Sunday, January 13, 2008

Oranje Boom

This week I've read a little book on the subject of oranges by John McPhee called (not too surprisingly) 'Oranges'. Written in 1967 his investigation of the fruit is centred in Florida - the first trees planted there by the Spaniards (oranges had reached Spain with the Muslim invaders) up to the boom of frozen concentrate. But it is packed with curious details of the fruit's origins and botany. In the middle of the 12th century Tunisian doctor Abu Abdullah Mohammed ben Mohammed el-Huseiny el-Ali Billah wrote 'to combat poison of a cold nature drink wine to which the powdered root hairs of orange trees have been added.' Cardinal Wolsey used to carry a hollowed out orange in which he kept a bit of sponge saturated with vinegar. He held it to his nose to insulate himself from the noxious airs of London. Before 1500 Europeans grew mainly bitter oranges because they were more aromatic and were chiefly used as seasoning and perfume. Once the antiscorbutic value of citrus had been noted, sailors established scurvy prevention groves on far flung islands like St.Helena, the Azores, the Madieras and in South Africa.
Wednesday the studio's Christmas gift from the LA executive producers finally cleared customs - a crate of organic oranges (several hundred) from their own orchard. The flavour brought back the taste of the Mandarins that we used to get in our stockings at Christmas - spicy, sweet and tangy all at once. And it's got me thinking that as there is next to no frost here (today was 12°) maybe I will attempt to grow an orange tree in a big pot. Maybe a Valencia grafted on sour orange stock. Anybody out there got any nursery recommendations or experience?

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