Saturday, December 1, 2018

Citrus - Ripe or Not

 In tropical regions of the world, some gardeners patiently wait for their citrus fruit, such as tangerines, to turn orange before picking them.  When using color as an indicator for ripeness, the fruit can easily pass its prime, which is characterized by dry fruit segments. 

Coloration can be an indicator for ripeness in temperate and subtropical climates like California. But in the tropics, color is not a good guide for harvesting. Large temperature differences, such as 85 F. in the day and 45 F. at night, is the condition which produces the orange coloration.  This is also true in other fruit such as apples. 
In contract, temperatures in the tropics do not significantly vary; thus fruit tends to stay at least partially green.
 
If you know the variety of the fruit, you can find out the harvest period. If you don’t know the variety, then when the fruit first begins to show color, pick one and taste it. If it’s not ripe, or not sweet enough, wait a week or two and pick another. Fruit will sweeten when left on the tree. Eventually you’ll discover the right time and know the approximate picking schedule for next year. 

Once citrus fruit is picked, it will not continue to ripen and become sweeter unlike other fruit such as the banana.


Thursday, November 15, 2018

When Is a Yam a Sweet Potato?


While enjoying the traditional Thanksgiving dinner, some people may ask, "What is the difference between yams and sweet potatoes?"  Are they the same by a different name? 

Many years ago orange colored sweet potatoes were introduced to the Southern United States. In an effort to distinguish these from the traditional white-fleshed potato, producers called them yams, which is the Anglicize African word, nyami.  Today, most of the starchy tubers consumed in the US and labeled as yams are in reality sweet potatoes. Yams and sweet potatoes however, are not the same; in fact, they are quite different from each other. 

As far as botanical order is concerned, they are at opposite ends. The sweet potato is a dicot, set in the morning glory family. Yams, on the other hand, are a monocot, closely related to grasses. The sweet potato, whose sweet and moist flesh varies in color from white to yellow and orange, is native to South America; the skin is typically smooth. In contrast, yams are dry and starchy and rather bland. While yellow or purple in color, the skin is rough and a bit shaggy. Yams are native to North Africa and Asia. They range in size from that of a small potato up to 150 lbs. Yams are a primary agricultural crop in West Africa, where 95 percent of the world's yam crop is grown. 

Garnet, Jewel, and Beauregard are orange fleshed sweet potatoes that  masquerade as yams in the local supermarkets.


Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Why Squash Plants Produce Lots of Bloom But Little Fruit


 
 Squash, along with melons and cucumbers belong to the same plant family called cucurbits (cucurbitaceae). These vegetable plants bear two kinds of flowers on the same plant, male and female.  In order to produce fruit, the pollen from the male flower must be transferred to the female flower. Since the pollen of cucurbits is sticky, wind-blown pollination will not occur. Instead, insects do the major pollination work –honeybees being the main workers.  So, if bees aren’t frequenting your garden, for whatever reason, the fruit set on your squash, cucumbers and melons will be poor. 

Hand pollination, although a tedious chore, can be accomplished by transferring the pollen from the male flower to the female flower, often done with a small artist’s paintbrush.  Female flowers can easily be distinguished from the males by the presence of a miniature fruit at the base of the flower. 

Sometimes gardeners are concerned because none of the first blooms produce  fruit.  This is because the first flowers produced on the plants will be male. In time, female flowers are produced.  Also remember that cucumbers, melons and squash do not cross-pollinate; a cucumber will not cross with a melon; a squash will not cross with a cucumber, etc.  But within each species, cross pollination often occurs. A zucchini squash can pollinate a crookneck squash, and a Crenshaw melon can pollinate a Casaba melon.  Planting the seeds from these crosses will produce fruit that will be different from either parent.