Meet Andrew EllmersHe’s been growing Yen Ben lemons, amongst many other citrus varieties, in his expansive Gisborne orchard in New Zealand, since ages ago.
You may be familiar with Meyer lemons, but perhaps not so much the Yen Ben variety, which we use for our delicious Barker’s Lemon Curd sold in Australia– a pale yellow lemon with thin skin, high juice and minimal seeds.
Yen Bens are known as the ‘chef’s lemon by choice’ with their delightfully sour bite unlike its cousin the Meyer (the brighter, sweeter varietal which is a half-breed -half orange, half lemon).
While Meyers are seasonal, Yen Bens can fruit 4-5 times per year. At times there are four generations of fruit on the tree at any one time – bud, blossom, young fruit and mature fruit ready for picking. A rolling production means Andrew’s orchard can supply lemons all year round – much to the delight of local Gisborne Farmers Market-goers. He counts on a massive 130kg of fruit per tree!
A healthy, productive tree is paramount to quality, nutritious fruit and it all starts with the soil. After a busy year of fruiting the soil will be exhausted of all its goodness so much effort is put into replenishing nutrients. Trace elements make a huge difference in the skin quality and flavour and getting the mix right is a scientific process (a blend of Selenium, Manganese, Boron, and Cobalt to name a few).
At One with NatureFantails flit about the trees, pukeko, pheasant and chooks roam the leafy orchard floor. Andrew doesn’t fret about weeds that grow between the rows of citrus. To eradicate them completely would mean a zero tolerance approach – killing everything. Too many chemicals remove the food source of the ‘beneficials’, the good insects that control the bad ones and who keep things in balance naturally.
The likes of Whirlygigs and Steely-blue Ladybirds are orchardists’ friends, eating nasties such as Scale. Predatory by nature, their own lifecycle relies on them eating other insects during their juvenile stage. Ladybirds come in many shapes and sizes: from the Steely-Blues to the Red-and-Blacks, to others such as the Serangium species which are invisible to the naked eye but are fantastic as they prey on whitefly.
Whitefly suck on leaves and excrete honeydew, a sticky residue that grows fungus, turning the area black (also known as sooty mould). While this doesn’t affect the quality of the fruit, it does impact the cosmetic appearance of the fruit.
Good tree structure and airflow will help avoid pesky insects so a happy, healthy pruned and thinned tree is also important. With Yen Bens fruiting so regularly, harvesting takes care of the thinning process. In fact, picking encourages new flowering.
Did you know?
- Bigger doesn’t mean better: Huge lemons don’t necessarily mean great quality! Large lemons left on the tree too long will hollow in the middle and begin to deteriorate in quality.
- Friendly Fantails: Have you ever wondered why fantails follow you around as you stroll through the undergrowth? Fantails aren’t just being friendly they are just after a free lunch as your footsteps stir up insects on the ground.
Andrew & Delise Ellmers
Gisborne, New Zealand