Calamondin: A little fruit tree that doesn’t need a backyard

I would love to have a sunny yard lined with berry bushes and apple trees and dotted with raised beds full of spinach, kale, cucumbers, tomatoes, eggplants, corn, pumpkins, herbs, and strawberries. Alas, no such chance. I live in an apartment in a city, and the nearest community garden doesn’t get enough light for us to be able to grow fruits and vegetables. But gardeners must garden, whether it be in a sprawling yard or in a galley kitchen, as I do.

mini orange tree
Cute citrus tree or cutest citrus tree?

I’ve been contemplating my foray into growing food indoors and have spent the last couple months digitally loitering at where I’ve considered olive trees, curry leaf, and a charming Meyer lemon. Nervous to see in what state they might arrive by post, instead I went over to the New York City floral district to see if they had any fruiting trees available. It wasn’t hard to get a hold of a miniature orange tree, or rather calamondin. Whatever it’s called, this tree is just about the most beautiful creature to ever grace my home.

I wanted a citrus tree because I’ve been making an experimental effort at buying all of my produce locally. Can’t get local citrus in the Northeast. I know that an indoor tree won’t produce enough fruit to keep me in oranges year round, but I figured it could do well enough at producing garnishes, or just a splash of juice to fancy up a drink. Growing this tree isn’t about catering to an insatiable appetite for citrus; it’s about encouraging myself to make do with less (and stay excited about plant care). A necessary part of my effort to eat locally requires interrogating my eating habits, not just finding new sources to purchase what I want. Is it necessary to have strawberries in December? Do I require a daily serving of grapefruit? Each person will draw his own conclusion. For myself, I’m testing my resolve to do without certain items, without guilt or asceticism, while providing myself with fun alternatives.

We’ll see how the orange tree fares. It stands near a window that receives good morning light, and I purchased a grow light to supply it with some extra nourishment. I suspect there will be some trial and error involved in keeping this tree healthy, as with any new plant acquisition, and I’m excited to see what happens. A planner by nature, I’m trying not to get too ahead of myself by shopping for dwarf banana trees quite yet. It would be a perfectly adorable answer to the local fruit dilemma—but let’s do one thing at a time.

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