For me, winter has always meant oranges. Long before I lived in an orange-growing climate, we’d mark the middle of winter when a fresh delivery of oranges would arrive from my grandmother in Florida. Now, here in Southern California, we’re lucky to be surrounded by a bounty of winter oranges, including a handful of fruitful orange trees at nearby friends’ houses.
Still, Southern California is not quite as orange grove-y as it once was, and since we wanted to give our kids a view of the past, we recently spent a day at the La Verne Heritage Park in La Verne, CA. This park consists of a 1 1/2 acre orange grove and 1880’s farmhouse that was saved from the bulldozer thanks to local preservationists. Today, families can go to the orange grove on Saturdays from January through March to tour the farm and pick oranges (and grapefruit) for $5 for a 5-pound bag. (Don’t tell the kids, but they may just learn some California history too.)
The grove itself is small and easily navigated; kids as young as three or four can grab a few of the lower-hanging oranges and/or navigate the long-handled pickers. At the end of the pole is a little series of prongs shaped into a basket; you hook the prongs where the orange meets the stem, give it a little yank or twist, and the orange pops into the basket.
In less than an hour, we had nearly thirty pounds of oranges and grapefruit (Side note: Who wants some oranges or grapefruit?) and we came home raring to do some juicing, peeling, cutting, and slicing. These oranges seemed to hit that rare sweet spot where they’re good for juicing but they’re just as tasty for eating out of hand as well.
While the kids love to eat their oranges plain (who wouldn’t?) I sometimes like to give them a little more kick. I made this orange salad (no lettuce here!) with sliced and peeled oranges, red and green onions, and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.
After that, given that we have so many oranges in the house, we started experimenting with every kind of orange-y recipe we could think of. One of the kids got an ice cream maker for Christmas, so we went to town with this orange ice cream recipe. It calls for two cups of orange juice, and since we now have orange juice in spades, it barely made a dent in our supply. This ice cream is silky-smooth with just a little bit of tang – and it’s especially pretty with a little grated orange rind as a garnish.
I never thought I would say this, but we’re so happy with all of our oranges and all the things we can do with them that we’re thinking about going back to the grove in another two weeks. That’s just the kind of thing that 30 pounds of oranges can do to a person. So if you’ve got the mid-winter doldrums, consider bringing home a bunch of oranges…and see how just a few days’ worth of citrus can brighten just about any mood.