A plant hunting adventure

The fruit trees in the nearby nurseries do not look promising, so I’ve been checking out nurseries further afield to look for trees actually raised on site. Yesterday, we went to see two. The first was Centro de Jardinería Kuka in Alginet. It was rather tricky finding the place, as they’re on a service road by the A-7 and their store sign was hidden by plants :-). Their  wide selection of fruit and landscaping trees, from temperate to subtropical and tropical, as well as indoor plants, is impressive. We saw a few feijoa plants –- the first we’ve seen here in Valencia –- and were tempted to buy them, but they didn’t look very healthy. And I’m so glad we didn’t, because the next nursery, Alziplant in Alzira, had splendid ones. Some were beginning to fruit, a good sign. Unfortunately we arrived at a quarter to 2, just before their lunch break, and were told to come back at 4. For local residents, this is no big thing. But if you’ve come from afar, then a two-hour wait could very well put you off.

However we had prepared ourselves to be there the whole day, so didn’t mind too much. There seemed enough in Alzira to occupy us over two hours. There were the usual elements of Valencia suburban shopping centres  –- including the German supermarket Lidl, a gigantic Chinese goods store, and a DIY specialist, Brico Depôt (this we went to investigate after lunch and found a bit more down-to-earth than the French multinational Leroy Merlin in Gandia). But first things first: we headed for a leisurely lunch at Free Wok –- an Asian food buffet for just under 10 Euros per person, a popular concept in La Safor featuring local specialties such as paella, crema catalana, fresh fish and seafood; Chinese dishes; Japanese teppanyaki and sushi; and diverse desserts (pastries, ice cream, fresh fruit). This one, rather unusually, featured an Argentinian grill. Argentinian beef charcoal-grilled to a perfect juicy pink with crisp seared fatty edges hit the spot, with fresh green asparagus, oyster mushrooms and shiitake cooked on the teppan (plancha). We had a cold shandy of San Miguel and Seven-Up and crisp honeydew melon to finish.

At four we went back to the nursery to take home our 10 feijoa trees, 2 black mulberry trees, 6 bushes of Russian sage, 2 creeping rosemary, and 2 large-flowered jasmine vines. Fitting all of those into the van without damage was quite daunting, but we managed to gather up the protruding branches with string to keep them from getting entangled. As some trees were over 2 m, they had to be laid horizontally with branches poking out between the front seats. Barring a few snapped leaves, our precious cargo — and we too – survived the journey. None of the fruits or the lone flower fell off, thank goodness. All were given a refreshing drink soon after unloading. And it rained quite hard early this morning, again after 10, and it’s been going on  intermittently since. A fitting welcome for our first bought trees (one cherry tree we got as a house-warming present from our good friend T).

Feijoa trees in pots_4342.JPG

Feijoas (Acca sellowiana, Feijoa sellowiana) are one of our family’s favourite fruits. They are also known as pineapple guava, and are native to the temperate mountains of South America. Drought-tolerant and winter-hardy, they can tolerate a range of temperatures from -7°C to 40°C, but need at least 100 hours of chilling for best flavour. I love the leaves — shiny green and grey-green on the reverse, rather like olive leaves; the trunk is reddish brown.

Feijoas can stand frequent pruning and can be used as edible hedging, but are more frequently grown as trees or tall shrubs. They can grow as tall as 4 m tall and as wide. The fruits are the size of kiwifruit, with a grey-green coat; inside is a sweet-sour soft pulp, with the enticing aroma of guava and pineapple combined, hence the name. Some even detect mint, strawberry, and banana, for which reason they are known as fruit-salad fruit in South Africa. They are best eaten fresh, cut in half, the flesh scooped out with a teaspoon; the green slightly gritty outer shell is usually discarded. I hope to make jelly or fruit paste at some point. The flower petals are also edible and would make brilliant ornaments to fruit salads.

Feijoa flower_4336.JPG

Feijoa flower —  the petals are edible.

Feijoa frt g_4337.JPG

Immature feijoa fruit

Centro de Jardinería Kuka

Km 365, A-7, 46230 Alginet, Valencia,

Tel. 960650200; 600439992

http://jardineriakuka.com.

Alziplant (Viveros Alzira)

Carretera Alzira – Favara s/n, Carrer Murta Sol

46600 Alzira, Valencia

Tel. 982413864;678535233; 617213753.

http://alzira.portaldetuciudad.com/

 

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