2012 Open House and Citrus Tasting
This weekend Boy #1 and I made the annual pilgrimage to John Panzarella's Open House and Citrus Tasting in Lake Jackson, Texas. Every year for many years, John has opened his amazing backyard to anyone interested in learning about growing citrus trees, and provides 50+ varieties of citrus to see and taste, all for free. He also sells fruit and citrus trees, some of which can't be found anywhere else, like his giant Ujukitsu and lemon-flavored pummelo seedling. If you missed the Open House, but would still like to visit, John teaches grafting classes at his home every February. Details can be found on his website here. I first learned to graft at one of John's classes, and I think it is well worth the trip for anyone who is interested in learning to propagate fruit trees.

The fruit was fantastic this year. I had to keep a sharp eye on Boy #1, so I didn't get to try all the varieties, and I didn't get to take many pictures or tasting notes. Of the fruit I did get to sample, I was very impressed with the Wekiwa tangelo, the Chandler pummelo, and the Fairchild mandarin. I was not particularly impressed by the Bloomsweet grapefruit, but I think it may not really reach it's peak until closer to Christmas. Boy #1 didn't care about the citrus at all, he was too busy chasing John's 'pets'. I also noted that the Thomasville citrangequat greatly resembles a fruit that I saw at Bill Schneider's that he calls the 'Devine lime'. I have suspected that the Devine lime was actually the Thomasville citrangequat based on written descriptions of the fruit, and now that I've seen it in person, I think the mystery may be solved.

I brought approximately 30 frozen miracle fruit berries for people to try, which is always a big hit. I wish I had been able to bring more, but that was all I had left after the two tastings I held earlier this year. Everyone that got to try them seemed to really enjoy their taste-twisting effect, and I did my best to explain to the crowd how to take care of the plants. I think John might owe me a commission on all the miracle fruit plants he sold! After seeing how much people enjoyed getting to try miracle fruit alongside such a wide variety of citrus, I'm definitely going to set aside a good portion of next year's miracle berry crop for John's next open house event.

Woodlands citrus grower Scott Johnsgard brought a big box of fruit that he had tried to enter in the Upper Gulf Coast Citrus Show, but that had been temporarily lost in transit. Much to my excitement, he also brought a fruit from his Valentine Pummelo Hybrid tree. The Valentine is a very new release from the University of California Riverside citrus variety collection, and as far as I know this was the first time anyone had tasted one in Texas. The fruit is reported to be a large, red-fleshed hybrid between a Siamese Sweet pummelo, and a Dancy tangerine x Ruby blood orange cross. Its called Valentine because it ripens around Valentine's Day, and because it resembles a heart when cut length-wise. We cut open the fruit to find juicy, seedy, yellow-colored flesh, with only the faintest traces of red pigmentation. The taste was insipid and unpleasant, with very little sweetness, and no acidity or flavor. It was watery, bland, and disappointing.

John said that he thought the fruit just wasn't ripe yet, but I'm not so sure. The peel was fully colored, and Scott said that it had dropped from the tree. I've tried many fruits at all stages of development in my yard, and typcially citrus fruits gain sugar and lose acidity as they ripen. When they're over ripe they have almost no acid, and can taste sweet, but insipid. If this fruit was still maturing, it had no acidity to lose. I'm personally not a big fan of very low-acid citrus like the cocktail and golden grapefruits (actually pummelo-mandarin hybrids), and I'm having second thoughts about planting this variety. John has one Valentine fruit on a very small tree that he is going to wait until February to try. I can't wait to see how the fruit quality in February will compare with this initial tasting.

Good turnout for great citrus!
John Panzarella with Scott Johnsgard's Valentine Pummelo Hybrid
Valentine Pummelo Hybrid
Citrus tree that escaped its pot!
Thomasville Citrangequat = Devine Lime?


Lois Walden
03/28/2014 20:42

Very nice write up. I have been to Johns citrus shows. I have been involved in citrus varietys,in hardiness hybrids of quality since 1954. John and I have been to the Valley together quite a few times.


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