Local OB Love for Citrus and Palms

by on January 29, 2020 · 2 comments

in Ocean Beach

Kathy’s garden lettuces and green. Photo by Kathy Blavatt

By Kathy Blavatt

This season’s mix of rain, sunshine, and cool nights have created a crowded nursery for green babies in my garden. I have never had so many lettuces, parsley, and greens springing up in my garden.

Needless to say, “my household is eating very healthy meals.”

Flash boiling a mixture of greens is a great way to cook a variety of rich greens and herbs. My latest technique is to heat water quickly in a plugin electric kettle, pour it into a pan of greens and finish the boiling on the stove for a few minutes. These can make a meal of the cooked greens or can be added to another dish such as soup, pasta, smoothies, or quiche. A quick, simple way to eat them is to add a few squirts of lemon juice and nutmeg, making a tasty contrast of flavors and eliminating bitterness.

Flash boiling greens. Photo by Kathy Blavatt.

Speaking of lemons, the last few weeks have been a boom for the local citrus trees. My citrus trees are full of fruit, and many of my friends are giving away their extra fruit, so it will not go to waste.

The constant supply of oranges has kept me busy juicing, which is well worth it considering we’ve managed to not catch the flu or any colds this season.

Locals grow Citrus Cold Busters!

Besides juice, I’ve been making a lot of smoothies.  One of my favorite orange concoctions, I came up with years ago, was my version of a healthy Orange Julius. I blend frozen bananas, orange juice, almond milk, and several frozen figs (my 2019 crop of figs).

Several times last year, my Mission Fig tree produced abundant fruit. This fig tree seems very happy to be living next to my compost pile that keeps it well fed and warm in the winter.

The trimmed fig tree has  Spanish Moss hanging from its branches and trunk that protect it from sunburn. Photo by Kathy Blavatt.

I recently trimmed my fruit trees as they went dormant. I recommend the book “How to Prune Fruit Trees” by R. Sanford Martin, initially written in the 1940s, followed by multiple additions. When it comes to gardening, some of the old books have some excellent information and techniques. My horticulturist elderly neighbor collected gardening books throughout her life. She gave me a large stack of her books and articles that are full of useful information, helpful illustrations, and fantastic photos.

I have also collected many herb books. These books cover a variety of plants from various countries and explain how the cultures utilize them as food, herbal remedies, spiritual rituals, and other uses. The information has enlightened me to many plants in my yard, including weeds, that are edible. They make good teas for people, and tea fertilizers for my plants. The leftover liquid from boiling greens can be used to feed your plants after it cool.

My garden is currently sprouting up bulbs and flowering plants. The beautiful Geranium Maderense produces a cluster of brightly colored flowers in its center, turns the blossoms into many seeds that lie under the plant’s large dead lives that spring to life after some rain. These baby sprouts grow into beautiful plants that look like a bouquet with fanciful large leaves and flowers in variegated shades of pink-magenta-purple. These geraniums grow best in a mix of sun and light shade, and they thrive near the base of trees under particle shade.

This season’s combination of rain followed by sunny days and more rain has brought up some of my bulbs early. Some of them are already blooming way before they usually bloom in the Spring.

Two of my edible flowering plants and borage and nasturtiums are popping up throughout the yard. A good way to alleviate the extras, along with edible weeds, is to eat them!

I love being in my yard looking at the tiny sprouts, bugs, soil, drops of water on leaves, and the fascinating life that emerges and continuously changes in the garden. By contrast, I have a hillside view that allows me to see a large amount of the surrounding community and the diverse plant-life.

Since the January Ocean Beach Historical Society program “The Invasion of Tiki,” I have been looking at how that trend shaped O.B.’s landscape.

Palms played a significant role in the Tiki invasion from the 1940s through the 1960s. The merchants in Ocean Beach raised funds to grow the iconic palms on Newport Avenue in 1964.

Palms and tropical plants had an early history going back to the early 1900s on the peninsula due to the many plantings by the Theosophists, Kate Sessions, Alfred Robinson, and other known horticulturists that collected and propagated plants from around the world.

WWII spawned the Tiki invasion as the military personnel had fallen in love with the Pacific Island beauty and cultures. Tiki became a popular theme for bars, hotels, and movies. Mike Dormer, who moved to Ocean Beach with his wife Flicka in 1960, created Hot Curl, a cartoon surf character that became a statue, toy and featured in the opening of the “Beach Blanket Bingo.” The classic beach movies with Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon contained Hollywood style Tiki culture and set designs.

At the Ocean Beach Historical Society program, Diane Kane gave an excellent example of why palms were popular in landscaping. The palms root ball is small and compressed, and the trunk grows straight and tall, not taking up a lot of landscape space. She showed examples of walkways with limited space between structures that looked lovely with palms, tropical plants, and ground cover.

The other interesting fact about palms was the lore about the original two Serra Palms imported into California by the missionaries to be used for Palm Sunday services. These two palm trees’ seeds propagated for all the other Serra Palms in San Diego.

Serra Palm was the first palms in San Diego, as shown on postcard.

Interesting information about the historic palms “Examining California’s First Palm Tree: The Serra Palm” By Heidi Trent and Joey Seymour is at:  https://sandiegohistory.org/journal/v56-3/v56-3trent.pd

Excerpts;  ‘Serra Palm, which dominates the scene at the beautiful “Kings Garden,” acknowledged by all historians to be the oldest tree in California known to have been planted by human hands, stimulates fancy to an extent equaled by few other landmarks on this coast.’

The piece  tells about the palm trees coming from Fr. Serra who had brought them from the village of Loreto in Baja California and planted them at Serra Palmdio Hill (Presidio Park in Old Town), which coincides with the time period. The lore has it that the famous palms were planted by Father Serra’s own hands.

Whether Junípero Serra or one of his fellow travelers planted the famed Serra Palm will remain unknown, but the Serra Palm represents what thought to be the oldest and first palm trees in California.  These Serra Palms represents a link to our Spanish past, significant historical elements of both California’s history, and United states.

As you stroll by the neighborhood gardens and see the palms, tropical gardens and citrus trees, remember they are an important part of our diversity and historic fabric.



{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Ol OB Hippie January 29, 2020 at 11:33 am

Only one species—Washingtonia filifera, the California fan palm—is native to California.


Kathy Blavatt January 30, 2020 at 4:01 pm

01 OB Hippie you are right according to wikipedia… Washingtonia filifera is the only palm native to the Western United States and one of the country’s largest native palms.
The historian that said this I think got it wrong. Maybe it should read the first planted in San Diego?
Do you know if the Serra Palm was native Loreto in Baja California? Have not found that info. Might explain how CA and Baja Ca were all all one.
Another historic talk I went to, by another historian, said their were two native California Palms… so it is confusing. Anyone that whats to add information about this please do. Thanks Kathy


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