“Curb your impatience,” came my father’s voice from over the fence. It turns out we were both viewing the ripening oranges from different sides of the fence. “They won’t be ripe enough to pick until late June, but then, “ the pause and the smile on his face said it all. “Picking a fresh lightly chilled orange on a winter’s morning, taking it inside and eating it is absolute bliss.”
From my kitchen window I had noticed a flash of orange in the garden and had wandered out despite the drizzle to check the tree. There is something immensely satisfying about growing your own vegetables or fruit. Dad and I inspected the two-dozen fruit starting to change from deep green to a pale shade of orange.
‘Not bad for a tree that has been neglected for the past 5 years,’ he commented.
Although it isn’t the most Australian of scents, the aroma of citrus blossom was the scent I missed most whilst living in London. When the bare branches of the trees outside my window were being whipped by the bitterly cold winds off the North Sea, I would imagine being back in my small Brisbane garden with the scent of the citrus flowers wafting up in the sunshine.
My tenants weren’t enthusiastic gardeners and each winter when I visited my parents I would look across the fence at my trees that were ugly and misshapen from the Citrus Leaf Miner and the fruit would be lying unwanted on the ground where the fruit fly were having a feast.
My father who was a keen citrus grower watered the Washington navel tree in my front garden whenever he could in the hope of keeping it alive until I returned but the grapefruit and lemon in the backyard were sadly neglected and only just managed to survive.
Now back in Brisbane my first gardening project was to plant as many citrus as possible. Lawns are out, citrus my new black! In my tiny front garden I have planted a veritable orchard: a Tangelo, a Meyer Lemon, a traditional lemon, two orange trees, a Seville orange, two grapefruit, a lime tree and even a blood orange which I know would do better in a cooler climate. I can’t wait until they are mature enough to start bearing fruit.
When I told my daughter Sophie about the oranges she sent me a link to a Radio National story about Julietta Cerin who successfully set up and organises a neighbourhood fruit and vegetable exchange market. Neighbours exchange home-grown fruit and vegetables with each other, also jars for jams and foods made with the produce. I am green with envy at being able to do that. You can watch Julietta on Life Matters or at Vegie Swap.
I think Sophie is a little premature in thinking I will have enough to share but Dad certainly has so many limes he could do something like this. In fact his lime tree in the front garden is enormous and bears more fruit than he and mum can possibly use either in their cooking or their Gin and Tonics.
Because Mum and Dad live on a small inner-city block, the tree spills over onto the footpath and the low bearing limes are very tempting to passers-by, who do occasionally stop and pick a couple for themselves. Being generous people my parents don’t mind, but Mum said she did get irritated recently as she watched a woman greedily fill a basket with limes. And that same woman has returned to do it again. Some people are so greedy. I suggested Mum hang a sign from the tree saying that they didn’t mind people picking the limes, but they would appreciate a jar of lime marmalade or lime pickles in return. She is even prepared to put the jars out by the tree.
It does make me wonder whether people are naturally greedy or just thoughtless. I might be tempted to pick one piece of fruit but I would look around for someone to thank and I certainly wouldn’t do it twice. I am now on the search for gardening forums located around Brisbane and for garden produce to share. Here are a couple of the sites I have found so far are at Brisbane Local Food and Food Connect. I am looking forward to exploring what they have on offer.