Archive for the Trees Category

Our Florida Christmas Tree

Posted in Trees with tags , , , , , on December 24, 2011 by PickMeYard

We broke our usual tradition this year with our Christmas tree.  My 5-year-old daughter is very into decorating and we were taking way too long to get a Christmas tree for her.  She was growing impatient.  Finding a tree was getting complicated… and expensive.  Our little town sold out of Christmas trees quickly so we needed to go on a tree hunt somewhere else.  We also needed to purchase a new tree base because our old one disappeared.

Then, our tree found us.  It was a big, beautiful citrus tree with six different kinds of citrus fruit grafted onto one tree.  It’s called a cocktail tree.  Grayson and I were in love with this lovely tree.  We both wanted it so badly, but it was pricey… about the same price as a cut Christmas tree and a new base for it.  We asked permission from the 5-year-old to substitute the cocktail tree for the Northern fir-tree.  She thought it was a great idea!

We brought the tree home, set it up in our usual Christmas tree spot, and spent the evening decorating.  A new tradition has been born.  We absolutely love our citrus Christmas tree.  I’m sure this idea is a contemptuous act to most die-hard Christmas traditionalists, but we live in Southwest Florida.  It still smells like Christmas around here, just more citrusy.  My kids are excited to plant the tree after Christmas and we’re already picking out the spot.  We’re definitely doing this again next year.

The six types of citrus grafted onto our cocktail tree. We made a Christmas tree ornament with them.

The kids are proud of our Christmas tree. Good... 'cause that's what it's all about.

Our new custom... a Florida Christmas tree.

The temperature was in the 80’s today, so we aren’t expecting snow.  It turned out to be a white Christmas though… Florida style.  We had a dump truck full of sand delivered for the kids.  They couldn’t be happier with their mountain of sand and cardboard sled.

Florida snow and sled.

We hope everyone has a joyful 2011 holiday season.

Come grow with us!

Please Pass the Pigeon Peas

Posted in Seeds, Trees with tags , , , , , , , , , , on November 16, 2010 by PickMeYard

I ate the exact same lunch every day of my senior year in highschool… a Jamaican gungo pea patty.  I lived in the Cayman Islands then.  Recently, I found out that my beloved gungo peas are also called pigeon peas.  I’ve been growing them in my yard over the past year and have become extremely fond of this little tree. 

I had no idea that the tiny little pea I planted in my garden was going to turn into a small tree.  I knew it was a legume and would fix the nitrogen in my soil, but…a tree?  It’s not what I expected, but I adore my pigeon pea tree and have been planning where I’m going to plant more of them in my yard. 

A young pigeon pea plant.

A teenage pigeon pea plant.

A mature pigeon pea plant with lots of pods all over it.

I noticed that Epcot had quite a few of them growing in pots at their Flower & Garden Festival this year.  I tried growing one in a large pot too.  It looked healthy for a while and then went into a steady decline.  I didn’t worry about it too much though because the one I planted in the ground was thriving.

A young pigeon pea plant in a pot.

Pigeon peas (Cajanus cajan) grow in warm climates and will not tolerate frost.  They can be grown as a perennial in warm areas and will live from 2 to 5 years.  In my zone 9b, I have to grow them during the warm part of the year.  This isn’t a problem in SW Florida. If I time it right, I can get plenty of frost-free growing time and get a prolific crop of pigeon peas… and I did this year. 

My kids don’t like them cooked.  They like to stand at the tree and eat them fresh out of the pod when they’re green.  The goats do too.  They break out of their pen just to go stand at the pigeon pea tree and eat as fast as they can before they get caught.  I always break off a branch to give them.  This might be why the chickens chose this tree to hang out under too.

My tree has pods all over it.   Some of the pods have dried peas in them and some have green peas.  The green peas can be eaten fresh off the tree.  My kids and I find them to be delicious this way.  They’re extremely nutritious when they’re green too. The dried peas need to be soaked and cooked or saved to plant again.  My kids might not like them cooked, but my husband and I do.  Jamaican rice and peas are delectable.

Pigeon pea pods on the tree.

Dried pigeon peas in the pod.

Dried pigeon peas with some green ones thrown in.

A closer look.

