This year, it’s the turn of our mandarin tree to go bonkers.

Ponkan Mandarin fruit (Citrus reticulata)

It’s not a surprise, really, it’s a variety that’s well known for fruiting in alternate years. Last year, it was the mangoes that cropped spectacularly, but so far they’re showing no sign of flowering. The mandarin tree is smallish and tucked away in the corner, and I hadn’t even noticed flowers on it. A few months ago, I saw a load of dark green marble-sized fruit on it, and briefly thought “woo hoo!” and then promptly forgot about them again, till just a few weeks ago, when the now much larger fruit started to change colour. Usually, we wait till they start to fall of their own accord or the lorikeets start decimating them before we pick the fruit, but so far, there have been only two windfalls and no bird or fruitbat activity, so we decided to get out there and do battle with the green ants for them.

With green ants in the tree (and boy, are they IN the tree!), there’s a technique for picking the fruit without getting bitten a lot. You take a bucket half filled with water, a pair of long handled loppers and a grabby thing (you know what I mean, the doohickey you use for getting things down off high shelves). You grab the fruit with the grabber, cut it off with the loppers and dump it straight in the bucket of water, which drowns any ants silly enough to have come along for the ride. It sounds elaborate, but is a much more pleasurable experience than having the vicious little buggers run off the fruit, up your sleeve and then bite you hard on parts you can’t get at easily. Repeat till the bucket is full of fruit and water. Once in the kitchen, you remove any leaves and stalks, and then toss the water with the ants outside so the insect-eating birds can have a feed.

The fruits are huge for mandarins (my hands are not particularly small), the skins are very loose and easy to peel, and while there are usually half a dozen pips in each one, the flavour and juiciness is so fresh, intense and wonderful that you really don’t care! I’ve been busily looking up recipes for mandarin gelato, I’ll be making my mandarin syrup cakeย (minus the apricots)ย the Husband’ll be taking a couple of these to work in his lunchbox each day for a while, and I may freeze some juice and purรฉe for winter consumption.

And that’s only the first crop. We have at least six more to go ๐Ÿ™‚

52 thoughts on “Harvest

  1. These sound amazing. I also like your bucket-of-water harvesting technique. I think this may work for me here in hot humid Ohio where picking pears is a contest between ants, hornets, and humans. Thank you!

  2. Your mandarins are marvellous. It’s amazing and sad how the storage and transportation of fruit to supermarkets renders it so lacking. We are inundated at the moment with local citrus, and like country folk of old days regularly gather bounty from our and the neighbours’ trees and take it to family in town.

    • katechiconi says:

      I’ll be sending a bag of fruit back down to Dorrigo with my sister when she goes home after her visit in a couple of weeks. You can’t get these down there, it’s a tropical variant that doesn’t tolerate the cold.

  3. jeanswenson says:

    I bought a Mandarin orange tree years ago for $3, on a clearance from local store. It was a Charlie Brown tree, but I gave it a spot in garden and it is now an amazing tree and produces amazing fruit each year! I am in California, and can’t imagine the ant issues you talk of! My gosh – that takes dedication to a whole new level! ๐Ÿ˜„

  4. Emmely says:

    I may not be jealous of your bathroom tiles but I certainly am of your mandarin tree (minus the ants…)! Yum, I love mandarins!

    • katechiconi says:

      These are really good ones, very sweet, fragrant and juicy. The ants are a nuisance, but in fact they are a prized ‘bush tucker’ (Aboriginal food source), having a a sweet, tart, lemony flavour. I’m not sufficiently experimental to try them, but it’s interesting to know ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. craftycreeky says:

    Fresh mandarins sound wonderful, I like your picking technique too. We have little ants in our garden which will walk across my OH to get to me and they have quite a sting!!

    • katechiconi says:

      These are about three times the size of English ants, and their bite is *nasty*. Getting past them, you get a real sense of achievement as well as a bucket of mandarins!

  6. claire93 says:

    lovely mandarines, but glad we don’t have your ferocious ants!

    • katechiconi says:

      They came as a bit of a shock to me when I first moved to Queensland! They’re amazing creatures, building huge football-sized nests out of living leaves and branches in their chosen tree, but they’re very territorial and bite first and ask questions later!

