Oranges and Lemons the Bells of…

When I was a kid, back before the wheel, or so it seems, we used to jump rope to the nursery rhyme:

“Oranges and lemons,” say the bells of St. Clemont’s,

“You owe me five farthings” say the bells of St. Martin’s

“When will you pay me? Say the bells of Old Bailey

…and so on, until your head gets chopped off….

But I’m not talking about St. Clemont’s, or bells, or jumping rope, today I’m talking about the belles of the desert. We have some amazing citrus that grows here in La Quinta and in Indio. Even in my own back yard. I never imagined that I would acquire citrus trees that would be heavily loaded with luscious fruit. Or that my garden would provide some of the most beautiful roses.

I’m sure for those of you who live in colder climates it’s hard to imagine fruit and roses being so plentiful in January, especially as you’re dealing with snow on the roof, and de-icing the windshield. Apart from one ferocious windstorm that almost toppled the palm trees, (the winds topped 90 mph in some parts of the desert, only 65 mph here but it was enough to shake the house and rattle my nerves) we have not had much of a winter. I haven’t worn a heavy jacket or gloves this year. That of course begs the question: will there be a stinking hot early summer? Please, no.

Now, back to the citrus, the oranges are amazing this year, and the Ruby Red grapefruit tree has delivered a bumper crop. I have an allergy to citrus and have to be extremely careful with them. I thought I’d outgrown the allergy, which I’d had since I was a kid. On moving here, I put myself on a grapefruit diet. Big mistake! I had had the grandiose idea of losing weight and doing my general health a ton of good. Instead, I got stuck with a huge bill for a visit to the ER, and then an endoscopy. Apparently the lining of my stomach was irritated and red, like the grapefruit, and I’m lucky I didn’t develop an ulcer.

This past weekend I picked the oranges and gave them away, except for two. If I’m careful and have a half on one day, and then wait a day and have the other half, I’ll be fine. The grapefruit, I dare not think about those. There are so many. And it’s such a shame to not use them.  They’re huge and plump with a nice pink blush to the skin. I sliced one open, so juicy. I had a little taste, so sweet.

This morning I started the “what if?” questions.  What if I packaged them and sent them to people as gifts? What if I took them to my chapter meeting and gave them to writer friends? If the fruit is cooked it doesn’t cause me any harm. What if I bought some mason jars, make a huge batch of grapefruit marmalade that would rival the Scottish brand I love, and then I could share it?

Or, hey, what if this writing gig never takes off? I might need to fill the coffers. What if I started my own business? I could have a stall at the farmer’s market. Can’t you see me sitting in the hot desert sun, slowly melting, or my skin turning brown and leathery? Or with wind and sand blowing in my face, peddling my wares for a dollar a jar? Robena’s Ruby Red Grapefruit Marmalade: organically grown, handpicked fruit, homemade preserves prepared with love…and maybe a cuss word or two. 

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22 Responses to Oranges and Lemons the Bells of…

  1. We have a real abundance of limes, lemons and even small oranges this year in our backyard. We’re in the San Fernando Valley and not the desert, which probably helps. Our neighbors have grapefruit so we get some of their excess, too. Sorry to hear about your citrus allergy, Robena. I certainly enjoy partaking in our crop. Love your entrepreneurial ideas–but keep on writing!

  2. Oh bummer that you’re allergic to citrus! I will say, if you ever want to off-load a bunch onto the chapter, I’m sure you’ll find takers, lol!

  3. Carrie/Betty Proffer says:

    Oh, so jealous. I love grapefruit and oranges, and I’d love for it to be better than 30 degrees. 😉 At least they’re pretty on the trees and give your not-so-wintery winter some lovely color.

  4. Robena Grant says:

    30 degrees? Eeeek! Thanks for dropping in, Carrie.

  5. I want to try some of that marmalade! I’ve never had grapefruit marmalade before. Sounds delish.

    Go buy yourself a big straw hat and set up that stand!

  6. Robena Grant says:

    Hee hee. You know, I’m going to need a money manager just so people won’t steal the jam when I’m not looking. You don’t live that far away….

  7. Delia says:

    That’s it. I’m coming to your house.

    The fruit are lovely. If you do find yourself with more than you can reasonably disperse, local soup kitchens are usually happy to take them off your hands. We do that with the apples around here.

    Enjoy your beautiful garden knowing that you’re the envy of all us northerners. 🙂

  8. Robena says:

    Yep, we have some soup kitchens that will take the citrus, but believe me they get more than they can handle. I have a couple of gardeners who take some off my hands.
    Thanks for dropping in, Delia.

  9. Every January my MIL sends us a HUGE box of Honey Belle oranges… So delicious, so juicy (they come with their own bib)! I have to limit myself to no more than three per day to prevent myself from overdosing on Vitamin C…. mmmm… on that note, I’ve only had two today, I think I’ll go peel another.

  10. Robena says:

    Hi Laura. I like that, they come with their own bib. : )

  11. Thea says:

    Go to your local community college at that big street fair they have going on Sundays, set up shop. Grapefruit with ginger and lapsang suchong tea marmelade is smoky and warm and sweet and citrus, all things good. Or else just cover those suckers in cloves and satin ribbon and give them to *those you cherish as fancy pomanders. From the same era as the rhyme with which you began your post.

    *(me, me! I want me a wonderful grapefruit pomander!)

    • Robena Grant says:

      Oooooh, grapefruit pomanders. There’s an idea. Thanks, Thea.Seriously though, I found a wonderful Scottish recipe for the marmalade. I’m almost done with the rough draft of the WIP, so as it sits and marinates, I will play in the kitchen. : )

  12. Julie says:

    Oh I ADORE citrus fruits,
    and have tried to make trees grow for decades! You must share them around, everywhere you go. Be the Fruit Fairie!

    Also, how do not die of scurvy if you can’t eat these perfect globes of wonderfulness? (I told you I loved them!)

  13. Robena Grant says:

    Ha ha. I shall become the Fruit Fairie and dispense my fruity madness everywhere I go. Hey, maybe that’s what’s wrong with me, I’ve got scurvy.Nah, I take my vitamins. And I can eat some citrus, like strawberries and kiwi, just nothing fresh picked from the tree. Too much acid.

  14. Betty Fokker says:

    I LOVE grapefruit! They would have a good home, here, in my tummy.

  15. Robena Grant says:

    Hey, BF. Wish we lived closer, and I could just drive over with a big bag full. : )

  16. londonmabel says:

    Citrus gives me canker sores. So… I feel ya.

    • Robena Grant says:

      Aww, London, that’s no fun. But you know whenever I give in and eat a little really fresh citrus I always feel a tingle around my mouth. Wonder what would happen if I ate a lot?

    • londonmabel says:

      Yes the tingles! I get those too.

      I used to be able to eat oranges, just couldn’t drink the frozen concentrate stuff. Then one winter while writing papers for school I was eating tangerine after tangerine and woke up with 6 cankers at once! lol

  17. Robena Grant says:

    I’ve heard of people having that problem with mango, London.