RAMP UP YOUR INTAKE OF... VITAMIN C
FIGHT WINTER colds with fresh Vitamin C. The most obvious homegrown source of vitamin C is citrus fruit, and with the first mandarins starting to ripen now, we don’t have long to wait for the onslaught of zesty citrus. In fact plant a mix of varieties of citrus trees and, in mild areas, it’s possible to harvest fresh citrus almost year round.
Citrus trees are subtropical but you can protect them with frost cloth, or use the organic wax-based Liquid Frost Cloth (also sold as Vaporgard). Spray this over the foliage every 6-8 weeks. It’s worth getting on with this task now if you live in an area where early frosts can strike without warning.
The easiest citrus tree for Kiwi gardens is the hybrid ‘Meyer’ lemon. It’s relatively hardy (compared to true lemons) and very prolific. It’s possible to have fruit on the trees for 11 months of the year.
Kumquats are also easy to grow and the most hardy of all citrus trees. This small evergreen tree to about 3m has squat orange-yellow fruit with sweet-tasting skin and tart flesh. It’s an oddity, not only because the skin is sweeter than its flesh, but because you eat them both – just pop the whole thing in your mouth.
Tahitian limes can be slow and shy to fruit but given how expensive limes are to buy, they’re still worth it. The fruit starts to ripen next month.
If you’d rather drink your vitamin C, plant tangelos, avel oranges (for winter fruit) or ‘Harwood Late’ or ‘Valencia’ for spring and summer. ’Caracara’ is a blood orange with sweet juicy seedless fruit with reddish coloured flesh. It ripens from August/september.
You could also start your own patch of native scurvy grass, actually a type of brassica. This is the little scrubby plant that Captain Cook ordered his men to chow down on when they landed here. Cook’s scurvy grass, Lepidium oleraceum, is endangered in the wild but seeds are available for home gardens (order online from topseeds.co.nz). In the wild, this plant was fertilised by coastal guano (bird poo); use chook manure to make it feel at home.
Sow miner’s lettuce ( Claytonia perfoliata) now too, if you didn’t already last month. This fleshy, hardy salad green (from Kings Seeds) got its name during the Californian gold rush, when miners ate it to prevent scurvy. Its small, bright green, frost hardy leaves taste somewhat like spinach, but sweeter. The leaves, stems and tiny white flowers are all edible. Treat it as a cut-and-come-again crop.