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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Sunday, May 29, 2011

United Nations of Plants at 2184 Drury Lane

When Bassem Samaan was laid off by Agere, he could have wasted his time watching TV and collecting unemployment. Instead, he threw himself into his passion - fruit. He began growing different varieties of every fruit imaginable, from mulberries to persimmons. But as a native of Lebanon, the fruit that intrigued him the most was the fig. He visited every Greek, Italian and Syrian neighborhood he could find, in search of figs.

Ten years later, Samaan has another job, but he also has 230 varieties of fig trees growing in his backyard at 2184 Drury Lane in Bethlehem. He even has a small greenhouse for the Winter months.

Everything, from the Che tree (Chinese mulberry) on Drury lane, to the Brazilian passion fruit springing up among his grass, is edible. He grows zaatar, a pungent yet tasty herb used in Middle Eastern dishes. A banana tree decorates his back yard, and although it bears no fruit, its large leaf is great for grilling seafood. Budding Kiwi flowers promise good things to come. "My yard is a United Nations of plants," Samaan joked during a tour of his home, as he tried to suppress sneezes. Ironically, this master gardener has allergies.

How about local fruit? In his front yard, he has a pawpaw, a native North American tree that can withstand temperatures of -25 degrees. You've never seen this fruit at your local grocer because its shelf life is nonexistent. But chilled pawpaw was one of George Washington's favorite desserts, and Jefferson planted it at Monticello.

Unlike most fruits, the pawpaw attracts no pests, and its leaves and bark actually contain natural insecticides. Samaan uses no chemical sprays on his produce.

In addition to the fruit, Samaan also grows Cedar of Lebanon trees.

About two years ago, Samaan began offering fig, kiwi, pawpaw and Cedar of Lebanon plants for sale online from his webpage, Trees of Joy. On May 25, Bethlehem zoners agreed unanimously that on-line sale is a permitted use, even in a residential neighborhood, and requires no variance.

He's a member of Backyard Fruitgrowers, and has lectured on his passion from Lancaster to Penn State.

Cedar of Lebanon bonsai.

Kiwi Flowers

Fig Fruit growing

Banana tree leaf: great for grilling

Have a fig! (This photo courtesy of Bassem Samaan)

Or maybe a pawpaw or persimmon! (This photo courtesy of Bassem Samaan)

1 comment:

Melek said...

Bravo ya Bass! Fantastic to see all your hard work and passion for the garden (especially the figs) published here! My own fig trees are producing amazing fruits all because of you.