When I was a kid, we had relatives in Florida who would always send a case of Indian River grapefruit and oranges as a xmas gift. It was all very exotic and oh-so tropical in the midst of a New York winter.
I didn’t acquire a taste for grapefruit – le pamplemousse as the French call it – until much later, possibly as a mixer with vodka. I can recall a brief period in the early 90s when a glass of grapefruit juice was required drinking the morning after a wild night, for medicinal purposes. (That’s another post.)
But who doesn’t love an orange?
I still have friends in Florida, all lovely people, but they don’t send me crates of citrus. That would be carrying coals to Newcastle, as I live in Southern California. No, when I need fresh fruit these days, I have only to turn to my friends in Palm Springs. (You may think that was a bit of snark. You would be wrong.)
When you picture a desert, what comes to mind? Shifting sands. Blazing sun. Unslaked thirst. Infernal heat. Shimmering mirages. Bedouins. Scorpions. Camels. Peter O’Toole as Lawrence of Arabia. Et cetera. But the California desert, known to the wider world as Palm Springs, is an oasis of palm-studded golf courses, star-studded rehab centers, and what must be the largest collection of non-farm citrus trees on earth. Every house, no matter how humble, has at least one citrus-bearing tree, or five, or twenty. We had an orange, a grapefruit and a lemon. And we added two lime trees for good measure (and for cocktails). You can’t believe how abundantly these trees produce fruit!
I can drive a mile to the supermarket and pay $1 for a couple of lemons. Or, I can drive 100 miles to the east and scoop up bushels of fruit, ripe for the picking. Or scattered on the ground like so much litter. The gardeners in our old neighborhood used to leave bags filled with fruit lined neatly along the curb, for your shop-lifting pleasure. At some point, it all starts to seem normal. So, here’s the best travel tip you’ll receive from this blog today: Visit Palm Springs (or Rancho Mirage, Palm Desert, La Quinta) in the spring. If you hit it just right, toward the end of March, start of April, there’s a week or so when billions of citrus flowers bloom all at once – giving the world a fragrance that can only be described as the air freshener of the gods.
We recently took the dogs out for a quick overnight to see
old dear friends in Rancho Mirage. We ate. We drank. We laughed. We raided their tangerine and orange trees! The tangerines are always dependably sweet and juicy. Oranges are trickier and can be dry. Well, we hit the orange jackpot with this harvest. I kid you not: two oranges fill a glass with the sweetest nectar. It’s almost biblical. I’ve been foregoing wine this week in favor of orangetinis, which I may have perfected.
Fresh-squeezed orange juice makes me happy.
Day 005 of #100happydays