- Author: Launa Herrmann
Published on: January 2, 2013
I find picking oranges a bit nostalgic at the start of each new year. Raised on a Southern California citrus ranch, I remember many a cool clear January night siting beside my dad as he listened to the radio for the weather report and waited for the ominous freeze warnings. With news that temperatures were forecast to dip into the danger zone, my mother bolted into action—filling the thermos with freshly boiled coffee and draping furniture and Venetian blinds with bed sheets to protect them from soot. Then, she hurried outside into the darkness to catch up with my father, and the two of them spent the remaining hours monitoring the coal oil in the smoldering smudge pots until dawn cast its warmth upon the orange grove.
Tonight, decades later, with frost in the forecast, I head out into my own backyard to pluck the last oranges from a semi-dwarf Washington Naval tree, and I savor memories sandwiched between these past seasons of my life and this growing season that just passed. Frankly, I can’t wait to stand at the kitchen counter, digging my fingernails into fragrant orange peel to reveal the juicy sections curled inside. These sweet oranges (Citrus sinensis) not only influenced the agricultural landscape and history of California, but my life as well. With every residential move I made, I left behind at least one orange tree that I had planted in each garden. And I learned an applicable life lesson: fruit quality often improves as a tree matures.