I Owe M.F.K. Fisher (Another) Favor

I’m amazed at how quickly I’ve become used to having two citrus trees in my life. I didn’t realize this was part of the package when I moved in, i.e. I thought the gardeners took care of the trees. Dealing with all the fallen fruit is a drag, but, all in all, it’s worth it to have the great fruit around.

I came late to this year’s party. Most of the tangerines and a slightly lesser amount of the navel oranges have wound up as windfall trash, alas. I’ve been tossing out about 130 tangerines every week (yes, from just the one tree) since I moved in the end of December. I’m not alone. Our local trash company asks that if you have more than thirty pounds of fruit to dispose of to bag it separately.

I did connect with a nice family at the Sun City farmers market who make and sell their own preserves. They give people free jams for their fruit. They were able to salvage only about five gallons of the tangerines, which are drying out, but I’ll be giving them a call earlier next winter. The tangerine preserves, by the way, taste like a sort of lemony apricot rather than “orangy.” Good stuff. I also have a note to contact the local food bank about having my tree “gleaned,” but there’s actually a waiting list to make donations. The legend is that a few decades ago, Smuckers used to buy citrus from Arizona residents for their marmalade, but had to stop because of pest control issues. So, yeah, we got a lot of fruit.

ProvenceThe tangerines were very tasty, but the navels are incredible. They’re so ripe now, I’m thinking in wine-speak about “top notes” and “finishes” while noshing on them. There’s much less loss from that tree, and I’ve given the neighbors carte blanche for harvesting. (Of course, about half of them have their own trees to deal with.) Even so, I’ve still been trying to come up with ways to use and perhaps preserve the oranges we’re not eating fresh. The all-fruit blender sorbet thing was unimpressive (and all that fiber does a number on your digestion.) Too much fruit. A high-class question for sure, but still a problem. What to do with all these little orange treasures?

This morning, while I was listening to Luke Barr’s Provence 1970, I got my answer. In the prologue, M.F.K. Fisher waxes rhapsodic, as she is generally wont to do, about dried tangerines. She would put the segments on her radiator for a few hours, and then chill them outdoors. I’m using a food dehydrator on sliced navels, but I’m still grateful for the idea. Apparently the dried slices are a nice snack, and can also be pulverized to make an easy addition to baked goods or sauces. Might be a nice give-away to the neighbors, too. Thanks, Mary Frances.

To be continued…

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