Home grown fruit is arguably the best there is. It is cosseted as it matures and travels just yards versus miles to the table, without being confined in packaging. There is much to be said for planting one or more fruit trees, and, quite literally, enjoying the fruits of your labors at the appointed time.
The jujube or Chinese date tree (Ziziphus jujuba) is a member of the Rhamnaceae family. It has a history of more than 4,000 years in China and has spawned hundreds of cultivars. Jujube tree seedlings came to the United States in 1837. Today, jujube trees thrive in the southwestern United States and in Russia, northern Africa and southern Europe. An important advantage is this tree's ability to withstand wide temperature swings between high summer heat and winter cold to -28 degrees F.
Jujube trees are deciduous ornamentals and can reach heights of around 40 feet. Their branches grow in a zig-zag fashion, with small oval leaves that are about 2 inches long and yellowish flowers. The fruit is sweet, whitish within an outer covering that ripens from green to fully red. A wrinkled red covering signals that the fruit is ready to eat. During the pre-wrinkling stage, the fruit has a crispier consistency.
The lychee tree (Litchi chinensis) is a member of the Sapindaceae family. It is native to southern China but is widespread throughout Asia. The lychee tree appeared in Hawaii, Florida and California in the late 1800s.
Lychee trees prefer well-drained soil, humid summers and cool, rainy winters to produce their best flowers and fruit. They are slow-growing and can reach up to 40 feet high, though those are the exceptions. Their smooth gray trunks and branches produce bright green pinnate leaves and clusters of yellowish-green flowers that blossom about four months before the fruit matures. The round, sweet, juicy white lychee fruit has a rough, reddish outer rind.
The loquat tree (Eriobotrya japonica) is a member of the Rosaceae family. Other common names include Japanese medlar and nispero. While it is native to southeastern China, its cultivation for centuries in Japan, India and other countries has enhanced the reputation of this Chinese fruit tree. Today it also grows in Hawaii and California.
The evergreen loquat, with its short trunk and round crown, reaches heights between 10 and 30 feet. Its dark green leaves are about five to 12 inches long. The tree branches bear clusters of small white flowers. Loquat fruit also grows in clusters. Each roundish loquat is between one and two inches in diameter, with smooth, yellowish outer covering and sweet, white to yellow fruit.
The loquat tree fares best in subtropical conditions and does not respond well to extremes of heat or cold. Also pay attention to the tree's shallow root system so that no damage is done in the course of cultivation.