Isn’t is strange how you can see something regularly and not recognise what it is?
In the field next door but one to us there are a number of fruit trees. They’re just there, day in and day out. It’s an odd mix of trees rather than a regimented orchard and has assorted citrus trees as well as pomegranates and figs as well as one or two others.
Recently we were standing in the lane talking to a neighbour. As we chatted away Ian kept looking over her shoulder at the trees in the field. He’d glance for a moment or two, look puzzled, then return to the conversation for a moment only to repeat the whole process once more. Eventually he broke into the discussion to ask “Does that tree have oranges and lemons growing on it?” To which the answer was “Yes, it does”.
It turns out that we have a fruit cocktail tree growing next door to us and we’ve never noticed.
Pretty much all of the orange and lemon trees, and a goodly amount of other citrus trees, that grow here are actually grafted on to another tree. Bitter oranges and rough lemons are usually used as the root stock as they grow so well.
Rough lemons have a very thick nobbly skin, sour juice and so many pips that they are not particularly useful for cooking. Bitter oranges, as their name suggests, are not in any way suitable for traditional eating. Some time ago we were gifted several dozen. Some ended up in a Christmas syllabub where their tartness was welcome after a rich meal; some became Arancello.
If someone wants a sweet orange then a branch of that is grafted on to a rootstock of bitter orange or rough lemon. Since the root stock will accept multiple grafts there’s no reason why different varieties can’t be grafted onto a single root stock. As such it’s possible to get crops of different fruits from the same tree. In the US these are often called Fruit Cocktail trees.
Some time ago we were given a lime tree as a gift. It’s very small and produces a handful of tiny fruit each year. Whilst lovely to have our own limes the tree doesn’t go far in reducing our need to buy limes, we seem to get through a significant amount, so we continue to have to buy fruit imported from South America. As we have two very large and mature lemon trees here the plan had been to try and graft some of the lime tree on to one of them. A single branch of full sized limes would be hugely useful. The discovery of the lemon & orange tree nearby might be just the prompting we needed to start the experiment.
Edited to add: We weren’t entirely happy with the photo of the orange & lemon tree so we headed back at a later date to get one or two more. They can be found here.