Pigeon pea leaves and branches make great  fodder for animals.  They’re very nutritious.  The leaves are edible for people too, but I think they taste bad.  I tried stir-frying some real quick to see if it tasted better and it didn’t.  The leaves also make an awesome mulch for the garden.  Click here for a really great article on the pigeon pea plant  and its uses in  permaculture (in warm areas).  The variety I have has taken 7  months to develop peas, but it’s been a gorgeous plant and I’ve enjoyed all it’s stages of growth.  The honeybees love it too.

Pigeon pea leaves.

There was a stage where the tree was red with young blooms. Lovely!

Come grow with us!

Mi Gone Coconuts, Part I

Posted in Trees with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 16, 2010 by PickMeYard

Coconut palm tree.


If you could only have one food in the world, what would you pick?  My choice would definitely be coconut (Cocos nucifera).  If the coconut is a young green one, then you would get water out of it that is loaded with electrolytes and jelly to eat.  If the coconut is hard and mature, then you would get coconut milk and meat out of it.  Both young and mature coconuts can be used for kindling.  There must be hundreds, maybe thousands, of uses for the coconut fiber (coir).  My friend from India said that her family used the fiber as a cleaning scrubber for their pots and pans. 

One year when I was living in Grand Cayman, a bad flu made its way around the island.  A friend of mine was so sick that he had to go to the hospital.  They hooked him up to an I.V. with coconut water.  He said the electrolytes cured his dehydration and he felt much better afterward. 

Immature, green coconuts.


Immature, green coconuts are usually filled with a light flavored coconut water, not milk.  Sometimes the coconut meat inside has not hardened yet and it has a jelly texture.  The jelly has a sweet flavor.  Sometimes the young coconut is referred to as a jelly coconut or a water coconut.  Most people in the Caribbean carry straws with them in their glove compartments so they can stop for a water coconut.   The coconut man is always extremely skilled with his machete and can cut the coconut in the blink of an eye.  A hole is cut in the top and you put your straw in and suck it down.  When you’re done drinking the water, the coconut man will usually ask you if you want the jelly.  If you do, he cuts the coconut in half and slices off a coconut spoon to get the jelly out.  This coconut water is so unbelievably delicious.  Many people have been trying to figure out how to put fresh coconut water in a container to sell it commercially.  I can only imagine how many people have exclaimed, “if I could just bottle this” after drinking a fresh water coconut.  It usually needs a serious preservative, but there’s a couple of companies recently that seemed to have figured out how to keep it natural.  It is expensive though!  They probably wouldn’t be able to handle the demand if they lowered their prices.  Vito Coco, and One are two brands I’ve tried that don’t use preservatives.  I still check the label every time I buy one.  

My kids watch as Wayne picks some coconuts out of the coconut palm tree.


Wayne has very impressive skills. Most Jamaicans do.


A cut coconut filled with coconut water. It's incredibly healthy and tastes so good!


Grayson holding a green coconut that is cut and ready to drink.


It's best to use a straw if possible because coconut water stains white clothes. It's a stain that never comes out!


When you're finished drinking, a coconut spoon can be cut off the side.


The coconut spoon is used for scraping out the meat from inside the shell.


Dr. Nune is using her coconut spoon to scrape out the coconut meat. Although her coconut is young and green, it has started to harden (mature), so it has gone past the jelly stage. It is delicious at any stage!!


Grayson is holding coconut meat.


Coconut meat and its empty shell.


A pile of coconut debris that can be used as kindling for a fire.


Coconuts forming on a coconut palm.


Can you see the baby coconuts? Ahhh... cute. There were honeybees all over it.


When coconuts fall off the tree, they can sprout and start a new tree.  So, they are actually a seed (inside the shell).  We grew a coconut palm in our yard that still had the  husk attached to the bottom of it.  It grew wonderfully for a few years but it couldn’t handle our cold temperatures in zone 9b this past winter.  I was actually thankful it died as a small tree because they can grow to 60 feet.  My neighbors have several huge coconut palms planted around their home (for about 13 years) and have successfully kept them alive each year by pointing heated lights on the trees during freezing temperatures.  They get an enormous amount of coconuts off them each year and they always share with us.  However, they own a really nice machine that allows them to do this with minimal effort.  It also allows them to take the coconuts off their trees when a hurricane is coming.   

