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Agriscaping Week 16 - Planting a Tahitian Pomelo and Other Unique Trees in Phoenix

We finally did it!! We are the proud owners of a Tahitian Pomelo tree! And MAN that thing was heavy to get in the ground. The nursery had it planted in native soil, which is a huge difference in weight compared to regular potting soil - it probably weighed 200 pounds.

Let me back up. We had been working on getting the final citrus trees for the Biergarten section of our yard. Eventually we want to be able to sell these fruit at a farmers market, so we were looking for varieties that are extra delicious and unusual, since Phoenicians don’t usually like to pay money for ordinary citrus (goodness knows I don’t!). So the most ordinary varieties we have are a “cutie” tango mandarin (on the left below) and a Meyer lemon (a cross between a mandarin orange and a lemon), in the middle. Then we found a Moro blood orange (on the right) and we were looking for final trees to round out the eclectic citrus mix.

First I learned about the Australian Finger Lime. This cool fruit is a strange relative of citrus that doesn’t resemble a citrus tree much at all, rather a spiky bush - the leaves are tiny and the tree has long skinny branches with lots of thorns. So it didn’t fit so well with the vibe of the citrus garden; rather it is now nestled in the raised bed next to the Biergarten. But the cool part is the fruit. The finger limes open up and out come little caviar-like pearls of lime flavor, and the trees can have green, orange, pink, and even purple-colored fruit! We managed to find a tree at a couple of nurseries, but the price and size ranged widely. Finally a nursery way on the west side of town had a large tree at a very decent price! And I think our tree produces purple fruit - we can’t wait to experience our first crop!

But we still had the space for one more tree in the citrus garden. I started researching unique citrus varieties and came across the pomelo. I was surprised I’d never heard of or tasted these before. Probably if I’d ever come across them before, I’d assumed they were grapefruit, because they’re a large yellow citrus - actually the ancestor of the grapefruit. But their flavor is much different - not the acid tartness of a grapefruit, but a more mellow, delicious, difficult-to-describe citrus flavor. Perhaps like a lemonade without the sourness. As I researched, I found there were tons of different types of pomelo (sometimes spelled pummelo) varieties (at least 52 according to one nursery), so I tried to figure out, if we could only have just one, which one was the best. After reading the taste testing responses of various pomelo varieties like the info on this site, I decided we must have a Tahitian pomelo. After all, it was consistently rated above all the others in all the tests. So my husband took up the search. He literally called every nursery in the greater Phoenix area - some multiple times, asking if they had a Tahitian pomelo. Most had never heard of it. A few had a pomelo, but it usually didn’t have a variety name, or it was something different. Finally he got in contact with one grower, and after three requests, they finally said, oh, fine, we have a couple, we’ll go dig one up for you. So a few weeks later, he brought it home and we wrestled it into the ground. After all that trouble, I think if we ever leave this house, that tree is somehow coming with us!! And in the meantime, my husband has become so smitten with pomelos (after finding them in stock at Sprouts) that he has determined that we need a citrus hedge in our front yard in order to be able to plant a few more varieties!

Finally, we can talk about the other cool tree finds we were able to land. We don’t know yet if these will work out, but we’re excited about them nevertheless. The first was açaí palm tree seeds. We found three of these on Etsy, and they actually sprouted. Unfortunately two froze during the winter, but the last one may...or may not...survive. We’re still learning!

Then there’s the Pink Wampee. Has anyone ever heard of a Pink Wampee? Me neither. Somehow my husband found this tropical tree, and decided we had to have one. The Pink Wampee has a bright pink citrus berry-like fruit and beautiful flowers. We must need one for our garden, right? The tropical growers we know unfortunately hadn’t even heard of it! But finally we found a tiny little tree. It has now survived the winter and we’ll see if we can keep it alive until it’s big enough to survive outside!

Keywords: which pomelo is best, Moro blood orange, Meyer lemon, Australian finger lime, açaí palm, pink Wampee, unique fruit that grow in Arizona

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