Pomegranate Tasting

Its a great time of the year to be out in the orchards, the brutal heat of summer has passed, we have had some wonderful early fall soaking rains and some of my favorite fruit are ripening.  At our Fredericksburg Sustainable Fruit Plots, we have or are in the process of evaluating 26 varieties of pomegranates.  Many have their origin in Russia, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan and northern Iran and some have shown us excellent quality and remarkable cold hardiness.  Most of the varieties that have nominal to no winter injury are hard seeded, but the variety of flavors is amazing.

With an increased interest in small scale sustainable agriculture, interest in growing pomegranates is at an all time high.  The Texas Pomegranate Growers Cooperative, in conjunction with Texas  A&M AgriLife Extension Service will be conducting their annual pomegranate tasting on Friday, October 5th at the Uvalde Research & Extension Center in Uvalde, Texas.  We will have a chance to taste and evaluate many of the varieties grown in different parts of the state and review information on variety performance

Tasting begins at 11:00am and a Coop board meeting will follow.  Participation is open to the public and free of charge. The center is located at  1619 Garner Field Rd, Uvalde, TX 78801.  Hope to see many folks there!






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2012 Fruit Conference Scheduled for October 11th & 12th

After a number of years’ rest, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Specialists are once again sponsoring a two day conference for prospective, new and seasoned fruit growers alike.

The renewed interest in locally grown produce and a heightened interest in high quality food not available at most stores has given rise to a new generation of fruit growers.  Attached is the pdf flyer that outlines  program topics and speakers as well as logistical details of this year’s conference.

2012 Texas Fruit Conference

Feel free to drop me an email or leave a comment if you would like any additional information. Hope to see many of you in October!


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Pears Are Ripening!

We always look forward to the end of August and September for the maturity of one of my favorite fruit, and really one of the easiest to grow sustainably, pears.  Across Texas, and indeed all of the south, the variety of pears we can grow is limited by fire blight, a bacterial pathogen that will flat out kill susceptible varieties like ‘Bartlett’.  In the highest rainfall, most hot and humid part of the state, standards like ‘Kieffer’ and ‘Orient’ are the most durable and long-lived choices, but in the Hill Country, drier parts of Central Texas and West Texas, we have many other varieties we can grow successfully.  .  At our sustainable fruit planting in Fredericksburg, we have 14 pear varieties planted, both Asian and European Hybrid types, and we like what we see.  There are problems and setbacks however.  This week during the first week of May, we had golf ball sized hail for about twenty minutes that hammered our vineyard and everything in the orchard.  Most fruit were lost and almost all were at least damaged.  A few escaped however and here are a couple of samples of what we have ripening.

The first is the old blight resistant standby ‘Orient’.  Not a favorite fresh eating pear, its great for canning or cooking.  Very blight resistant and productive, this pear is a good choice for growers in East Texas or the Gulf Coast.

The next and one of my favorites is ‘Ayres’, a  1954 release from the Tennessee Ag. Experiment Station that arose as the result of a cross between ‘Garber’ and ‘Anjou’.  ‘Ayres’ can be a bit small, but its attractive blush, sweet, aromatic flavor and melting flesh make it one of the best pears we can grow.  ‘Ayres’ is pollen sterile, so it must be planted with other varieties to set fruit.  It has held up to fire blight pressure very well across the Hill Country.

This next pear came to us from my neighbor across the creek, Lewis Hussing.  His pear tree is easily forty years old and when he gave me fruit a few years ago, I flipped.  Easily the best pear I have ever had.  Sending photos around, George Ray McEachern identified this pear variety as ‘LeConte’.  That’s what we think it is, and fruit from our Fredericksburg orchard this past year did not disappoint us.  Amazing that from the old heirloom varieties we already have that there are pears we can grow that are this good!



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Late Season Iron Chlorosis

Scott Korcz from Williamson County, Texas wrote with these photos inquiring about the advisability of treating peach and plum trees in late summer for iron chlorosis. In many of our high pH soils, iron may be present, but the high soil pH makes it chemically unavailable to the plants. Treating with simple elemental iron as some use on lawns do little good because the iron is immediately tied up. The use of a chelated iron product overcomes that restriction and allows symptomatic plants to take up iron and re-green the affected tissue

Its important to keep fruit tree foliage as long as possible going into the fall. Late season photosynthesis is important to keep trees loaded with carbohydrates going into winter. These stored carbohydrates are important for fall and winter root growth, optimal winter hardiness and to get trees off to a good start the following spring.

