Ogeechee Limes – Pleasantly Tasting Like Citrus

The shoreline of the Ogeechee River is densely imbedded with a little known fruit tree called the, “Ogeechee Lime” Nyssa ogeechee, that could easily demand attention from farmers, who are looking for a secondary crop. Local landowners, and those who fish on the banks of the river, are familiar with this tree that can grow 30-40 ft. tall, and in the Fall, the leaves and the oval shaped fruit turn a brilliant scarlet in color. The fruit or berry is about 1-2 inches long and reaches the approximate size of a large kumquat with an agreeable acid flavor, that is similar to limes or other citrus. The fruit is used to flavor foods and drinks, when the juice is released, or it can be used in preserves and the canning of such items as jellies and jams by the local inhabitants.

Many botanists in the past centuries observed that Ogeechee Limes were found growing in colonies with roots underwater, and therefore, they naturally recommended that a planting of this tree should only be done in a bog garden. There are trees planted in the Arboretum garden at the Coastal Plains Experiment Station at Tifton, Ga that are mature and growing well in well drained soil. These trees produce bushels of fruit in the fall that is exceedingly enjoyed by children and adults.

The famous, early American explorer, William Bartram, when traveling through Georgia in 1793 wrote, “I saw large, tall trees of the Nyssa ogeechee growing on the banks of the river, there is no tree that exhibits a more desirable appearance than this, in the autumn, when the fruit is ripe, and the tree is divested of its leaves, for then they look as red as scarlet, with their fruit which is of that color also. It is of the shape, but larger than the olive, containing an agreeable acid juice. The most northern settlement of this tree, yet known, is on the great Ogeechee River, where they are called Ogeechee Limes, and they are being sometimes used in their stead “.

These trees are dependable producers every year of unbelievable masses of fruit, that when dead- ripe in September falls to the ground after changing color from green to a spectacular scarlet. The trees can also be shook by hand to collect the limes as they fall to the ground on sheets. Many local people prefer to gather the fruit as the limes begin to change color, looking much like green ‘Nagami’ kumquats in appearance and size. Someday this American native tree will become a very important commercial fruit producer. The fruit from these trees is remarkable in being uniform in size. The trees should be planted in partial shade or the full sun and require frequent irrigation for maximum production, however, they require no fertilization and pest and diseases are no problem. The trees are self-pollinating.

The pollen of Ogeechee Lime is considered to be very important for bees that make honey called, “Tupelo Honey.” This unusual product is considered to be gourmet quality by specialty stores.

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