem to revert back to sour orange.

So I expected the tough little tree baby to eventually produce sour oranges.

Over the years the tree grew taller than the porch roof. It had all the signatures of the sour orange trees you sometimes find in the woods.

Those being wicked 4-inch woody thorns and being impervious to North Florida Winters. 
As it grew, I trimmed away branches that overhung the porch and all thorns below 6 feet.
If you've ever raised up after weeding and rammed your head into a 4-inch long wooden thorn, you know why.

The tree grew lush and green and I became its lawyer when it needed defending. 

 I've got your bark, tree.

"Someday it will bloom and won't it be great to sit here on the porch and smell that magic."
"Yes, it will probably be a sour orange, but there are all kinds of Cuban recipes that require sour orange, so win-win if it is."

Along the way, the tree hosted swallowtail larvae, a cardinal nest, and countless anoles.

Eventually, the tree won over everyone, when it bloomed earlier this year. 

Not just one bloom, but a host of them from top to bottom.
The green fruit soon followed. I worried that Hurricane Irma might take them with her winds, but they hung on.

Recently, after a series of strong cold fronts came through, the once green oranges completed their change to orange.

It was time.

Time to pick that first orange, slice it, taste it, and solve the Porch-spit Seed-grown Orange Tree Flavor Mystery.

I was totally sure that it would be sour as I sliced through the thin skin and quartered the test orange.

The thin skin separated cleanly for an easy peeling experience.

I raised the section to my mouth and bit into it ...


I would have been happy either way, but yes, I was hoping against hope that it would be a sweet orange tree.

Mystery solved.


Ms. Moon said...

Congratulations! I have a similar "compost" area right beside my kitchen porch. Bananas grow there and lilies and other things, too, and my chickens love to scratch in all of that compostie goodness and thus- more fertilizer. I have a volunteer citrus of some sort growing as we speak. It is still quite small but has grown noticeably this year. Perhaps, if I am lucky, I will live long enough to see it grow into maturity and see exactly what it is I have.

Lisa Greenbow said...

You are a lucky fellow. Perhaps the garden fairies kept the sugar going to this tree for you.

threecollie said...

That is utterly wonderful! Beyond imagining to have a free-range, almost wild orange right outside your door and to have it be sweet too. Well, just wow. We wondered when we wandered around your state if it was possible to eat the oranges on the wild trees.....

Miz S said...

"Ive got your bark,tree" Lol,dork.

R.Powers said...

Ms.Moon, I hope your little tree makes it. I doubted this one, but it has exceeded my expectations.

Garden Fairies? I may have to set up a game camera with extra megaPIXIES to get a photo of them.

ThreeCollie, What you said about having an orange tree growing near the porch... just substitute apple for orange, and you have my view.
And yes you can eat any wild orange, but you won't know until you bite if it is sour or sweet.

Miz S,
I put that in there just for you.

lisa said...

Lovely, and delicious I bet! We have a compost pile out back of the house also! But we have 27.8 acres to let it compost if we needed to ;)

paullamb said...

That would be unsweetened tea you'd be sipping on the porch, right?

Deb said...

That is amazing! I've had the occasional compost winter squash or tomatillo.

R.Powers said...

Deb, we are happily amazed. I was pretty doubtful about the sweet ending.

"Unsweetened of course" ... and no poopy lemon in it either...maybe some homegrown aquaponic mint tho.

Lisa, Nice spread! I need to make a proper compost bin for the garden area.

robin andrea said...

Such a great story. Eight years to fruition, literally. I love how you protected it and were rewarded for your sweetness with... sweetness.

roger said...

we get volunteers of all sorts in with flowers and vegetables. and we mostly let them all grow. makes for an unplanned but interesting garden. a bit crowded too. and of course tomatoes everywhere.

Kim S. said...

Great story! I loved the words "I became its lawyer when it needed defending." Poetic and real. We're composters too - started as my in-laws' cow manure pile. It's a bit of a walk away from the house, which is a good thing in this case. Between recycling, composting, and a bit of legal burning (yes, very rural) we've no need for the trash collector. Kim in PA

Beny said...

Great blog! Just keep up doing this amazing job.

Happy New Year

Anonymous said...


Long time. Thought about you today and thought I'd pop in. Glad that orange tree was able to repay you with sweetness! Great story as usual.

Hope you, your bride and the offspring are all well!

Happy New Year.


Mark P said...

This reminds me of the cinderella watermelon that grew in a friend's front yard. We had been enjoying a watermelon and spitting the seeds off the porch one summer. Later in the summer, a vine started to grow. It was obviously from one of the watermelon seeds. It eventually produced a nice, green melon. That melon eventually matured into a pumpkin.

Lynn said...

You let it live. It paid you back with sweet fruit. And flowers. This tree has survived freezes and hurricanes. It will outlive you!! LOL