One of my favorite — and most frustrating — annual events in Houston is coming up. It’s the 19th Urban Harvest Fruit Tree Sale on Winter Street. It’s the largest single-day fruit tree sale in America, with more than 100 varieties of fruit trees available at bargain prices, some as low at $11. They’ve got eight different types of fig trees and nine kinds of oranges. They have 12 kinds of persimmons, pummelo, and satsuma trees — and I’m not even sure what those are.
For a complete list of trees and prices, visit the official site. The hot new varieties offered this year are: Japanese Plum Loquat, Sanguinelli Blood Orange, and Australian Finger Lime. Again, no idea.
The sale is a fundraiser for Urban Harvest, benefitting programs in local schools, gardens for the public to grow fresh vegetables in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods, and the Urban Harvest Farmers Market on Saturdays. There will be live music and food trucks and education booths.
It’s also the day that Mother Nature plays Lucy, pulling the football away while I’m trying to kick it, and I fall flat on my rear end.
For the past few years, I’ve bought a tree for my spring/summer home in West University Place. Then fall/winter rolls around, and I’m hanging a “space to rent” sign where the tree was planted.
This year, I asked the Harvest Fruit Tree buyer, what kind of tree is indestructible, able to survive Houston’s savage summer heat, occasional winter frost warnings and my grim reaper gardening skills? I want a tree that can withstand a nuclear attack or Southside Place school speeding zones.
Here’s what the fruit tree lady said: “All the temperate fruits, like apples, pears, plums, peaches, persimmon, pomegranate, jujubes, satsumas, etc. are very hardy.” Again with the persimmon and satsuma, and now he’s throwing in jujubes? You know something, I don’t care, I’ll eat a satsuma a day if I can get it to grow.
I have a banana plant in my backyard that teases me year after year. It grows to 25 feet high and looks like Tarzan could live in there. And every year, around November, it sprouts huge stalks of bananas. These bananas grow to about five inches, still green and rock hard, until a silly frost arrives overnight. That morning I wake up to see the banana plant with a sheet covering its head, stone cold dead. Then it comes back to life in March and we go through the banana fake-out again.
I’ve tried growing oranges, lemons, ’nanas, limes, and peaches. I’ve yet to eat one piece of fruit. I’m even worse with vegetables. I’ve given up now, but I used to try to grow tomatoes and strawberries. I’ve built protective barriers, mini green houses, with chicken wire, railroad ties, and cinder blocks. No matter what I do, the squirrels get my tomatoes just when they turn red, only a few days from picking. I’ve squirted wolf urine (that’s disgusting, but I’m desperate) around my tomato plants to protect them from marauding squirrels. I’ve tried rubber snakes and straw scarecrows from the hobby store. I’ve considered sitting in my backyard, dressed like Elmer Fudd to protect my produce, which never produces.
Squirrels are wise guys. Instead of eating one or two whole tomatoes, they’ll take one bite out of 10 tomatoes. Now I have to throw them all out. I’m not eating squirrel leftovers. Squirrels are the worst. I swear, they sit up in my pecan tree and throw nuts at me. It’s the laughing I really mind.
At least I hope it’s squirrels. I’m told it could be rats, in which case I’d have to move immediately, I don’t care, I’ll leave everything behind and call it an estate sale.
The 19th Urban Harvest Fruit Tree Sale blooms from 9 am to 1 pm, February 9 at Sawyer Yards, 2101 Winter St.