|Louisiana Pink Grapefruit with morning dew. Taken with Sony A77/16-50 2.8|
When last spring came, our little tree held forth with all manner of fragrant white blossoms. Jessie, the practical one, suggested that we give the little tree a year to grow and remove the newly-formed marble-sized fruit that followed. "No," I said, "I want grapefruit." Nature took care of some of the decision as fruit fell off over the course of the summer, the majority between the quarter and lemon size stage. As Jessie predicted, the branches devoid of fruit grew handsomely, while the half-dozen grapefruit that made it to the fall continued to grow fat.
There are deep historical ties between Christmas and citrus. The origins of the connection between oranges and Christmas go back to old St. Nick himself, a story better told by the keepers of his memory than cribbed here by me. Trade between the Mediterranean (particularly Spain, Corsica, and Sicily) and Northern Europe supplied its manor houses with citrus for centuries. In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century it became en vogue to add an orangery to one's estate, making the ability to pluck fresh citrus from one's own trees in drab gray England or Poland the ultimate mark of status. We have no need build an orangery onto our New Orleans home, but we have been known to throw some old bedsheets on the citrus, hibiscus, and other sensitive plants during those rare freezes. Somehow the look is more vagabond than regal.
I have always loved the decoration of the Della Robbia wreaths found in the South (and made by the Boys Republic program in Los Angeles still today) to be an attractive expression of the region's flora. Here in New Orleans we are treated to the fall blooming of bougainvillea and camellia - and the groaning weight of Meyer lemons, oranges, satsumas, and grapefruit bending the limbs of neighborhood citrus trees.
|Ready to eat!|
Our first grapefruit was just as sweet as we could have wanted. Still firm and a tinge green on the outside, it was a lush pink on the inside, full of juice and flavor. In my mind's eye, I see this tree growing large, producing enormous amounts of fruit and enabling us to share this tradition with friends and family who either don't live here or haven't gotten around to building that orangery.