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Lemon Tree Produces Mammoth Sized Fruit
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For an amateur gardener and a self-proclaimed 'old guy,' Riverbank resident Phil Permenter can certainly come up with some big fruit.

The 70-year-old has lemons on his tree at Eighth and Stanislaus streets that measure close to 10 inches long and weigh around three pounds. They are growing side by side with ones of the normal size approximating three inches and a few ounces.

It wasn't Permenter's idea to gain some notoriety; he and his fruit were turned in by grandson Roger Hickey of Modesto so the older man was a little embarrassed about the attention.

"Could be the fish heads," he suggested, explaining he does quite a bit of fishing and some uneaten fish ended up buried in the soil beneath the tree. Perhaps they acted as a potent fertilizer, he surmised.

What will he do with the mammoth lemons? He has no idea.

"But my wife Lillamae makes lemon pies quite a bit," he said. "And I could put them in a toddy with hot water and honey. That's good for the throat."

He's opened up the lemons and they are good inside and tasty - just very large.

"Or I could just give them away," he added.

Some have been disappearing anyway. The tree overhangs a side road and several of the larger sized lemons have already vanished. He suspects they are being poached from the street.

He hasn't done anything special to the tree. He planted it four or five years ago. In a cold snap two years ago it almost froze and he cut it way back. Last year it grew a couple of the larger sized lemons. They were big enough to start breaking down the tree. This year it has four or five of the big ones.

Permenter only has a small garden at the side of his house. Besides the lemon tree and an orange tree right next to it, he has some rows of tomatoes and squash that he grows for the family dinner table.