Add Zest and Detox with This Versatile Citrus Fruit Tree: Why I Love To Grow Grapefruits

By Carol Burton

With the holiday season behind us, you might be thinking about detoxing from all those indulgent lunches, brunches and dinners that bring families together. January is the perfect time to bring back refreshing, delicious and freshly squeezed grapefruit juice into your daily routine. And there's nothing better than picking the fresh citrus straight from your own garden.

I must admit, however, that I overlooked grapefruit when I was a novice gardener.

I had the usual favorites of the best sellers from Urban Harvest's Annual Fruit Tree sale, which this year is on Saturday, January 14 from 9 am to 1 pm. Everyone’s favorite citrus are the sweet and tangy mandarins and satsumas. On the other hand, I did not care for grapefruit due to the slight bitterness from nangarine flavonoids.

The Rio Valley of Texas has specialized in producing sweeter pink fleshed grapefruits with the Rio and Ruby Red varieties. With more gardening experience and the aim to add more variety to my garden — and thoughts of satisfying the taste buds of my family members who did not care for too sweet fruit — I purchased a Ruby Red grapefruit tree five years ago. Week after week, during the holiday and winter season, this easy to care for and productive tree has been a delight in my garden and on my breakfast table!

A grapefruit tree makes a visual statement in the yard and enhances wildlife. It is a large tree and the growth habitat is upright. It adds to the biodiversity of the environment and is a pleasure to see the tree become a home to a family of doves. It is also a host plant for the swallowtail butterfly. I have a tiny yard and keep mine lightly pruned to stay compact.

At this year's fruit tree sale, we will also offer a dwarf grapefruit which is excellent for patio gardens. Grapefruit trees are the most cold hardy citrus and fares fine in the lower 20s. I do not have to worry when our temperatures start to dip below freezing. I leave the fruit on the tree for nature’s perfect storage and when you pick it on a cold day, it is surprisingly nicely chilled!

On holiday mornings, I gather a few as a ritual to greet the day. I pick a few for the breakfast table, snack, garnish or salad!

For two glasses of juice, harvest four grapefruits. One medium size Rio Red grapefruit produces about one cup of juice. Just ½ cup of a grapefruit provides 70% of a daily serving of vitamin C. Slice the fruit in half, pick out seeds and then squeeze on a juicer. Pour into a visually appealing wine glass and enjoy!

If desired, garnish with a slice of grapefruit, fresh mint, or a slice of kumquat. Explore the nutritional content of grapefruit and recipes here at the USDA’s website.

Consider a grapefruit tree and ring in your new year with a healthy morning ritual for years to come!

For more information about this year's Fruit Tree Sale, visit our Facebook Event Page

A fruit that's at home in any recipe: Local farm-to-table chef dishes on gardening, fruits and zesty mellow yellows

Local farm-to-table chef Soren Pedersen, who is a regular at the Urban Harvest Farmers Market at Eastside, works magic with seasonally fresh ingredients. As a stalwart believer of sourcing from local and sustainable farms, the friendly chef also grows fruits and vegetables in his own garden.


His favorite fruit tree? Read on for our friendly chat with Soren. 


Q: What satisfaction do you get from growing, harvesting and eating your own fruits?


Soren Pedersen: I have always enjoyed growing fruits, vegetable and fresh herbs. To grow and nurture a small garden is very calming for me. Through gardening, I can feel seasonal changes even though Texas almost skips a couple of seasons. And thankfully so, enabling us to grow fruits and vegetables year-round in Houston. 


I have only been growing on a small scale, but enough to go out a pick a few tomatoes, lemons and fresh herbs for a nice piece of fish on the grill. I can't help feel pride and accomplishment. 


Q: What's your favorite fruit tree and why?


Soren Pedersen: The Meyer Lemon — no question. It’s a beautiful tree, easy to care for and usually carries lots of fruit.


Q: What does the fruit look like?


Soren Pedersen: I started my tree from a small pot on the patio, then planted it in my garden. It’s a beautiful lush green tree, which I had over a period of 5 years until we moved. Today, the tree is about 6 feet tall! Confession: I still pass by every once in a while to keep an eye on it. It started carrying fruit after the first year and gradually increased to the point when I was able to share some with the restaurant. 


Q: How do you prefer to eat it. Raw? In a recipe? Cooked?


Soren Pedersen: The beauty of a Meyer Lemon is that it can be eaten in many different ways, from fresh off the tree to preserving it for the winter months. Either way, it provides a nice refreshing balance to any dish. I use Meyer Lemons in dressings, on fresh fish especially grilled, for pesto, to make marmalade and even just a zesty glass of lemonade to cool off during the summer months.


