Peg took Master Gardeners classes, but none of those lessons prepared us for what tricks The "Master Gardener" holds up His sleeve. Maybe because, no matter what He's given us, we have always been truly grateful, so He keeps tossing odd things into the mix for us to enjoy.
Well, one of the things we learned from the Master Gardener's class is that when a tree is stressed, it goes into survival mode and tries hard to reproduce itself, usually in the form of leaves or blooms out of season. We've begun to nickname our Yum Yum tree, "Twitchy", after one of the more nervous characters in our book, "Space Freighter, First Dock: Neo-Eden". (...yes, we take any opportunity to advertise...forgive us) The poor tree has been tossed around in the winds, been frozen from harder than normal weather, its roots covered over again as it was leaned sideways again from sitting high in the soil, having been planted that way by us, knowing it also hates wet feet. Every other week, whether in the heat of Summer or dead Winter, there's high-strung Twitchy, holding out one or two spindly branches, waving about five or so bright pink flowers into the wind, that we know will never produce fruit...not in those weather conditions, or in the oncoming weeks, either. There have been years when about twenty fruit were fully ripe, but then the birds pounced on them, so we barely got a nibble of Twitchy's yummy Yum Yums. The poor thing seems like it's always stressed about something. But it is trying.
All the trees and plants in the yard are 'in the same boat', tho'. Nobody else seemed to be complaining, but last Spring a strong thunderstorm blew through our yard just as our Satsuma orange trees were in full bloom. The bees never got a chance to pollinate the gorgeous white flowers, because the wind took off with almost every single petal, scattering them all over the neighborhood. It soon it became obvious that we would have very few, if any of these luscious little oranges come Fall.
That was sad, because they are the first oranges to ripen, are so easy to peel, (like a tangerine) and we love going out for a stroll in the yard and eating one or two as we go. What's kind of cute to us, is that often we'll see a few of the rinds along the road, where one of our neighbors, apparently out for a walk, had stopped to pick one and enjoyed it on the spot. That's fine with us because we always share them with the neighbors, anyhow. Often, they'll find a plastic bag of them hanging on their front door knob. Our satsumas are usually an overly abundant crop.
Because of the strange winter, too, this year, even our navel oranges suffered somewhat, prematurely rotting and falling to the ground before they were quite 'right'. The thunderstorm hadn't affected their flowers, since it has a later blooming season, but the extra dry weather, followed by extra wet, extra cold, then by extra warm bothered their production. The grapefruit and lemons, thank the Maker, both seemed to do quite well and as a result, we have a bumper crop of both this year.
We consider ourselves truly blest because of this and in all the joy and juicy-ness of the grapefruits and lemons, we almost forgot about the Satsuma tree way out in the corner of the yard. The other day on the way home from the store, as we were passing along the street, I noticed a hint of orange in the tree and was amazed to see around a dozen ripening fruit that had survived. This was very unusual, because, here it is March, but harvest time for Satsuma oranges is in the early Fall, months and months ago. The tree should be in hibernation. What in the world's going on over there? I marched over and had a look. On closer inspection I was very surprised to see what the tree had been up to. It has faithfully given us fruit every year for well over a decade. It had definitely been stressed last Spring and by all accounts, should not been able to give us anything this year. We had given up on it, but fed it its 13-13-13 a few weeks ago. It apparently hadn't given up on us. Come wind or high water, it was going to give us something. Some THINGS is what it gave us, alright.
It seemed as if the fruit had quit growing, but the skin kept going. Looking for all the world like some mutant squashy orange mix breed, I was sort of concerned, but I picked them anyway. (see the short video:)
I shared a few with our neighbor and they looked at them kind of skeptically, but said they would try them. They taste delicious and juicy, just like they always have.
We thought we had some kind of mutant Satsuma on our hands. We still think so. It's kind of confusing, but now more so, since Peg was wandering around Whole Foods and was aghast to find this: a whole display of them! And they call them "SUMO" oranges.