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Saturday, January 25, 2014

Harvesting Oranges


            Another gorgeous day in drought-ridden Sacramento.  I started my annual collection of oranges from the mammoth tree in my yard. The crop suffered from a long period of freezes, critter munching, and lack of water. I have picked around two hundred pounds of oranges off this tree each year. Half that amount seems doable this time.
            The frost killed some of the fruit and scarred some. The scarring has attracted some nocturnal creature who wanders through nightly to eat the centers out of the oranges. In the past critters do not mess with the citrus crop—not even the birds. Only if a rotten spot appears on the fruit left too long on the tree does anything attack it. Seems we are the only animals who like —at least in Northern California—orange peels.
Now at two in the morning, my dog, Poindexter, makes a dash outside to try and kill the creature munching an early morning breakfast. I tromped out there one time with a flashlight in hopes of seeing what had moved into the yard. If it was there, I couldn’t find it but Dex madly jumped up and down on the trunk trying to reach whatever it was. Possum? Raccoon?  As one-fourth of the crop is frost damaged the fur bearer has plenty to eat this winter.
I expected to find blossoms all about the tree but the lack of water has delay the blooms. Citrus can be picked all at once like I do or can be picked a little at a time. An orange tree can have buds, blossoms, green fruit, yellow fruit, and ripe fruit all at the same time. I’m not the kind of girl to tend to the garden all the time. I’m a lazy lady farmer.
I have a drip system on my fruit trees that are less than six-years young. The orange tree is not. It’s about twenty plus years old and over fifteen feet high. The fence in the background is ten foot.  As it is a mature tree, I leave it to God, the master gardener, to take care of things. I trim branches away from the fence once a year and pick the fruit over a period of two weeks. Done.
Weed whacking, lawn mowing, leaf raking, and harvesting, cover my yard duties.  I have California native drought tolerant plants in the front yard and in the back, fruit trees, nut trees, and lovely herbs like lavender, rosemary, and thyme. None of those require any work.
I picked thirty pounds of smallish oranges and thanked God for them. Most I will give away. Some I will juice. The rest will be in my marmalade. If you missed the recipes a couple years ago, here they are again. 
Almost Raw Organic Orange Marmalade ala Pam
Into pan on the stove
• 2 cups of fresh squeezed orange juice
• Zest of 3 oranges sliced in thin ribbons
• Zest of ½ organic Meyer lemon
• 2 Tblsp Candied ginger if desired
Cook on low heat until the rind is soft and yummy. Shut of the burner and set the pan on trivet to cool.
While warm add
• 1 jar about one pound of organic honey
• Pulp of 10 organic large orange sections – no white parts. Double the amount of oranges if they are small
• Pulp of 1 Meyer lemon—no white parts
Mix thoroughly
Cool to room temperature
Mix in 1 package No Cook Pectin.
Stir for 3 minutes
Ladle into 3 small Ball brand plastic freezer jars or containers you already have
Refrigerate for 1 hour before eating—freeze or give away the rest.

Organic Orange Marmalade ala Pam

Into a clean crock pot
  • 2 cups of fresh squeezed orange juice
  • Zest of 3 oranges sliced in thin ribbons. Okay I was having so much fun with the zester that makes the thin ribbons that I put the zest of 10 oranges in it and it was too bitter so I had to pull out much of the zest. So don’t make the same mistake. If you don’t have a zester then you need to scrape all the white out of the orange peel and finely slice the rind. Good luck.
  • Pulp of 10 organic orange sections – no white parts. I used 20 oranges because my crop was small this year. If you buy oranges they will be larger so you will need less.
  • Zest of ½ organic Meyer lemon
  • Pulp of 1 Meyer lemon—no white parts
  • 1 jar about one pound of organic honey
  • I had some leftover candied ginger from Christmas and threw that in the crock pot

Heat on low heat until the rind is soft and yummy
Cool to room temperature
3 Minutes Mix in 1 package No Cook Pectin (I got that Wal-Mart)

Ladle into 3 small Ball brand plastic freezer jars or containers you already have
Refrigerate for 1 hour before eating—freeze or give away the rest.