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.