I often hear the cry that people want shade trees that produce fruit. Consider persimmons, loquats and figs.
Oriental persimmons, also called Japanese persimmons do great in our valley. You’ll love the beautiful orange red, peach-sized distinctive fruit. In the fall, their leaves turn orange-yellow and that exposes tennis ball-size orange to red persimmons hanging on the tree, similar to ornament balls on a Christmas tree. On top of the fruit is a distinctive green calyx such as that on a tomato, but larger and more pronounced. Fruit ripens from late fall into winter.
Persimmons come in two categories: astringent (pucker) and nonastringent. The astringents must soften, or they’ll be puckery. The nonastringents are OK before ripening.
After persimmons sweeten, eat them in hand or halve and serve with a spoon. They’re great for flavoring ice cream and yogurt and baking in cakes, cookies and puddings. You can also freeze for storing or dry the extras.
Trees range in size from 15 to 25 feet at maturity, with a smaller spread or plant dwarf varieties, which get to be about eight-feet tall. Persimmons are relatively open and have a willowy canopy of attractive bluish-green oblong-shaped leaves, making them great for shade.
They are self-fruitful, so you only need one tree. It does take five years to begin producing fruit. Most plants purchased at your nursery are already two years old, so you’ll have fruit in three years.
Loquat trees make very attractive ornamental trees. They have thick, upright branches and a very regular rounded form. Of special note are the large, coarse, textured leaves. They are eight- to 12-inches long, hairy when young, becoming smooth, leathery and dark gray-green when mature. The dense evergreen foliage provides pleasant shade for patios and along the side of the home, and as an added bonus produces a very desirable fruit. Trees mature to a height of 20 feet, making them ideal for landscapes with limited space.
Loquats bloom in the fall and continue through winter, producing very fragrant blossoms ending up with 10 fruit per cluster. Fruits are orange-yellow, with several seeds inside. The oval, one- to two-inch-long fruits have a sweet, rich, aromatic flavor and are ready for eating when the skin turns yellow and soft to the touch. They are somewhat tart when eaten off the tree. Let them ripen more and turn into jam, jelly and marmalade.
Figs make excellent fruit trees and ornamental trees for desert landscapes. That’s because figs are native to climates such as ours.
Fig trees have attractive, large, deeply lobed leaves that are tropical in appearance and the rounded canopy hides attractive thick, gray-barked, spreading branches. The branches become dominant after the leaves drop. Figs reach heights of 20 feet with an equal spread, but can be kept less than 10 feet.
You can enjoy the pear-shaped fruits right off the tree or dry it. Fig producers turn them into fig bars or have them dried and packaged for direct consumption.
Typically, trees produce two crops per season. The first ripens in June, with the second in late summer and a fall crop depending on the weather.
Here is a sure way to turn your brown thumb to green: grow herbs. They are very forgiving and require minimal effort to get maximum pleasure. These aromatic plants are simply delightful, and they are drought-tolerant and resistant to pests. Come discover the delights of these classic plants at 8:30 a.m. Saturday at the Springs Preserve, 333 S. Valley View Blvd. Call 822-7786 to reserve your seat.
FREE NATIVE PLANTS
Do you want a free native plant? Drop by Dr. Green Thumb’s booth at the Springs Preserve from 10 a.m. to noon Friday to get one. Choose one from the many species available, answer the question attached to it and take it home.
Linn Mills writes a garden column each Sunday. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at 822-7754.