In the late 1800s, planning was underway to build railways in the Okanagan. Engineers and geographers scouted out every part of our area, not only for routes, but also describing the land and its potential for agriculture. They identified many types of plants and trees that would do well here. While some of these crops are still widely grown here, two trees, the mulberry and the almond, are not. But examples of them can still be found growing well near our house.
I was surprised to hear of almond trees doing well here, but they do. Recently I was alerted to one such specimen. I had walked by this tree many times, but did not recognize it as an almond. While on the tree, almonds look much like peaches. The outer shell is fuzzy and peach coloured. The inner shell looks very much like a peach pit. The inside nut looks very much like an almond.
Almonds and peaches are so genetically alike, that they can fertilize each other and produce viable hybrids and they can also produce similar allergic reactions. They are both members of the prunus family, stone fruits that also include cherries, plums and nectarines.
The almond tree has been cultivated in Iran and other countries in Western Asia for over 6000 years. It was introduced to Greece in the 5th century BC, from where it spread to other European countries after the 3rd century BC. Almonds are the world's most widely grown and consumed tree nut, and Italy is one of the major producers. Particularly rich in aroma and flavour are those cultivated in sunny Sicily, where almonds are the most widely grown fruit, after olives. They can be either sweet or bitter - the sweet ones are widely used in confectionery, while small quantities of the bitter ones give a typical flavour to certain types of biscuits and liquors
October traditionally brings on the harvest of many types of nuts. But also still doing well are tomatoes that are grown against our house, protected from the rains and blight that typically make an early end for them. Pimentos are one of the longest growing season peppers, often making their best showing during September and October. Thanksgiving is the perfect time for harvesting and consuming one’s first squash. After they are picked it is wise to wash them with a diluted vinegar solution to remove any fruit borne fungi. After a few days drying in the sun, they can be hung up in mesh bags in a garage or other area that does not freeze.
Flowers doing well in our garden this month are nasturtiums, geraniums, fuschias and ‘Summer Storm’ our herbaceous hibiscus. Coming into their glory in October are the Pyracantha, with its red berries, and the delicate Blue Beard shrub. Late seeded crops of mixed greens and choi will ensure fresh salads well into November.
October traditional garden chores for me include taking in geranium cuttings, a pleasant chore I have been doing for over 50 years. Last year I also brought in my pepper plants, and am doing again now for year 3. Being established plants they produced early and well in this their second year.
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