C is for Calamondin

Neighbors butchered Calamondin growing strong despite the heavy pruning.

The neighbors’ butchered Calamondin growing strong despite the heavy, imprecise pruning.

C is for Citrus, too, but let’s not lump them all together. To me, that would be like saying C is for Californians. And I don’t want to sit next to that guy over there. So this C is for Calamondin, which is in the citrus family.

If you have a brown thumb, listen up. “Worldwide, more fruit is produced by citrus trees than by all the deciduous fruit trees (e.g., apples, peaches, pears) combined” (MG Handbook, p. 532). That’s a lot of fruit. Why not get in on the fun before it’s too late.

If you haven’t already heard, California’s citrus industry is in jeopardy. Florida has already fallen victim to the Asian Citrus Psyllid, an insect that feeds on the leaves doing its own damage, but the real threat lies in the bacterium the psyllid transmits to the trees and shrubs, Huanglongbing Disease. HLB, also called Citrus Greening Disease, can kill a tree in 3-5 years and there is no cure. Once infected, the only chance the citrus plant has to survive is if the diseased part of the tree is removed and destroyed.

The disease was first spotted in Florida in 1998, moving to Texas by 2001, and found in San Diego in 2008. Sadly, in July of this year, researchers in Tulare County found six Asian Citrus Psyllid on sticky traps set solely for monitoring this pest. The California Department of Food and Agriculture declared a mandatory quarantine of citrus fruit in the surrounding area. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pg44ZUlHvYU

Scrambling to come up with solutions and bide time, researchers are looking to a parasitic wasp to help the effort. The Los Angeles Times published an article just days ago leaking the secret-agent assassin’s name, Tamarixia radiata.

So you’d better get started growing your own citrus, because if this means nothing else to you, just think how much cost in terms of dollars you will absorb to fight this fight.

And you wondered how much I could really say about Calamondins!

During the first few years, citrus production is light (for those of you wondering if that lime tree you put in the ground will ever bear fruit). But Citrus in general and, Calamondins in particular, thrive in pots. No need to use up valuable land to plant shrubs that might even prefer a container. And nobody needs that many Calamondins.

Calamondins fall under the Sour-Acid Mandarins. They are technically a cross between a Mandarin and a Kumquat, and the fruit is quite tangy. The fruit resembles a small orange with an easy-to-peel rind. The best way to actually use the fruit, in my opinion, is to juice it and mix it with orange juice or something sweet. Or make a marmalade.

Why bother growing it if the fruit is so sour? Because it’s a cool-looking container plant, especially the variegated version. It looks like a little Charlie Brown Christmas tree with lots of orange ball decorations hanging down the branches.

I traded mine for something that tasted better.

About master kindergardener

Santa Clara County Master Gardener since 2007, Mom since 2009, Gardener since birth.
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