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VENTURA COUNTY FOCUS | COUNTYWIDE / THOUSAND OAKS

Melon-Sized Lemon Spotted Growing on Tree

January 26, 1998|ROBERT GAMMON

Imagine mixing a one-gallon pitcher of lemonade using just one lemon. It would have to be a very big lemon, and Sylvia Wilson of Thousand Oaks may have just the fruit for the job.

A child from her neighborhood near Conejo Community Park spotted the monster citrus growing in her yard, and with the help of her family and a long stick, knocked that big sucker to the ground.

What landed was a lemon nearly two feet around, weighing in at 3 1/2 pounds.

"I thought it was a melon," said 61-year-old Wilson, a retired Canadian television actress. "The kids said, 'Do you know what this is?' and I said, 'No,' and they said, 'That came from your lemon tree.' "

John "J.B." Bandy and his four children first noticed the giant fruit about halfway up in Wilson's tree Friday afternoon on their way back from playing baseball at Redwood Middle School.

"My daughter Gia saw the lemon, and said, 'Dad, look at that,' " said Bandy, a part-time actor and stay-at-home father. "I saw a grapefruit-sized one and thought no big deal. But then she pointed out the humongous one. It was like the Eighth Wonder of the World."

They tried knocking the big fella out of the tree with a baseball, but that didn't work, so they grabbed a nearby long stick and poked it off its 10-foot-high perch.

After it thundered to the ground, Bandy and his children, Gia, 9, Jett, 7, and twins Jenna and Jace, 5, decided to knock on Wilson's door.

"I'm surprised it hadn't fallen down and hit someone over the head, because this was hanging over the sidewalk," Wilson said.

She added that her lemon tree often grows grapefruit-sized lemons, but that she has done nothing out of the ordinary to breed an especially big one.

"Lord knows how long it's been there. It's still partially green, so who knows, it may have grown bigger."

One local expert said giant lemons like Wilson's really are not that unusual in Ventura County, although they're more common in the western portion of the county where the weather is not as hot.

"They show up at the fair every once in while as an oddity, like the biggest pumpkin or the biggest watermelon," said Chris Taylor, senior vice president of Limoneira Co., the largest citrus company in the county. He said needs of the marketplace demand that growers harvest lemons when they're much smaller.

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the biggest lemon ever weighed in at 8 1/2 pounds, in Whittier in 1983. Guinness does not provide a measurement of that fruit's circumference.

The size "really depends on how long you leave the lemon in your tree," said Taylor, noting that Wilson's lemon might not be tasty, because "it must be a 12- to 14-month-old fruit."

Wilson said she's not yet made up her mind about whether the big lemon will end up in a pitcher with water and sugar.

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