      • claire93 says:

        well I wouldn’t want to meet them, thank you very much! I have any problems with French insects which bite/suck blood etc, and I come out in huge red lumps just with those.

  7. And even, better, you are clearly able to eat them… although it sounds like apricots are not ok

  8. kymlucas says:

    Looks delicious!

  9. dayphoto says:

    Pretty interesting your picking fruit technique! We pick into the water the cherries; I’m going to try this with the pears!

    • katechiconi says:

      Aside from the ants, the skins on these mandarins is very loose, and if you drop on on the ground it can tear, so another reason for the water bath.

  10. kathyreeves says:

    That tree is worth the ugly tile! Ants really can be ferocious little guys. We just have tiny red ants and they hurt, so I can only imagine the damage these guys can do! Your picking method is genius!

  11. gwenniesgardenworld says:

    I am green with envy !!!

  12. Oh my, the ants might put me off! Sounds like you have the system down, though!

  13. atkokosplace says:

    Home grown food is awesome! Eek about those ants.

    • katechiconi says:

      It tastes so much better when it’s just picked, it’s had no nasties sprayed on it and it hasn’t travelled long distances and sat around in a coldroom for ages. Worth fighting ants for!

      • atkokosplace says:

        Could you divert the ants? Like, mix borax and powdered sugar and they will take that back to the next and feed it to the rest…borax kills them. I know, sounds awful. There are other things you can do too like spread diatomaceous earth around. Dries out the ants. I agree with you…fresh tastes better and worth fighting for! ๐Ÿ™‚

      • katechiconi says:

        There are simply too many ants for those measures. They are mainly arboreal and their nests are in the tree, not underground, which makes it tricky, too. I’m not prepared to use something like toxic like borax in an area where other creatures might pick it up and be harmed, like the birds or possums, although I do use it for house ants. No, I’ll just carry on picking at arm’s length, and leave the ants in peace.

  14. KerryCan says:

    I’ve never known anyone with a mandarin tree before–I bet the flavor is amazing in a just-picked fruit.

    • katechiconi says:

      There’s a floral sweetness you don’t get in fruit that has been picked some time ago and travelled to its destination. You can smell the flower the fruit grew from! Add to that the volatiles from the peel, and I’m seriously considering making mandarincello: vodka, peels and sugar syrup. I’ll post if it works!

      • Chris S in Canada says:

        oh that sounds delightful. First you get to eat the fruit, then later you get to drink the fruit oils – total flavour all the way to the end! Waste not, want not.

        We get mandarins at Christmas around here, they are often very good, but nothing like fresh.
        Chris S in Canada

      • katechiconi says:

        About the only things that get thrown away are the stalks and the pips! I’m going to get the Mandarincello going tomorrow, I just have to remember to take photos as I go โ€“ worth a post, wouldn’t you say?

  15. Hooley Dooley, they are the biz. Enjoy. Get stuffed green ants! ๐Ÿ˜‚

  16. genius picking tip there. I have a special device for apples (basket with wires at the top to shag the branch when you twist – all on a very long pole) but hadn’t thought about the bucket of water.

  17. tialys says:

    This sounds like extreme fruit picking – I could probably use a similar method to pick the waspy figs at the top of the tree.

  18. Those ants sound painful! We have a mandarin tree too, but we do not have fruit bats or ants. We have to race the tree-climbing rats, parrots and fruit flies. Up high in the tree are hollowed-out husks of mandarin. Hubby thinks it was the pretty birds. I think ratty and his friends were busy.

    • katechiconi says:

      We don’t have the rats, and the possums won’t take on the green ants or fruit bats. Our hollow husks are definitely rosellas, I see them doing it. Only not this year, for some reason.

  19. nettyg says:

    Home grown abundance!

  20. rutigt says:

    Like! Nice to have mandarins to pick. Here we have to buy them in the store!

  21. rosejasm says:

    ๐Ÿ˜ฎ๐Ÿ˜ฎ๐Ÿ˜ฎ Amazing!!!

  22. Moira says:

    Love mandarins and yours look wonderful.

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