THE fruits of the trees of the Mediterranean garden are bountiful at this time of year. If you have some land to grow trees and vines there is a rich variety of fruit trees to grow here.
Lack of rain in many areas over summer has meant that many trees fruits are smaller than usual this year, even when they were irrigated. Natural rainfall provides the best watering as it is richer in atmospheric nitrogen which evaporates or dissipates when water is stored.
Figs, quinces, grapes, olives, persimmons, pistachios, prickly pears, walnuts, chestnuts, hazelnuts, pecans, and pomegranates are all in their fruiting season now. Many temperate fruits such as peach and apple may also be grown in Spain in protected zones but they nearly always require consideration of environmental impacts on the plants that will demand more care to produce good fruit.
If you want an easy to grow fruit for your garden or even in a pot for your balcony or terrace, few are as hardy as a self pollinating pomegranate. The red pear shaped or lamp like flowers of the pomegranate are a treasure in themselves to be present in any garden, with the fruit being a bonus. To grow one, select a good, sweet, soft seeded variety, such as Mollar, or one recommended for your area as it is very important.
Pomegranate fruit can be very tart if wilder varieties are grown and the fruit is usually smaller. Seeds can be soft or very hard by variety selection. To plant, it is best to prepare a large hole filled with compost and the original soil mixed together before setting out in the ground or for containers, a good potting mixture.
Pomegranates need care with watering for the first year but when established they are very drought resistant. Pruning should be in winter after fruit has finished ripening and harvested. Remove the excess centre growth and shape to the form required, usually three to six main branches. Remember to remove the dried fruit to reduce the chance of pests and disease for the next season and cut away suckers at the base of the trunk.
The fruit is really a berry and it is the seed sac or arils that are eaten or squeezed to obtain the juice. The fruit is very precise on harvest time. It will not ripen off the tree and should be picked when it has reached maturity but before it cracks. After picking, let the unopened fruit dry out a little as this will concentrate the sugars, making it sweeter.
The fruit’s leathery skin gave the ability to be transported easily and it was used by desert travellers as a food and water source in ancient days. The Spanish introduced it to America.
We are fortunate to have a perfect climate to easily grow this fruit of paradise.