Passion Fruit

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Passion Fruit

We are in mid autumn and the passion fruit is flowering as if it was spring time.

As far as I am concerned this it great, but I am prepared to be disappointed as the days get colder as the fruit might not fully ripen. We have two grafted Nellie Kelly variety plants growing over our rainwater tank on a rustic trellis I have constructed.

In spring we has a fabulous display of flowers. Traditionally our spring days are just below twenty degrees and summer average is perhaps twenty three. In the summer just past the passion vine had lots of fruit as summer approached. As this was the second season I was excited at how prolific the crop looked and then we had a day of 40 degrees and the fruit cooked on the vine.

When the temperature was nearing its peak I thought of cooling it down but changed my mind when I thought it might actually make it worse for the plant. It was even hotter on the second day and third day. A heatwave of days in a row of excessively hot days is unusual in early summer. Last year it ensured the crop was lost.

In January we had another couple of very hot days and this plant drank all the water I could give it just to stay alive. The old fruit turned black as it is supposed to when it is ripe. For a day or so it looked lush but when I cut a sample fruit it was hollow inside. Since then I have watched each week as the fruit on the vine shrank into smaller and smaller crumpled black dots among the green leaves. The fruit that grew after those hot days was sparse but now we have a new unseasonal feast growing on the plant.

Nellie Kellie is reminding me not to give up on her. In a week or so I will give her a pre-winter feed of pelletised fertiliser as a reward for perseverance over the dreadful summer and the late flowering she is exciting me with now.

The other fruit that struggled at the beginning of summer was the raspberry. Our spring was chillier than usual. The bees struggled to find a time in the day when they felt comfortable leaving their hive. Consequently many of the plants relying on bees were left un-pollinated. The raspberry was one such plant so we had no early fruit.

In February we had the first regular rainfall for months and the plants have responded beautifully. Throughout March we have had regular picking from our small clump of raspberries. What a treat is is to pick from our garden. When a fruit is picked fresh from the plant the taste is extraordinarily special. The quantity is relatively unimportant as our fruiterer sells excellent produce to top up what we need.

In the days before supermarkets we had specialist shops that sold: fruit, meat, bread, fish and groceries. Each shopkeeper was a specialist in his field. If one wanted apples, mangoes and grapes likely as not you were unable to buy them on the same day. What these specialists did was stock only what was in season. For instance, the summer fruit started with fruit with pips like plumbs and cherries. When they were finished we bought apricots and nectarines. Peaches, pears and apples came into the shops in the following months.

Long before these shops proliferated people grew their own fruit and vegetables in kitchen gardens. At least they did where I grew up. Each of the big estates like Renny Hill had excellent kitchen gardens. It had had a well cultivated garden of about one acre. But by the time I got to haunt the property it had become over- grown. The fruit trees almost made a continuous canopy over the area that once grew patches of potatoes, leeks, lettuce, or whatever.

The orchard included fruit trees once considered exotic. Persimmons, medlars, crab apples and cumquats grew among the vegetables. My favourite was the fig tree. At the time I first knew the garden it must have been sixty or seventy years old. It had wide spreading limbs like the chestnut, and the walnut, but twice a year without fail it produced the most succulent fruit. The tree had so much fruit there was enough on it for the family, their friends, and the possums.

I so loved the sweet fruit I remember picking it straight from the tree as we played under it. As a result I have often planted one in the gardens we have created. My latest little back yard has not got much space but I am training a fig to grow along the fence. Currently the young tree has about half a dozen figs. I know I have too few at present to share them with my neighbours and I have no intention at all to share them with the possums, so I am protecting them, and checking on them every day.

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