Monday, July 13, 2009

The Blood Orange

Isn't that the most Gothic (Gothically? Gothetically?) named fruit?!
Say it aloud in dark tones with me, let the words drip with gore "The...BLOOD...Orange!"

I would have thought that with all the vampire chic going around these fruit would be enjoying a heyday, but stuff me if I know where to get them from normal channels. I have recently been given a small bag for free from Ma & Pa's neighbour (yes, Peter, whom I'm sure has been mentioned in the past at least once) and who is my best line on farm-fresh cauliflowers. During summer we are inundated by tomatoes the size of my head (Bullocks Heart the variety is called in case you feel your tommies are inadequately sized. A few people call Custard Apples by this name so double-check. Not that it would be horrible to end up with custard apples, but they're trees, not vines, and are no good for making sandwiches or salads. But I digress) and in winter it is mandarins and oranges.

I've never really gotten too excited, after all mum's been getting gamey, tart little mandies and tight, terse oranges off her trees for a while now and I figured it would be more of the same. No biggie, so normally I let Little Sister totally snaffle all the produce she wants, and it can take me a whole week to eat a single orange or mango due to my love of anticipation and enormous capacity for self-denial. In fact sometimes I have looked forward to it for so long it is no longer edible.

Last weekend, when Little Sister said she was planning a trip to the orchard, I thought I'd tag along. The fruit from the supermarket has been utterly deplorable for the last month and I had never laid eyes on this promised Eden so if nothing else it would make a nice diversion for an hour or so. She always gets this happy glaze to her face when she talks about the place and now I am a convert too.

We stood in the bountiful grove (that required a 4WD to get to) and plucked the most delicious fruits from the trees and ate them with the sun warming us and bees buzzing merrily around the flowers of the next crop. The soil was a rich, soft black and every tree was heavily laden with ripe or ripening fruit. We walked for a while, just to say the names and guess the varieties and we just didn't know them all. It was gorgeous.

Two trees were stripped bare of fruit and we crossed our fingers that the goods were waiting at the farm. Loaded with stuffed bags of fruit, we ventured back towards roads. Little Sister leapt onto the large box of fruit waiting on the front porch of the farm and then let out a long shuddering sigh of pleasure - here they were - the Blood Oranges. Very bravely she watched as we divvied up the total, a few here, a few there, some for so and so, and here Grandad you try a few, and then the rest were tucked safely into the boot of the car.

Have you ever seen them? They look normal enough from the outside, maybe with a faint hint of pink on the skin. I'm told that colour gets stronger with each frost (we've had such a mild winter here, these ones are barely blushing) and then you cut them open, and from the skin and pith in, depending again on the frosts, they're deep rich pink like fresh blood cut with a little water. And they bleed too - so juicy you can't help but want to lick them. The flesh is soft and pulps easily and quickly. These are a little tart from lack of frost, as though there's cranberries snuck into the blend. So very very delicious.

I've counted mine, and am rationing them out, one at a time, as an aperitif to breakfast and dinner. We're all on the lookout for another source now. You don't know anyone with a tree do you? Now I understand why my sister stands over her baby tree and wills it to blossom and grow. Peter could charge whatever he wanted for these and we would be reduced to stealing car stereos to pay him.

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