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Friday, August 14, 2009

No scurvy in this house!

And I hope there won't be any in your house, either! 

From the Wikipedia entry:
Scurvy is a disease resulting from a deficiency of vitamin C, which is required for the synthesis of collagen in humans. ... Scurvy leads to the formation of spots on the skin, spongy gums, and bleeding from themucous membranes. The spots are most abundant on the thighs and legs, and a person with the ailment looks pale, feels depressed, and is partially immobilized. In advanced scurvy there are open, suppurating wounds and loss of teeth. ... Scurvy does not occur in most animals because they can synthesize their own vitamin C, but humans, other primates, guinea pigs, and a few other species lack an enzyme necessary for such synthesis and must obtain vitamin C through their diet. Vitamin C is widespread in plant tissues, with particularly high concentrations occurring in citrus fruits (oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruits); tomatoes, potatoes, cabbages, and green peppers are also good sources of this vitamin.


Above is a "cocktail grapefruit," actually a cross between a grapefruit and a mandarine orange. It is not ripe! The grapefruit and a lemon are growing in large pots on my patio right now.


Were we staying in Cincinnati, I would move them inside mid-September and put them in front of the sunniest window I have. As it is, they're moving to Mississippi, but I imagine they will still spend November - February inside.

Obviously, these two trees-- both about 3-4 years old-- are not now going to produce enough fruit to ward of scurvy all by themselves! But here's the thing. Once the lemon gets going, it will produce a crop almost year-'round. In fact, in addition to one lonely full-sized but still not ripe lemon, it has a new teeny little lemon on it already! There will be only one crop of grapefruits each year, but hey-- I can't think of anything cooler than having a dozen or so grapefruits of my own each winter, can you?

So, in a few years, I will always have fresh lemons. Always! And I will have real fresh grapefruit every winter. (I will get a lime tree soon, too.)

FAQ about growing your own dwarf citrus:

Why bother? Some of you may recall the lime fiasco a couple of years ago. Limes from Mexico, the world's second largest producer of lemons & limes (India #1), had been irrigated with sewer water or some such disgusting thing. This does not improve the taste of a gin & tonic at all, and it's down right sickening. The United States produces just 8% of the world's citrus. Next time you're at the market, take a minute to check out where fresh & canned citrus, and citrus juices, come from. Even if you want to buy "local" citrus, it's not easy. So the "why bother" is answered by whatever self-reliance / buy American /it's healthier* arguments you are fond of. 

How much does this cost? From the price list at Four Winds Growers:

Regular Dwarf Citrus Pricing
One Year Trees:
  1 tree for $22.00
  2 or 3 trees for $21.00 each
  4 or more trees for $20.00 each
 Two-to-Three Year Trees:
  1 tree for $40.00
  2 or 3 trees for $38.00 each
  4 or more trees for $36.00 each

There are other places to get dwarf citrus, but these prices are pretty standard. In addition, you need a very large plastic pot, some good potting soil, and a bag of shredded cypress mulch, a bit of azalea fertilizer and some Epson salts. You could probably do a one-year old tree for $40-50.

How hard is it? It's not. Once the trees have established themselves in the pot, they are pretty self-sufficient. While outside they need nothing but sunshine & rain water. Inside in the winter they need water (not often) & occasional fertilizer. (No grow light needed.) 

When to get started? The next time I buy trees, I will buy them at the very beginning of Spring, or late August. Reason? To get them started outside before moving them inside. I made the mistake of ordering mine in October, so I had to start them inside. They had a bit of a hard time establishing themselves. They still flowered, and set fruit in the late winter, but they really took off when I put them outside. 

Anything I forgot? Let me know. 

* A word about the health thing. The only way that I can think of to avoid doctors & insurance companies (barring accidents) is to stay healthy. Even if you don't grow and preserve your own produce, be sure to eat fresh fruits and veggies especially in the winter time! Consider getting a juicer and squeezing your own grapefruit or orange juice. (Yes, this is your mother talking.)

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