FEIJOA season is in full swing. Kids leaving skins on the footpath is a sure sign and is the beginning of the annual scramble for ripe feijoas. Even though the fruit should be left to fall on the ground to ensure they are fully ripe, the very first taste of the season comes from the bit of juice squeezed out of hard ones picked off the tree.
New Zealand is the biggest exporter of feijoa in the world. Perfect large fruit for export are picked from the tree for biosecurity reasons. The fruit is selectively “tickled” from the tree by hand using experienced trained staff. You can do this at home too.
Look for fruit with a slight blush of powder on them indicating they are close to ripe. Then carefully tickle the base of the fruit and if it comes away on your hand it will be ready to eat. If you have to help it off the fruit will be hard and the flesh gritty.
Collect up the fruit every second or third day to ensure it doesn’t rot on the ground or get eaten by rodents.
There is a wide variation between feijoa trees as to when the fruit is ready. Some varieties are nearly finished while others are still small and hard and won’t be ready for another month.
You can use this to your advantage by planting different trees to extend your eating season. A single tree is still able to form fruit as it has both the male and female parts on the same tree. Having more than one variety will mean pollination can occur over a longer period of time and so the fruit is bigger.
A single tree only has a short two-week window to pollinate itself, which it usually does.
Any stigmas in the flowers that missed getting pollen will have small fruit. If there is another tree nearby that flowers a bit later than the first then the pollen from the second tree can help pollinate any late unpollinated open flowers on the first tree. Having different types of feijoa trees means pollen will be around for way longer ensuring each and every stigma of every flower gets pollen.
The final size of the fruit is dictated by variety. Fruit from varieties like “Mammoth” and “Triumph” will be bigger than say “Apollo” or “Wiki Tu”.
Some varieties produce a lot more fruit, however, the individual size of the fruit is smaller.
These are suited to juicing where size is not an issue and money is made from the total weight of the crop.
Taste differs between types too with some being sweeter than others. Bigger is better and seems to override everything.
A poorly grown “Mammoth” will have smaller fruit than a well grown smaller fruiting juicing type and whether the fruit reaches its ultimate size is mostly dependent on water.
Knowing that feijoa is related to pohutukawa will help. Both flower in December. When you notice pohutukawa flowers then start thinking about your feijoa trees and the water they need. The fruit will increase in size all summer but without regular watering fruit will be small.
Fruit is like a water tank. The tree fills up the tank over summer, provided there is water to do so – more water bigger fruit.
The fruit you have now started as a flower way back at Christmas time. The regular rain since then meant the fruit was able to swell up much larger than in drier years. Commercial growers start their watering as soon as the flowers are pollinated and the pea-size fruit can be seen. To get huge fruit in autumn make sure your tree has lots of water over summer.
Keep a mental note, if nature doesn’t water every 10 days then get the hose out and fatten up those fruit. Every 10 days for the entire summer
Right now look closely at where the fruit is on the tree. This will help with pruning decisions which can begin now as the fruit finishes.
The best fruit will be on second year wood. It will be brown and the bark lifting and there will be flush of soft blue/green growth with smooth bark occurring above the fruit. That growth counts as “one-year-old wood” or some books will call it current or new season’s growth.
Do not cut this new growth off as it needs to mature on the tree.
Look at any cuts made two or three years ago. Typically these cuts will be about as big as your finger or more. The tree will have responded by producing lots of shoots from that cut. Leaving those shoots one more year allows them to mature into second year wood and fruit.
Prune out any dead wood or crossing branches. Prune out any big branches where the new growth is only at the tips. Trees left unpruned for a number of years will be barren and woody down low with small fruit at the tips.
Sometimes hard cuts need to be made to force on new growth from branches as close to the trunk as possible.
The best way to rejuvenate very old trees is to cut them severely. Some feijoa trees need no pruning at all. If yours is an open, well-maintained tree with light getting to all areas or still young, leave the pruning and just do a trim to keep it off the path way or away from the washing line.
Give a garden gift for Mother’s Day
CHOOSING the perfect Mother’s Day gift can sometimes be a bit of a challenge, but why not think about giving mum a plant or pot for the garden?
That way she’ll have a reminder of your love for years to come.
A perfumed rose
THE season’s packaged roses are now available in the shops but, fortunately, these days there are always plenty of potted roses for sale as well.
DAPHNE is one of the most loved of plants and, because it blooms in winter, it’s also one of the most valued. Sadly, Daphnes can be a bit tricky to grow and they’re often more successful in a pot.
Make sure you give mum everything she’ll need: the pot, the potting mix and some suitable plant food.
IF mum’s a keen cook she’ll love to be given a pot of herbs for the balcony. It’s too late in the year for basil (start it off again in spring) but thyme, chives, rosemary and bay can all happily be planted at this time of year. In cold areas, though, even these hardy varieties will need to be kept in a protected spot.
A hand-decorated pot
PUT the kids to work decorating a pot for mum and she’ll end up with a favourite personalised gift. All you’ll need is a lightweight plastic pot and a selection of colourful, kid-friendly, acrylic paints. Then let the kids start painting.
The results may not be a Royal Academy standard, but they’re sure to win every mum’s heart.