Q: How does it taste?


Soren Pedersen: Well-rounded citrus, lemon flavor with a soft touch of sweetness without over powering any other ingredients.


Q: Where can I get one?


Soren Pedersen: Of course at the Urban Harvest Fruit Tree Sale on Saturday, Jan. 14.


For more information about this year's Fruit Tree Sale, visit our Facebook Event Page

Seed Saving at Rummel Creek Elementary

"School gardens are a powerful means of instilling lifelong environmental and nutritional literacy among children. These gardens can serve as living laboratories for hands-on exploration and learning, and seed saving can be a strong component of teaching ecoliteracy."

by Tina M. Poles' from  "A Handful of Seeds"

Students at Rummel Creek Elementary recently had the opportunity to learn about the importance of seed saving and how to collect seeds for new plantings. The photos below illustrate the current activities at all our school programs: seed saving from summer and fall planting broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage transplants.

Get your own copy of "A Handful of Seeds" and learn more about seed saving in your own garden by clicking here.                

Our Visiting Garden Educator services at Rummel Creek Elementary are underwritten by the Rummel Creek Elementary PTA. Interested in learning about having our Garden Educator services at your school?  Click here or call us at 713-880-5540.

Forest Gardening with Baylor College of Medicine Academy at Ryan Middle School

     Saturday, October 8th was the start of an exciting new project in the historic Third Ward of Houston. With the help of students, parents, teachers, community members, and HISD Superintendent Richard Carranza, we were able to turn a 1,600 sq. ft. patch of lawn, into a productive, multi-layered orchard for present and future generations.


The practice known as "Edible Forest Gardening" is one term used to describe the model of how the space will be planted. Based on permaculture design principals, the garden will be home to multiple layers of plants: upper canopy of tall trees, mid-story plants including medium trees, bushes, and groundcovers of edible roots and vines. 

The entrepreneur Botany and Business class at Baylor College of Medicine Academy at Ryan is lead by dedicated teacher, Tesha Williams, Ph.D.  This class of students are engaged as caretakers and in project-based-learning incorporating the outdoor classroom. Blas Espinosa, Urban Harvest Garden Educator, is mentoring the class in growing year 'round with techniques in market gardening. Look for them this Spring, Sat. March 4th at our annual Kids Market Day to showcase the 'fruits' of their garden!

Gregory-Lincoln Education Center Compost Bin Project

by Liane Promfret, Urban Harvest Volunteer
     Last Fall, Carol Fraser and I attended a four-day City of Houston Master Composter workshop taught by Steve Stelzer here in Houston. To complete our certification, we were required to provide 20 hours of volunteer time to the community.  Some of time was completed with a teacher’s workshop for Klein ISD teachers.  Gregory Lincoln Education Center Community Garden was suggested by Urban Harvest for our remaining volunteer hours.  Carol and I toured the Garden in early February to see what they currently had as well as get some ideas for what we thought might work.  We discussed site location, materials present, etc.  The compost pile we found at the site had developed into a large heap, with no organization.  The site also contains a drum composter and another smaller green compost bin. 
      We settled on a 3-bin model, constructed from fence posts and hog paneling. The bins would each be large enough and left open on one side for ease of access and working.  Future improvements can be made to add a front to each bin as desired.  The plan was to build the compost bins on a school Dit it Day. We were able to separate the existing plant material and set it aside for inclusion in the new bins.  Underneath, we found enough cinderblocks to provide an outside base for the wire panels.  We also found some beautiful finished compost that was placed into two piles for future use.  We finished the prep day by staking out the site for the bins.  
        Carol, myself and my oldest son, Andrew Pomfret, spent a morning constructing the bins.  Fence posts were installed, then the paneling attached and secured using hardware. We added cinderblocks around the outside edge to provide some rigidity and support to the structure. We refilled one of the bins, with the material moved from the original pile.  The goal was to build them some new, sturdy compost bins that were  would look good and last. Then the old compost pile was moved, useful materials stacked (cinder blocks), finished compost piled up (we found quite a nice pile under all the plant material).  The layout was staked out. 
We joined the Urban Harvest/school workday and assembled their new bins.  Posts driven and rear wall built.  Side wall posts driven and hog fencing attached. The cinder blocks recovered from the old bins were used to secure the bottom of the bins along the back and outside. Now they have an organized and tidy way to go about managing their plant waste.
                                                                             Gregory Lincoln student watering the compost bin.
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