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Peach problems

Along the year, we always get photos sent to us to help diagnose a problem. This photo was sent to Monte Nesbitt from Schleicher county where a homeowner was having problems with their peaches.

Our best guess (we have seen this before) is Rhizopus rot. Common bread mold can be a post-harvest pathogen or even attack fruit while it is still on the tree. There are no visible signs of sporulation yet, but within a day or two, these lesions will display a black mat of spores on the surface of the fruit. No real remedy for this other than to consume the fruit before it gets to this stage of softness.

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2011 Pomegranate Processing

For those of you that are as fond of pomegranates as I am, you too are probably looking forward to harvest later this summer throughout the fall. There are endless ways you can enjoy the fruit. I have not yet developed a taste for just eating the arils (at least the hard seeded varieties), but the juice can be enjoyed all year long. Last year we had fruit hanging in our evaluation plots in Fredericksburg that was not harvested and a hard freeze was predicted in the days ahead.

With a free weekend, I picked five varieties, took them home and started to work. Well, it was a little more than I bargained for. I worked through the weekend juicing about 200 lbs of fruit but did not get finished canning jelly and pomegranate molasses until Wednesday night. I do have a wall of pomegranate products to share with family and friends though.


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More Grape Harvest This Week

Entering our second full  week of harvest at the Industry PD tolerant grape variety trial.  Really a beautiful plot in an incredible part of the state.  Andrew Labay went down this past week after our first pick to harvest ‘Blanc du Bois’, the standard of our existing PD tolerant varieties.  Tasting the flavors and looking at the chemistry, its easy to see why Blanc is such a winner.   19.6°Brix, pH of 3.4 TA of 6.3g/l, the chemistry was perfect for this grape. 

Others will be picked this week but it looks like we will be dodging the rain.  The Gulf Coast has a tremendous potential as a wine producing region and its really exciting to be a part of this work.  Our other evaluation site in Leakey is so very different, but incredible in its own way.  More on Leakey later in the season.


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2012 Grape Harvest Begins

Exciting times for us in the Texas Pierce’s Disease Program as we are getting the first look at some of the new PD resistant and tolerant grape varieties. Grape harvest has started this past week with the first varieties ripening in our new variety trials at Industry, Texas. Industry is located in the old colonial capital of Texas- Austin County, is the site of one of our two evaluation sites for over 30 new and heirloom varieties that will not die from this endemic disease. Companion trials were planted in Leakey this past year and should begin bearing fruit next season. Our goal is to evaluate these new varieties for their ability to withstand fungal pathogens, and ripen with high quality under our heat and unpredictable rainfall patterns.

Pictured here is the new variety released by Texas AgriLife, the University of Arkansas and Tarkington Vineyards ‘Victoria Red’ . While actually released as a seeded table grape, ‘Victoria Red’ is also being evaluated as a neutral wine for blending. In addition to being PD tolerant, this grape reaches large size (9-11 grams) without girdling, cluster thinning or the addition of plant growth regulators. Its loose cluster architecture also makes it far less prone to rot than other varieties. ‘Victoria Red’ has been distributed to nurseries and should begin making its way to commercial trade in time for the 2013 growing season.

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More on the Jamboree

Our guest judges this year were Daphne Richards, Extension Horticulturist in Travis County and her partner in plunder, Auggie.  (https://augiedoggiesbloggy.wordpress.com/)  Took quite a bit of work, and the competition was tough, but five places were established for perfect peach,eighth, quarter and half bushel categories.  They finished with a live interview on KFAN Radio.

In addition to the peach contest, peach eating and pit spitting contests made this a real sportsmans field day!

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2012 Stonewall Peach Jamboree

Late freezes and extended drought have been hard on all fruit crops in the last few years, but 2012 has shaped up to be one of the best in quite some time.  Fall rains, chilly, but not brutal winter weather and timely spring rains have resulted in a great crop of high quality peaches in the Texas Hill Country this year.  An early bloom left growers on the edges of their chairs for a few weeks, but the weather stayed warm and sunny resulting in an early, productive harvest.  This season has varieties ripening early and many of our premier varieties are ripening together.  For the first time in recent memory, five different varieties represented the five top entries in the one-eight bussel contest. ‘Red Globe’, ‘Bounty’, Cary Mac’, ‘Loring’ and ‘White Lady’, all were ripe in a local orchard and all had the uniformity and quality that led to the ribbons.  Competition was very tough this year.



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