As a kid living in the country we enjoyed a seasonal treat sent to us by my grandad who vacationed at Vero Beach every winter. He sent a bushel of citrus fruit packed in green straw for Christmas. Inside we found dozens of oranges and monster grapefruit, tangerines, and strange little kumquats.
The memory comes back to me now as last Friday the USPS delivered a box to our front door. Puzzled, we opened it to find a similar trove of tangelos. Nearly three dozen, unbidden, but happily accepted. It turns out that a distant friend in California went out to his backyard and picked them for us.
I say unbidden, because we had no idea he lived in Claremont, California, and that his home was built on 40 acres of grapefruit. He sent these along, perhaps as a thank you for a couple of books which I had sent to him. The return of the tangelos was a happy surprise, but the best was yet to come.
We in the north do not grow citrus fruit, or certainly not to eat. I have a few Texas grapefruit plants in a pot taking up the winter sun in the den. They get outside in the summer. These plants will be converted to bonsai. It takes about 25 years, so I am planning on that. But that’s another story.
The tangelos are larger than tangerines, but smaller than oranges. At least these were. In fact, they are hybrid of a tangerine and pomelo, a type of grapefruit. They peel like a tangerine, very easily, and are particularly absent of any pips.
After reading the friend’s accompanying letter, I learned that he picked these from two trees in his backyard. That in itself is nearly astounding. We are forking out $$1.99 a pound for oranges at the grocery store, and he’s growing them wild over the shed out back.
He went on to explain that they are easily peeled, but his preferred entree is chilled and then quartered to be eaten like Don Corleone did in The Godfather. Orange smile!
So, waiting no longer, I grabbed one, and literally popping off the skin, sectioned the fruit into segments and stuffed them into my mouth. One bite, and the juice spurted out like a tomato, and the flavor of fresh citrus exploded in my mouth. The tangelo was sweet and tangy, and rich. I could sense thousands of little vitamin Cs all lining up for a march across my tongue.
We could not believe our good fortune, or the thoughtfulness of our distant friend who marched his product down to the post office for our pleasure. Paying it forward, we bagged up a dozen for an older couple who lived down the street. At their door I assured them these were a sure complement to any COVID vax they might get, a certain cure for scurvy, and twelve doses of pure delight.
Our task ahead is to finish up the box rapidly while these little gems convert to pure sugar.