Articles written by Darryl McCullough (unless otherwise noted)

Sunday, February 28, 2016


Last week we recalled some history of the superstar Lemon Zest mango--- its convoluted name journey from 27-1 to Lemon Zest to Orange Sherbet to Lemon Zest. Perhaps more important is its actual lineage. Along with (the current) Orange Sherbet, it's a seedling of another famed mango, the Po Pyu Kalay, or in Tropical Fruit Forumese, the PPK. Chris Rollins has credited Maurice Kong with bringing the PPK from Burma.

PPK is also called Lemon Meringue, a strikingly accurate description of its flavor. It is described at Pine Island Nursery as “a unique Asian mango from the exotic nation of Myanmar (formerly Burma). The large vigorous tree produces small, yellow, elongated, somewhat pointed fruit with a bright lemon-yellow, moist, spicy, flesh.”

A well-informed pro at the Tropical Fruit Forum gives a more evocative description:
PPK, or Lemon Meringue, has a very distinct creamy sweet lemony flavor profile. It is an excellent mango. [Its] only drawbacks in my book are its vigorous growth habit and small sized fruits. If you have the space it is definitely worth growing.
Now, comparing PPK to its seedling LZ. Really no comparison to me. LZ has a distinct sweeter, more orangey citrus overtone to it with a hint of lemony tartness versus a true lemon tone to that of the PPK.”
This is more-or-less confirmed by a different poster who says: “I continue to be impressed with Lemon Zest, but have found PPK to be much more citrusy and tangy. LZ is more balanced.”

Here is my little PPK, bought just last December. With several spaces available, I decided to plant it next to my lemon trees, why not?

Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Elusive Orange Sherbet

A top favorite mango variety of the Tropical Fruit Forum crowd is Lemon Zest, a creation of the famous Zill Nursery of Boynton Beach. I acquired one in the summer of 2013 and planted it in a marginal site with not quite enough sun, and a bit too much competition from nearby oak trees. It languished, fighting off multiple scale infestations with the help of a lot of soap spray, and managing only about one growth flush a year. The leaves developed some kind of spotty white fungus, the same as my Nam Doc Mai growing in another ill-advised location.

This past December, I finally lived up to my horticultural responsibilities and moved the struggling pair to prime spots vacated in the Great Transplanting of 2015. It's a little early to report results, but the long-needed surge of sunlight has turned the white spots into little brown scars. Doc looks ready to pop, and I expect it won't be long before Elsie follows suit. We'll be seeing pictures of them once they get going.

The Lemon Zest variety was born in confusion, as explained on this Gardenweb Forum thread from 2011: “The current Lemon Zest was originally named 27-1. Then it was named Lemon Zest... It was then renamed and originally propagated as Orange Sherbet. Another mango, which I think was from the same original set of seeds that Lemon Zest came from, was found to taste the same as Lemon Zest but be more productive and they decided the name Orange Sherbet was better suited for it and for the 27-1 to go back to its original name the Lemon Zest. Last I heard, they were planning on patenting the Orange Sherbet. Not sure what the status of that is.”

Orange Sherbet fruit is sold at Zill's, and a number of people have given it rave reviews, but reliable word is that as of 2015 the Orange Sherbet trees were still not released: “Last time I checked it was not set for release in the near future. From what I was told, it was not propagated for sale either... I cannot even guarantee it will be released for full sale (versus limited release) but I expect at some future point there will be some availability. [It] might be next year [or] might be in two years. There are multiple factors that will affect its release.”

It's also reported that Orange Sherbet has turned out not to be more productive than Lemon Zest. Combined with the nearly identical flavors, it sounds like a reasonable case not to release Orange Sherbet at all.

Of course there lurks in every collector a desire for the unattainable, and a few TFF posters believe with all their hearts that they have Orange Sherbet growing, producing a slow burn of controversy that has occasionally flared into bitter claim and counterclaim. But I'm convinced by the explanation of a well-connected pro that: “Top [Tropicals] purchased some Lemon Zest from Zill's and the pots had "OS" written on them, however they were NOT Orange Sherbet, they were Lemon Zest.”

So there you have it. Orange Sherbet trees are probably not to be had, at least in the near term. And Lemon Zest is a more-than-adequate alternative. Let there be peace in Mangoland.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

We'll Be Back After This Important Message

Most any piece of mail proclaiming on the envelope that it's important, well, isn't, and when the TV machine breaks away for an important message, it's a good moment for you to break away and cut up another mango. And now advertising has come even to the MRFC blog. At least it's topical.

