Special Reports

Will the citrange trees finally grow here?

Mild winters made the Tri-Cities popular among its residents through the years. Some have called the area the 'Banana Belt' and a few have even grown bananas, indoors, of course. But the government once tried to grow oranges here... and if you'd like to give it a try, you can buy a citrange tree at mckenzie-farms.com/photo.htm

Tri-Cities once 'tried out' as 'citrus belt' but failed

By the Tri-City Herald staff

Published on February 14, 1957

"Banana Belt" becomes a big joke when blustery winter blitzes the mercury to 20 below zero but it's no joke the Tri-City area was once considered a possible citrus center in the Northwest.

Fifty years ago the U.S. Department of Agriculture recognized the mild winters and early springs in Kennewick and decided to run tests on a new variety of cold-resisting citrus fruits here.

To test the idea, two Kennewick Realtors -- C. W. Story, father of Guy Story, and James Crowell -- were designated to plant citrange trees.

According to the announcement the USDA sent the new variety only to favorable localities because of the cost and scarcity of the trees.

From there on it is very strange what happened to the citrange. The Extension offices in Pasco and Kennewick never heard of it. The alleged test was 10 years before Benton County had a county agent. And the ordinary citizen has never heard of a citrange tree. He'll repeat the word over and over when you mention it to see of he has misunderstood or you're nuts.

But there is or was such a tree. The name comes from two words -- citrus plus orange. It is a citrus fruit produced by crossing the sweet orange with a trifoliate orange. The fruit is supposed to contain more acid and have a more pronounced aroma than the orange.

But none ever grew in the Tri-Cities. Guy Story said his father and Crowell lived close together in Garden Tracts Section. Both were Realtors but they planted orchards the way everybody else in the area did. Story had five acres, Crowell had two.

Story, who was in the first graduating class at Kennewick High School, said he did most of the planting and if a citrange tree had been sent to his father, he would more than likely have planted it. At least, he would have helped take care of it. He didn't remember it and didn't know what one was.

Garden Tracts opened in 1902 by Northern Pacific and the Storys', who came from Michigan via Arkansas, planted big Burbank plums which were so large they'd break under their burden of fruit, asparagus, peaches, cherries, grapes and Hood River strawberries.

The only warm climate plant they tried to any extent was English walnuts grafted on Black Walnut roots.