This is one of the very last Washington Navel oranges plucked from my favorite tree in the back yard. Please don’t tell my Valencia, my Satsuma or my Ruby Red Grapefruit trees because they will get their feelings hurt and stop producing.
My dad gave me all four of the trees at different times during my adulthood. He worked the citrus ranches around the southeastern section of Kern County during my childhood. Back then, we had orange trees in our back yard and we delighted in the fruit year round.
I once sat in our yard and ate 13 oranges in a row. No one told me to stop. No one told me that I could get sick. No one told me I would ruin my dinner. My dad grew them so we could have vitamin C during the winter and snacks year round. My mom didn’t care that we ate so many, as it was free and healthy eating for me and my brother.
When I got married and we bought our forever home my dad gifted us our citrus trees. The kids were little and they soon became experts at picking the prized Satsumas and gorging on them in the shade of the tree. Even our dog Luna snacks on them occasionally.
My parents don’t like to travel far from home anymore, so they haven’t seen my garden in a very long time. The trees are fully matured and are on the to-do list for pruning and topping. But when I am able to go to their house and I have oranges in season, I pack them a basket full. They are grateful for the fruit and my dad always quizzes me on how I am managing their tree health. The gifts he gave us about 25 years ago have kept us healthy and full.
My favorite are the honey-sweet Washington Navels that are perfect table oranges for the months of January and February. We pick them a few at a time and bring them into the warm house for the last bit of ripening and to keep them out of the mouths of the ravenous raccoons roaming our back yard.
I still eat three or four oranges a day throughout the season and sometimes I eat them all at one time. I covet these oranges so much that I rarely give them away to friends and neighbors.
One thing is for sure, every time I peel one and I pop out its “belly button” I think of my dad, and I miss him.