In the side yard, half-buried in snow, is an orange. It looks a little out of place in such a non-subtropical climate, but it has a reason for being there.
Since my husband and I are not afflicted with scurvy, we were hard-pressed to finish the crate of fruit that was sent to us for Christmas. The apples disappeared in record time, thanks to a new kuchen recipe and a crunch-happy toddler. The grapefruit was juiced, and most of the oranges were eaten.
As with many shipping stories, there were a few casualties. Some bruises. Rather than simply tossing flawed fruit, we donate it to the local wildlife. Hence the snow orange.
Easily confused with the bergamot, a lovely tree with the foulest fruit known to a California fifth-grader, the orange is a bit of a mystery. It might have originated in China, it possibly migrated to the Mediterranean with the help of Italian traders.
Oranges are unhappy with wet soil and freezing temperatures. Even a light frost can kill young orange trees, which had led growers to use smudge pots and temporary shelters to protect crops. Yes, Virginia, there is cold weather in Orange County.
Oranges can be kept for up to five months in cold storage, with dehydration being the prime enemy. Don't be dismayed if you have an orange with a thin, sad-looking peel. Pop that little dude open; you may be surprised. The white pulp between the fruit and the peel protects the orange from serious moisture loss for some time, and you will often find perfectly tasty fruit inside.
If you want a good, in-depth look at the history and cultivation of oranges, have a peek at this page. If you're looking for fun with citrus, you'll definitely want to visit the Mystery Lover's Kitchen for Cleo Coyle's fabulous Orange-Vanilla "Creamsicle" Cake.
Or you can come and hang out with our squirrels...