Cacao tree auction – rethunk

Okay, out of deference to Lewis who will be instructing us in the arcane art of growing and processing coffee in the comfort of our own backyards and homes, we have decided to move the Cacao Tree auction to the end of the our Saturday meeting, after his lecture and all the Qs and As.

As a result, this will be a Live Auction, with — to minimize confusion — one tree being auctioned at a time. At this point (obviously this is an ongoing, seat of the pants work-in-progress and could change entirely by Saturday) I think that once the auction has begun, bids most efficiently can be sent to your humble chair via the Chat function or by Hand Raising for a specific bid, like “I have a bid of $10. Do I hear $11?” (Do any chapter members have experience as auctioneers?) Once Tree #1 is sold, we will move on to Tree #2, etc. until all six trees are sold. I will invoice the winners with PayPal and trees can be picked up at the same location as last year’s plant sale and this year’s scion exchange.

If anyone has a better idea for how we should do this, please let us know!

Silent Auction for Cacao Trees Saturday, May 8th

The half dozen cacao trees kindly donated to us by Eric Durtschi after his Chocolate talk two months ago — and then carefully nursed to robust health by our own Bruce Blavin — will be sold at a silent auction during our Zoom meeting this Saturday. Since we have never run a Silent Auction on Zoom, your guess is as good as mine as to how (and if) this will work. But I imagine we can use Chat to enter bids (to Everyone!), starting at $10 with $1 increments. Since the trees are essentially identical, the top 6 bidders will win. One tree per person unless there are less than six interested parties.

I will invoice the winners. Bruce will drop them at my place (I hope) and you can pick them up there, unless you are closer to Bruce in Malibu, in which case you could fetch them all for us and save Bruce the trip.

Please note that trees much smaller than these regularly sell for $50 on Etsy. So support your chapter (and your chocolate addiction!) by bidding generously.

Coffee! Saturday May 8th at 10 am

Speaker: Lewis Perkins

Coffee is the first sine qua non for many people’s day. What will global warming/climate change do to our elixir? The Economist April 24, 2021 edition reveals a rediscovered Coffea Stenophylla, from the lowland hills of Sierra Leone (also Guinea & Ivory Coast) and written in the 1834 papers of Scottish botanist George Don, which tolerates a higher temperature range of 24-26 C.

Lewis and Tera actually have had coffee made from 3.5 pounds of wet beans grown from a Kona and Java plant in the shade of a reed fence in Santa Monica. Groundwork Coffee Company was kind enough to use an antique sample roaster to make them enough for one pot of light and medium roast brew. Lewis notes that there is a lot of manual labor to remove the cascara by hand and teeth! He also says that good coffee is underpriced by a lot!

Less work and quite tasty is eating the ripe red anti-oxidant fruit before the birds get them. Even if you don’t like brewed coffee, you would likely like the berries.

If you love coffee, this is your chance to learn how to grow your own!

Members should have received their Zoom links by now.

Photos by Pablo Merchán Montes and Rodrigo Flores on Unsplash

Our dragon fruit group buy order will be going in tomorrow, April 18th

So if you are still interested in cuttings or plants, please let us know ASAP.

In the course of researching how to support these vines which can develop to over 200 lbs in weight, I happened upon the website of the late Gery Kesslau and his wife Linda Nickerson. I was so taken with their triangular trellises that I wrote to Linda and she very very kindly sent me the following (which I reprint with her permission):

I’m happy to share what we’ve learned about supporting DF over the past 20 years. The triangular support was the only thing Gery could think of that would support DF when we started out. Over the years it did not prove to be the best due to the cost of that much redwood, trying to support it in the ground as the plants got large and top-heavy, and most of our first frames have fallen over in spite of adding steel T-posts on several sides. Gery was a carpenter by trade and even mitered the horizontals which most people would not have done. We eventually adopted the method used by Ramero at the Irving test plot, but with the DF in #15 black PVC pots, extra holes drilled in them with a door-knob bit for better drainage, and a T-post driven through the bottom into the ground for additional support. Then a redwood 2×2 stake with two pieces of 3/8″ x 18″ rebar drilled through the top to form an X to support the frame for the arching branches and then topped with a frame of more 3/8″ rebar with old garden hose threaded on it (the best method) is placed in the pot and then securely wired to the steel post, and one DF plant put in each prepared pot. This method had a lot of advantages–1)Our soil is very bad here and we could put good soil in the pots easier than digging large holes and filling them with good soil; 2)when we watered, we were only watering the pot where the roots were, thereby conserving our very expensive water;3) the pot protected the roots from the gophers that plagued our property; 4)The steel post supported the plant and wood post even if/when the wooden post rotted and broke. If you keep your plants properly pruned, and do an annual compost top dress, these plant will grow and produce for many years.”

