Monday, August 10, 2009

Jaboticaba, and an almond

With two Feijoas and a Jaboticaba, South Americans should feel at home

I was very impressed by the flavour of the Jaboticaba fruit I tasted at the garden shop the other day, and after checking that the tree is supposedly cold tolerant down to -6°C , I bought it (in Matsuyama, the average temperature gets down to 1.9°C in February). When it arrived, I gobbled down a few of the fruit to get the energy to plant the tree, and decided that the fruit is a delicious cross between a cherry and a grape, but with much more reliable sweetness.

A little beetle makes a tasty meal of my pips

The Jaboticaba is said to like a deep soil with a lot of organic content, so I dug a hole about half a metre deep and filled it with compost and charcoal. Digging the hole in the solid clay/quartz mix was a major undertaking which took nearly an hour. It seems miraculous that the roots of plants can penetrate this medium when a pick axe can only penetrate a couple of inches with a good hard swing.

This hole goes a long way down, and is full of Terra Preta goodness

I'm saving the seeds of the Jaboticaba fruit and I'll try planting them. I believe that the cultivar I have is probably "Sabara" which is said to be "precocious". I hope so, because waiting 8 to 10 years for a seedling to fruit would really try my patience.

The almond tree has given up its single fruit. In the rains of the last few months, it gradually took on a very disreputable appearance, and today when I poked it cautiously with a gloved finger, it fell off the bush and some little poisonous ants came streaming out of it.

Inside the half-rotten "fruit" portion, the pit seemed to be in reasonable condition. Presumably, when this is cracked open, there should be a pristine almond inside. Whereas in California and other dry places like that, the fruit is left to dessicate and fall off on its own, in Japan where fruiting coincides with wet weather, the husbandman is supposed to devise measures for drying the fruit before it rots. Next year, I can see myself either hoping for a dry snap (but only in relation to the almonds!) or leaving matters to the ants, since no harm seems to have been done this year.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Pomegranates and other fruit trees

I was surprised the other day to see vivid red flowers blooming in the garden, not aware that I had planted anything with red flowers. In fact it was the pomegranate that I planted last autumn, and it shows how little I actually know about what I plant. I know what a pomegranate fruit looks like, but hitherto, I had no idea what its flowers looked like.

Indeed, when I first noticed the buds, I thought that they were in fact the fruit, and so I was surprised when they morphed into flowers.

Today I went to the garden rather superior garden shop Tokiwa Garland to pick up the seaberry plants I ordered. One of the two I planted last spring died. The seaberry comes in male and female varieties, and since I forgot which was which, I had to plant one of each again. At Tokiwa Garland, I encountered the Jaboticaba (Myrciaria cauliflora) or 'Kibudo' in Japanese.

This rather bizarre tree has grape-like fruit sticking out of its branches. I rather surreptiously picked a few and popped them in my mouth. They had a slightly sticky, waxy feel which heightened the feeling that one was running a hazard by ingesting them. The inside of the fruit, which pops outside with a spurt when you bite into it, is sweet like a grape but with a custardy texture and also a slight sourness. This is quite a delightful combination. The skin is bitter and I spat it out, along with a couple of largish seeds, although a taste for the skin could probably be acquired. At a price of 10,000 yen for a tree taller than I am with fruit already on it, I'm very tempted to add this one to our growing collection of uncommon fruit.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Ground cover

After pulling up all the previous ground cover -- clover, and liming the soil, we had several weeks of torrential rain. I feel confident in saying that all the lime got completely washed away, along with a good deal of topsoil. When the clover was in place, the soil was never washed away. But ironically, the heaviest rain I've ever seen, anywhere, fell just after we pulled up the ground cover.

The soil did a pitiful imitation of the Mississippi River, carrying our topsoil off to the sea.

The next lot of ground cover that we decided on is a sort called Lippia nodiflora (iwadare-kusa in Japanese) which is said to grow like billy-ho, and be reasonably resistant to drought. I really hope it is, because I'm not in the habit of watering 'lawn' space.

As a means of preventing the whole plot of land washing away completely, I carved out channels running across the slope, with the soil piled up on the downhill side. The Lippia is planted along the little berms.

This actually worked quite well for a few days more of the torrential rain, but without any well-established ground cover, the ditches and berms are beginning to get flattened.

The rainy season was officially declared over on Friday, when we had some typical summer weather. But then on Friday night and Saturday morning, we had a massive thunderstorm that shook the whole house, and on Saturday evening, we have the same son et lumière again, with more Biblical quantities of rain.

I never thought that the anxieties I'd face in life would include the loss of my precious topsoil. More rain forecast for tomorrow...