The Home Growers Circle: Real people with a passion to grow real food

Ethel & Bill Robert Charmaine & Brian Brandon Nancy Lewis & Tara Malika & Donny Andy & Susanna Craig & Gary Warren & Lovejoy

Lewis & Tara / Santa Monica

Garden Update: Early Spring 2011

Lewis & Tara

Wednesday, March 23, 2011 at 9:09AM

Pakistani mulberries growing in abundance

One of five Monstera Deliciosa

Nectarine blossoms offer high hopes for stone fruit season

Guava season 2011 is almost over, lasting a couple months longer than usual. The penultimate pear-shaped South African and the mini-grapefruit sized Mexican guavas are still making it into our morning smoothies.

What’s really exciting is the copious Pakistani mulberry, with its currently chartreuse green curlicues, which lengthen into purple drupes as they ripen. There are literally 150 on one tree alone. Afghani white mulberries are referred to as cloyingly sweet, but we’ll see, as this is the first harvest for us. Nascent leaves can be seen on the fig and persimmon trees, while the Persian mulberry still has bare branches.

Tara’s enthusiasm for tea has led to planting a 5x8 foot plot with four flavors of mint: apple, spearmint, peppermint and lemon balm. In the area of the yard she calls Little Brazil, on a sunny day you can actually watch the Surinam cherries turn from light red to deep garnet before your eyes. This year there are also two chambas with blooms, having just dropped a multifarious array of colorful leaves.

The five Monstera Deliciosa collectively have a dozen or more jade colored corn-on-the-cob shaped fruit. They’ll take their good time ripening to a soft mushy, kiwi flavor. These began from one mother plant received from Joe, our Lebanese gardener/tailor/backgammon buddy. Once a mature plant branches off, the second generation can be carefully separated and survive on its own with just one root.

The citrus arrondissement has an ample crop of ready-to-eat, juicy, but not quite sweet navels. The Valencias aren’t yet palatable. The tangerines are tasty, but not as plentiful as stellar 2010. There is an orb of giant Canadian blackberries, about 8 feet in diameter, awaiting the spring sunshine.

The new film Battle: Los Angeles, set in Santa Monica, is reminiscent of our never-ending conflict with the squirrels and tree rats. Crows are also a threat in the garden, however, song birds provide such a melodious relief from the onerous sounds of urbanism; we give them a pass. The poor Macadamia tree is still covered with last year’s useless plastic netting. While working for the beaks of aviary antagonists, sharp rodent teeth cut right through. For those who regard the human species as evolved, consider this: We have seen the elegant consumption patterns of these reviled rats exhibit more refined manners than some people with whom you’ve been forced to dine. Case in point, they eat an orange by removing its top like Emily Post would suggest you cut a soft boiled egg, leaving an elegantly consumed orange shell with a perfect hole at the top. The vibrant pink nectarine, rosy apricot and white plum blossoms all look promising, and will hopefully mature into luscious fruit from recent rains, if they can survive the squirrel assaults.

Another respite from the work week was spent driving up the coast. We got as far as Los Alamos. There, we like to stay at the Skyview Motel, sip at Bedford Winery, and nosh at Quackenbush Café or on weekend evenings at Flatbread Pizza. Other wines we enjoyed were sampled at the Stolpman Vineyards, Blair Fox Cellars and Longoria tasting rooms, all found in Los Olivos.

Now that the torrential rains and strong winds subside, we look forward to blue skies and trees swept clean of dust, mildew, cobwebs, and dead leaves.

Lewis and Tara live and grow in Santa Monica, California, where Tara works as a family therapist and Lewis works with clients as a real estate, insurance, and securities broker. You can learn more about Tara's work at Lewis' websites are and

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