For now, we’ll just have to deal with no coconut palms of our own.  For those of you that have them… I hope you know just how lucky you are! 

Come grow with us!

It’s a Miracle

Posted in Trees with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 13, 2010 by PickMeYard

Moringa is the miracle.  It’s called “the miracle tree”.   The scientific name is Moringa oleifera.

It’s not called the miracle tree because it is easy to grow, although it is easy to grow.  It’s drought resistant and grows in poor soils.  Moringa is a miracle tree because it’s being used to fight hunger.  The leaves are edible and extremely nutritious.  It is used to feed starving children and infants in undeveloped nations.  Moringa is also used as a medicine to treat AIDS/HIV (in Africa), diabetes, high blood pressure, stomach pains, the common cold, skin infections, cuts, wounds, rheumatism, and insect bites.  (Pharmaceuticals are not readily available in undeveloped nations.)

In agriculture, it is used to feed livestock and provide fertilizer.  It’s also used as a hedge.  The seeds can be used to purify water.  An oil extracted from Moringa can be used for cooking that is  as nutritious as olive oil.  The  roots and flowers can be eaten as well. Do you see why it’s called the miracle tree? No other word  better describes this tree. Truly a miracle of nature. Amazing.

This is  a small moringa tree growing in our yard.  Moringa is mainly grown for its leaves.  The more a moringa tree is trimmed and cut back, the more leaves it produces.  It will grow into a large tree, but it is best kept trimmed as a small hedge so the leaves can be easily harvested. The leaves contain 7 times the vitamin C of oranges, 4 times the calcium of milk, 3 times the potassium of bananas, 2 times the protein of yogurt, 4 times the vitamin A of carrots and 3/4 the iron of spinach

When the moringa leaves are dried and powdered, they contain 1/2 the vitamin C of oranges, 17 times the calcium of milk, 15 times the potassium of bananas, 9 times the protein of yogurt and 25 times the vitamin A of carrots.  It has almost the same amount of protein as an egg.  I read  this information on a website called Trees for life where there is a ton of information about moringa.

This picture is the  same tree in our yard as the picture above it. This is after 8 months of growth and several hard freezes in our zone 9b.  It looks taller in the picture than it really is.  I need to cut it back down to size which is easy to do.  It has sprouts up and down the tree.  The four other moringa trees that we planted froze to the ground.  However, it looks like the stumps are trying to sprout and might survive after all.  The tree produces seed pods that contain about 10-20 seeds.  They can be dried and stored or cooked fresh, like peas.

The leaves are mostly used when they are dried and powdered, but they can be eaten fresh.  I wouldn’t describe them as delicious or more-ish (you know, when you want more and more of whatever you are eating), but I would eat them if it became necessary.  I feel the same way about our chickens, ducks and pigeons. 

In southern Ethiopia, many families have a Moringa stenopetala  tree in their garden.  They cook the leaves the same way they cook a vegetable.   It is considered a status symbol there to have one of these trees.  The Moringa oleifera has smaller leaves than the latter, but they are both highly nutritious.

This is definitely my favorite way to eat moringa…as a jelly.  The taste is delicious.  I usually make a tea with the powdered moringa leaves that I purchased from Echo’s bookstore.   They also sell the nutritious powder in a convenient spice container so it can easily be sprinkled on your food for an extra vitamin and amino acid boost.  It is supposed to help memory and concentration too.  The dried powder can be ordered at, as well as many other moringa products.  The literature says it is really good for children, but my kids crinkle their noses and run.  The powder has an earthy, green flavor.  It’s hard to describe. 

When the tree is about 8 months old, it begins to flower and flowers year-round.  The bees love it.  The flowers are edible and can be fried or used for tea.  In Haitian folk medicine, the flowers are used to treat the common cold.  They boil the flowers and steep them for five minutes and drink with sugar.  Many other countries, including India, have tons of folk remedies for the moringa, especially the bark of the tree.  However, the bark is toxic and should be avoided. 

To top it all off, the trees are beautiful. We love that we are able to grow them in our yard.  For more background reading on moringa, try “The Moringa News Network“.  They constantly revise and add to their site.  Another interesting site is anamed, a charitable organization dedicated to saving lives in the poorest of nations. 

Come grow with us!