To help fight off winter's chill, eat more of those nutrient-rich citrus fruits.
Citrus fruits come in various colors, flavors, shapes, and sizes. Among the most recognizable are oranges and lemons. Less known, the smallest member of the citrus family, is the kumquat. I love them all, and am so fortunate to be able to grow delicious citrus fruits here in the Northeast. I find it so satisfying to walk into one of my greenhouses and pick my own. It is actually quite easy to grow citrus indoors as long as it can be kept in a sunny windowsill or in a bright corner of a room. Most of my citrus collection is from Logee’s Tropical Plants, in Danielson, Connecticut, owned by my friends, Byron Martin and Laurelynn Martin - they have an amazing selection.
As you know, during the freezing months of winter, my potted citrus trees, along with my tropical plants, are kept inside one of several greenhouses here at the farm. This year, I moved most of the citrus to the vegetable greenhouse, to make better use of its vertical space and great light. The move was extremely successful and all of the plants are thriving in their new home. Many of you often ask about my citrus collection - here are some recent photos - enjoy.
The majority of my growing citrus collection is in the large vegetable greenhouse located behind my Hay Barn and near the Equipment Barn. The various specimens, some raised on logs, add more texture to this giant space.
There is so much height in this all-glass structure, I knew the citrus trees would look so beautiful stored in here. The house is also minimally heated, just above freezing, mostly utilizing energy from the sun.
Citrus plants dislike abrupt temperature shifts and need to be protected from chilly drafts and blazing heaters.
We positioned plants along the entire perimeter of the bed and in the center. My collection has grown quite a bit over the years. Dwarf citrus trees require at least eight to 12 hours of full sunshine and good air circulation to thrive. It’s important to place the plants so none of them touch.
Citrus limon ‘Meyer’ – my favorite lemon because this thin-skinned fruit is much more flavorful than the ordinary store-bought. I love to use them for baking and cooking.
Meyer lemons are also smaller and more round than their regular store-bought cousins.
The Meyer lemon was first introduced to the United States in 1908 by the agricultural explorer, Frank Nicholas Meyer, an employee of the United States Department of Agriculture who collected a sample of the plant on a trip to China.
This is a Nagami kumquat, Fortunella margarita – the most commonly grown type of kumquat. The tree is small to medium in size with a dense and somewhat fine texture. These trees are quite cold-hardy because of their tendency to go semi-dormant from late fall to early spring.
Unlike other citrus fruits, which have thick, pithy rinds, kumquat peel is thin and soft, and perfectly edible.
In fact, the peel is sweet, compared to its rather tart flesh. Candied kumquats are delicious.
Calamondin, Citrus mitis, is an acid citrus fruit originating in China. Calamondin is called by many names, including calamondin orange, calamansi, calamandarin, golden lime, and musk orange.
The fruits of the calamondin are small and thin skinned. Its juice can be used like lemon or lime to make refreshing beverages, or to flavor fish and various soups.
Calamondin marmalade can be made in the same way as orange marmalade. Like other citrus fruits, the calamondin is high in vitamin C.
Citrus flowers are either solitary, like this waxy, white, fragrant one.
Or clustered like these – you can practically smell their beautiful aroma.
All citrus fruits are members of the genus Citrus and many of them have thorns on their trees. Some of the most common citrus trees to sport thorns are Meyer lemons, most grapefruits and key limes. Thorns provide protection from predators, specifically hungry animals that want to nibble away at the tender leaves and fruit.
This is a Citrus hystrix ‘Kaffir Lime’. It is sometimes referred to as the makrut lime and is native to tropical Asia, including India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines. The leaves of this tree are often used in Thai cooking, for their delicious flavor and fragrance.
The leaves are a dark green color with a glossy sheen. The size of the leaves can vary from less than an inch to several inches long.
The wrinkly fruit also provides a unique flavor that just can’t be reproduced by other citrus. If you’ve ever followed an authentic Thai recipe, it most likely called for ‘Kaffir Lime’.
Citrus limon ‘Pink Lemonade’ trees produce fruits with pink flesh, and little to no seeds.
The fruit grows year-round, and is heaviest in late winter through early summer. It produces very acidic juice. Look closely and see the thorns on its branches.
Citrus sinensis ‘Trovita’ is thin skinned and develops without the excessive heat most oranges need to produce good fruit. The fruit is smaller, juicier, and milder in flavor.
This is citrus hybrid I purchased in Florida during a recent visit – I love its striped fruit pattern.
This is Citrus sinensis ‘Parson Brown’ – known for its cold tolerance, often surviving to the upper teens. The fruit was one of the leading sellers in Florida until around 1920. They’re large, very juicy with a mild sweet flavor.
Aside from the citrus, I also have two papaya trees in this greenhouse. Papayas are easy to grow and quick to fruit. This one has four fruits growing now.
And this one has one fruit.
Papaya is native to Central and northern South America. The ripe fruit of the papaya is usually eaten raw, without skin or seeds – it is so wonderfully sweet.
The trunk of the papaya tree is a beautiful brown-gray color. It is soft with no bark and no branches. The lower trunk is conspicuously scarred where leaves and fruit were borne.
Citrus limon ‘Ponderosa’ or ‘The American Wonder Lemon’ – this plant produces a thick mass of highly fragrant flowers, which become tiny lemons. Those lemons get bigger and bigger, often up to five pounds! This ‘Ponderosa’ citrus tree is pretty large, so it is still stored in the smaller hoop house next door. I always keep it in the front just behind the doors.