I'll be giving classes on introductory fruit tree horticulture on two upcoming Saturdays, March 12 and March 19. The area fruit tree clubs have many members far better qualified than I am to teach classes on this subject. But none of those true experts has one scheduled, so we'll have to manage with just me.

The March 12 class, from 10:00 to noon, will be at the Florida House in central Sarasota. General info can be found here, with details available to those signed up for the free Meetup service. The cost of $20 per person will be donated to the Florida House.

The March 19 class, from 9:00 to noon, will be at my house in north Sarasota County. Information is here and a flyer announcement is here. The $25 cost will be donated to Transition Sarasota.

The Florida House and Transition Sarasota are non-profit organizations, and--- full disclosure--- I am a board member of the latter.

The classes are completely independent and will cover roughly the same material, though the March 19 class will be a bit more in depth and will include a walkaround of my fruit tree groves and eclectic plant collection. The current topics list looks like this:

1. Seven reasons to grow your own tropical fruit
2. Seven key horticultural concerns: sunlight, nutrition, drought, flood, cold, wind, and salt
3. Grafted trees
4. Deciding what to grow
5. How to plant a tree

Demonstration tree planting

6. Fertilization
7. Pruning
8. Diseases and insect pests
9. Growing in containers

March 19 class only: Walkaround of my groves

10. How and where to buy a tree
11. Internet resources
12. Fruit tree clubs

I'm hoping that the classes will bring new members to our area fruit tree clubs, and new customers to our fruit tree sales. Wish me luck!

Saturday, February 6, 2016

The Plunge of '16

Here in early February, fairly typical seasonal temperatures have finally arrived, but nonetheless it's shaping up to be a remarkable winter. El NiƱo has brought the expected generous winter rains. But contrary to the averages, the unseasonably warm temperatures of fall continued well into the new year. It's given me a yard full of oddities--- fig trees carrying fruit, laurel oaks that leafed out in early January, and fruit trees flushing growth all over the place. Chances are that many of your trees are equally confused.

Of course for us fanciers of subtropical fruit trees, and especially for those of us who can't resist the urge to push the envelope with some of the tender tropicals, the freezing mark is all-important. Chances of a freeze start to diminish by the end of January, and nearly vanish by the end of February.

Last winter was frost-free, until the plunge the morning of February 20 knocked ten or fifteen degrees off the overnight lows. Temperatures rebounded the next day, and a newspaper cartoon a few days later showed a gravestone labeled “R. I. P. Winter of 2015, February 19, 2015—February 20, 2015”. At my place four miles from the coast, I covered a few of the most cold-sensitive experiments, and the hour or two below the mark left no significant damage. Even east of I-75, MRFC Secretary Josh Starry got his jakfruit tree through the night, and was eating its fruit a few months later.

The plunge of '15 was forecast well in advance, so this year I wasn't worried about the high 30's predicted for the night of Sunday, January 24. Monday morning I went out for weekly “gleaning”--- charity harvesting for the food bank--- at nearby Jessica's organic farm. As we gathered collard greens, a fellow gleaner announced that he had found ice on one of the plants. I was too polite to laugh aloud. But a few minutes later, I too found a chunk nestled in the stem of a low collard leaf.

At home later that morning, a check of the weather stats found that despite low temperatures in the 40's along much of the coast, a low of 34 was recorded at the Sarasota airport three miles to my west. It reached 33 at a friend's a mile and a half to the west, so most likely my location grazed the freezing mark. It was enough to damage new growth on a few of the fruit trees, and knock the wind out of some of the ornamentals. But nothing that won't be long forgotten by the time summer heat arrives.

Current forecasts see lows in the 40's and 50's all the way past Valentine's Day, so barring a freakish late plunge like that of last year, our trees appear safe from major damage. In the coming months, we will find out how the fall and winter's unusual patterns affect the fruiting seasons. I've heard predictions from expert growers that we won't see lychees or even longans this year, but time will tell. As a dooryard grower not dependent on my trees to make a living, I can watch all this with interest rather than anxiety. And for everyone, it's been a good year for growth, and by next winter our trees will be larger and better able to withstand the hard freezes that will someday return.