I am sitting in my home office, looking out the window at the end of our home fruit orchard. We have three rows of about ten trees in each row. We planted the orchard a few years after we moved to this house, in which we’ve resided now for thirteen years this month. It is the longest time that we’ve stayed in one home. The oldest fruit trees are probably about ten years old. Of course, over the years we’ve had a few die. Deer were a problem when they were smaller trees. Now that the trees are larger, the deer might still nibble but do not do any great damage to the trees.
There is a large variety in our orchard. We have at least three types of plums, including Toga, Kaga, and Italian Prune Plums. The Kaga Plum variety is my favorite when they have a good season. Kaga’s are a clingstone plum with sweet amber-colored flesh and reddish, tart skin. My mouth waters just thinking about them.
We have two varieties of sour cherry trees. We have Montmorency and Meteor. The Montmorency does extremely well and produces delicious sour cherries that make great kuchen and slab pies, jelly, and cherry bounce. Several years ago we had such a huge harvest, we invited family friends over to pick the cherries so they would not go to waste! The fruits are sour to eat out of hand but they freeze well and make some delicious desserts. The bounty is even more appreciated in the dead cold of a midwestern winter when a dessert can be produced with fruit from our own yard!
We have three pear trees. Again, a few years ago, we had a large harvest. But, the year before last the pears had little fruit and very strange curling to the petiole and stem leading to the leaves. I contacted an extension agent about what I was seeing and she felt it was air (oxygen) deprivation. We have clay soil that was sodden with water, from a season of heavy rains. The answer made sense but we were not sure how to fix it – so we are letting mother nature take its course with those trees for now.
Most of our fruit trees are apple. We have Haralson, Honey Crisp, Honey Gold, Cortlands, and MacIntosh varieties. Most of our apple trees have come from a nursery in Neillsville, Wisconsin. We did order some that were “test varieties” from the University of Minnesota. Among these was one called Sweet Sixteen. Unfortunately, I don’t think it ever bore fruit for us. We’ve also had Northern Spy, Winesap, and Johnathan apples. While my husband prefers the Honey Gold Apple, I prefer the Haralson for its tart taste.
So, as I sit gazing out my office window, I wonder what kind of harvest we’ll have this year. Luckily, most of the trees have not even blossomed yet. They are starting now. It seems late. But, over the last few years, we’ve had a warm spell in April that caused the trees to blossom before we even had many pollinators. The warm spell was followed by an April snowstorm, in three cases *(years) when the blossoms were on the trees! As you can imagine, we had little fruit form after these weather events.
I hope this year is different. Although harvesting the fruit is hard work and comes in a rush with pressure to get it off and processed. It is also a cherished part of having a lovely and well cared for home fruit orchard.
All Photographs in this post are copyrighted by Carol Labuzzetta. No permission to reproduce without express permission. Thank you.