Linda also sent me a very long .pdf on dragon fruit growing which is now on our chapter Google Drive. I can send a link to anyone who desires it.

Tomato Mania!

Once again our new Program Chair, Master Gardener Deborah Hartman, will be making the Tomato Mania end-of-season inventory available to us for free!  This year, however, we will be getting in right at the beginning since she is only picking up the plants today.  As soon as she knows what varieties she has, I will post them.  In the meantime, make plans to get down to Inglewood ASAP.  Deborah’s address and contact info will be coming to you in a chapter email (I know, another one.  We have to figure out a more efficient way to do this.  Anyone have ideas?)  As you probably know, Tomato Mania grows many extremely exotic varieties, thereby qualifying their output as “rare fruits”.  Don’t miss out!


Photo by Richard Barnard on Unsplash

Ramiro’s Dragon Fruit Evaluation Chart

To help with your decision-making process, here is the chart Ramiro put up during his talk yesterday.  Eyal commented that Haley’s Comet is very tasty but smaller and more sensitive to heat/cold.  (You can click on the chart below to make it bigger and easier to read.)

Group Buy of Dragon Fruit Cuttings/Plants

In the wake of Ramiro Lobo’s wonderful presentation on Dragon Fruit yesterday, I reached out to his friend Eyal Givon (who was also on the Zoom and has a Dragon Fruit farm in Moorpark). I talked to Eyal about our buying cuttings of Ramiro’s favorite varieties from him.  This is what he wrote me:

“We mostly grow American Beauty, Physical Graffiti, Delight and Halley’s Comet. We have lower quantities of Voodoo Child, Sugar Dragon, San Ignacio, Valdivia Roja, El Grullo and Laverne Red.

Our best performer is American Beauty.  In terms of fruit size,  Laverne Red is our record keeper with American Beauty a close second.

Most cuttings are only $5. Red flower varieties are $10. Some very unique/very slow growers are more. We have also rooted plants for sale. $15 in one gallon pots.

Slow growers would be varieties like Frankie’s Red, Colombian, etc. Red flower varieties are Asunta 1 – 5, Ax, Kathie Van Arum, Connie Mayer, Bruni, and maybe a few more.  The availability on these varieties is between low to zero, so I can’t promise anything. Also, availability does change, especially on the more rare varieties since people do come here and buy them.”


The chapter is willing to put together a group buy but we need to get some sense of how  many people want how many cuttings or plants.  If there is limited interest, I will just collect money from you when I have the cuttings in hand.  If there is a LOT of interest, I will probably set up a format such as we used for the Plant Sale, where you can pay for what you want on PayPal and I can then forward the PayPal receipts to Eyal before heading out there.  Please let me know ASAP at




The Great Rhubarb Experiment: Progress Report

Since we got a question about this, I thought I should let interested readers know how we are doing.  At least four of us have been successfully growing various combinations of the seeds from Australia and England.  One other experimenter had no luck with germination and yet another hasn’t started her seeds yet.  Of course, so far we haven’t been through an entire calendar year, so we still have no idea if these plants will be perennial for us.  But I can say that the Tina’s Noble seeds from French Harvest in Australia has made absolutely beautiful plants, as you can see.  These — sown last July and put out into the garden in September — are easily up to  my waist.

Dragon Fruit! April 10th @ 10 a.m.

Speaker: Ramiro Lobo

Ramiro Lobo is the University of California’s Small Farms & Agricultural Economics Advisor with areas of expertise ranging alphabetically from Ag Commodities through Subtropical Fruit and on to Urban Agriculture, not to overlook a detour through (and this is a moutful)  the Protection of  Food From Contamination By Pathogenic Microorganisms, Parasites, and Naturally Occurring Toxins.

He has published many many  many papers on such topics asSample Costs to Establish an Orchard and Produce Guavas in San Diego County”. “Encouraging Adoption of IPM by Small Scale Farmers,” and “The Sensory Quality and Postharvest Performance of Southern Highbush Blueberry Cultivars Grown in Southern California”. I think it is safe to call him UC Agriculture’s own Renaissance Man.

For our April 10th meeting, however, he is going to talk to us about Dragon Fruit. Or Pitahaya. Or maybe Pitaya, which it turns out is a different genus altogether.  If we are very good, he will tell us about the field research he’s been conducting. And teach us about pruning, propagation, pollination, and when it’s the right time to harvest your fruit for optimum quality.

I know many of us (including me)) have tried and failed to grow dragon fruit successfully in West Los Angeles.  This is our  chance to figure out what we’ve been doing wrong!

Members will receive all Zoom information in the forthcoming newsletter.



photo by Polina Kuzovkova on Unsplash