Fresh Squeezed

It’s a cool crisp morning here in Valencia. Surprise! We woke up to fireworks. Shades of Fallas – reminding us it’s coming and we need to book some rooms out of town for that week. First, it rained and then the sun came out like it inevitably does. A day without sunshine here, in some form, is rare. It’s why this is the perfect environment for growing oranges. They’re called ‘Valencia’ oranges for a reason. I remember pointing this out to my Mom and she said she thought the name came from Valencia, California. Oh my, we are so American.

When Jeff and I arrived here last year on the first of March, the trees that line all the streets in our neighborhood had some oranges on them. We thought ‘Wow! Oranges. How amazing our neighborhood trees aren’t oak but orange.’ And all summer we would walk down the street at night and hear oranges falling on to cars. These had kept growing and were huge. Sometimes when a particularly large one hit the hood of a car it would make us jump.

But the oranges we saw on trees last spring and summer were left over from last year’s harvest. And we started to understand that, after the fragrant orange blossoms early this fall turned into actual oranges on the trees. First green and small, like limes. Then orange and ever growing.

As the days go by the trees get heavier and heavier with fruit. Jeff is tall and he has had to duck under the trees or risk getting hit in the face with a branch of oranges. Everything is perspective and, to us, it looked like it was a bumper crop this year. We’ve speculated on how many people could be fed with these city oranges. It seemed a waste just to let them rot on the vine.

Then, the other day when we were heading out to do some shopping during siesta time, we saw how wrong we had been just last year. A crew of workers were out with this amazing machine harvesting our street oranges. We stood and watched them do their work. The machine shaking the tree of all it’s fruit, right into a hopper. Of course some of them don’t make it the first time and the workers were cleaning up after it. And the air? Oh the air was thick with the scent of oranges. Like some giant was grating orange peels and you could almost taste the oil from the peel in the air. It was so fragrant we weren’t alone in people stopping and taking deep breaths of the perfume.

We watched them for a bit. We can tell where they’ll go next as they have signs and tape up for the next section so cars won’t park there. But we shouldn’t have been surprised. The public works department in Valencia is amazing. They’re constantly sweeping and cleaning and generally tidying up. Go to any park here on every day of the week and they’re raking and pruning. And the oranges are a resource that can be utilized, while being a symbol of the city. Win Win.

Now our orange trees still have some oranges at the top. Maybe 5% of what they had before. Just like they did when we arrived last year and thought how amazing it was that we had orange trees in our neighborhood with actual oranges on them. But now we know just how many there were before the street harvest. And we’ve learned something equally valuable. When we get our car, we will not to park under an orange tree if we don’t want a dented hood in July.

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