At least once a week we walk the citrus orchard to check on the progress of our trees and their fruit. Citrus trees typically set their blooms in early winter then spend most of the year developing their fruit. They are ready for harvest beginning as early as September and as late as February. The majority of our orchard is made up of orange tree varieties like the Moro Blood Orange, the Republic of Texas Orange, the Kishu Seedless Mandarin, and the Owari Satsuma. Did you know that oranges must ripen on the tree? Though they may be full size it’s often best to let them ripen and sweeten for a bit before being picked. Once oranges reach full size they can be left on the tree to ripen for up to six months.
In addition to oranges we also have fig trees. Native to the Middle East and Western Asia, figs are members of the mulberry family. The variety we are growing is referred to as a “closed eye” fig. Open eye varieties of figs must be pollinated by a special type of female wasp (Blastophaga psenes) that crawls through the eye of the fruit and up a narrow passage before laying eggs. Closed eye varieties are pollinated without the help of the wasp and in turn prevent bacteria, fungi, and insects from getting inside the fruit and causing them to sour.
Since we have such a great variety of herbs growing in our planter boxes, we decided to start featuring one every week! Our inaugural herb is our tulsi basil (Ocimum sanctum) which is not only a farm team favorite, but one our pollinators adore as well. Tulsi basil or holy basil is a member of the mint family and is native to Southern Asia. The species name, sanctum, echoes the sanctified nature of the plant in Indian culture. In India, holy basil is seen as sacred to the Hindu god Vishnu who considered basil the incarnation of the Goddess Lakshmi. Though there are three varieties of holy basil found in India, the particular variety we have growing on the farm is referred to as “holy basil rama”. For culinary applications, holy basil can be used in any recipe calling for basil and even mint. Try it out in this summer panzanella or in place of the mint in this melon agua fresca. As a medicinal herb, holy basil is considered an “adaptogen”. This means that if used over a measured period of time it can help the body respond to stressors, thus reducing the negative effects of stress on physical and emotional health and eventually providing balance. If you’re curious about using this herb in your kitchen, come pick some up at the veggie wagon on Saturday from 8am-12pm.