Monthly Archives: August 2020

The Tyranny of the Harvest – Looking for Honeycrisp Lovers

August 29, 2020

You can watch summer squash grow. Just have a seat. The plant explodes with six at once. You are hurriedly trying to remember who likes squash, before the fruits look like footballs.

“Would you like to take a yellow squash?”, I asked a volunteer at the end of his shift.
“Oh no, I grow squash.” Then, he offers back, “Would you like some zucchini?”

Next, I look at a green bean, short and lean. I thought I had time before I had to pick. The very next day they ballooned. The gold rush is on. Now I must pick ever other day.

Then come the tomatillos, and then the elderberry – more goodies for volunteers.

The William’s Pride apples ripened a bit early this year, but the winter moth caterpillars thwarted most blooms. A small harvest but volunteers always appreciate apples.

 

This one’s for you. Let it sit four days.
For you these should chill in the refer, then two days on the table.
Iodine, thumb press, tacky peel … there are so many ways
I try to time perfect maturity, as much as I’m able.

The Honeycrisp apple tree was largely unaffected by the winter moth caterpillars. It is loaded. I thinned at least 190 apples from the tree. A few weeks later, I asked Dane, a young helper, to thin again in the classic way: one apple per 6 inches of space. I turned my head and handed him the pruners. Still, even with this final thinning, it will be a challenge to get them all distributed.

Volunteers are needed!
by appointment
please email
freewayestatescommunityorchard@gmail.com

Wednesday, I asked Sue if she had a Tyranny of the Harvest story. “Sure.” she said.
(Note: Sue is infatuated with growing tomatoes, in spite of our wimpy summers. Story is a bit edited.)

When I managed the Adult Learning Garden at Seattle Tilth (now Tilth Alliance), each year I would wait until October to take my summer vacation then drive to Colorado and New Mexico to visit family. I packed the trunk with boxes of green tomatoes. They sat in the back, baking in the sun, and they ripen at different speeds. Our aim way to share with everyone we visited along the way.

 

Last year, we left a cousin in Salt Lake City
And were near to our friend in Grand Junction
Bad timing; no additional ripe tomatoes. What a pity!
We had to skip that visit, with some compunction.
In the end, we met our goal: to use all of them, have none rot,
before we got to our last stop.

Go Sue!

Today, as I was leaving the orchard, I walked past the Honeycrisp. Dare I look? I glanced up and I saw an apple with those streaking red vertical lines – big, with good color. Oh my, nearly ripe.

Friends of FECO! We invite you to make a $20.00 donation for 5 pounds of organic Honeycrisp (average retail price in Washington State.)
You will need to let us know right away! You can order more than 5 pounds.
(We are out of money and we still have supplies to purchase this year.) Thank you.

freewayestatescommunityorchard@gmail.com

Ruth

Figgly Wiggly – ficus carica, a plant in the Mulberry family

August 17, 2020

brown turkey variety

Here in the Northwest only certain fig varieties will produce a large quantity of ripe fruit in our short, relatively cool summers. At Freeway Estates we have two of the most appropriate varieties: Desert King and Brown Turkey. This year, the three mature Desert Kings produced a large crop. The two Brown Turkeys are younger trees and one of them has just begun producing. It was fun to be able to compare the flavor differences.

03/30/2020 before

The best way to maximize fruit production in our climate is to grow a multi-stemmed bush. The key to good fig production is understanding when and where the fruit grows. In hot climates figs can produce two crops per year – the breba (Latin- bifera – twice bearing) crop and the main crop. The breba crop grows on second year wood while the main crop grows on the current year’s new growth. In hot climates growers prune for maximum production of new wood, to get a large main crop. But in the Northwest the main crop does not have time to ripen so we prune to get a large breba crop.

03/30/2020 after

If you never prune a fig, the branches containing the breba crop will be further and further away from the main trunk(s), to the point where they are nearly impossible for humans to harvest. One experienced Seattle fig grower refers to these as extremely tall bird feeders. On the other hand, if you give the tree a “hair cut”, taking off most of the new growth each year, you’ll never get ripe figs. I see this often enough and am tempted to leave my card.

We prune in March or April, just before the trees break dormancy. Remember, the breba crop grows on second year wood – the branches that were new growth the previous year.

Volunteers are needed!
by appointment
please email
freewayestatescommunityorchard@gmail.com

During spring pruning, it is easy to see where the previous summer’s growth starts. Looking very closely you can see the embryonic breba figs as tiny buds all along that new growth. The goal is to leave a good amount of that growth, to give us figs in the summer, while also planning for new growth that will give us figs next year. To encourage new growth we make heading cuts on some of the older branches. We also shape the tree by removing branches that are: growing in undesired directions, clogging up the the center of the “bush”, or, are dead or damaged.

I’m still learning! I thought I had pruned quite well this spring (see before and after photos) but I did not anticipate the enormous amount of new growth our wet spring generated. Some branches grew three feet and the trees became an unruly mess (photo). We could barely find the ripening figs under all those leaves. A couple of raccoons found them easy enough, helping themselves to some overripe figs and breaking several branches in the process. Pruning next spring will be an interesting challenge. FECO will plan to offer some type of workshop.

Two good videos on pruning for the breba crop. Slightly different approaches in each.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=glFQINjnKCk
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RB0D_tuKgtQ

Nancy Helm