Oranges Beat Mid Winter Blues

January arrived like a cold wet blanket amid still dark winter days. Remedy: lift mood and outlook and set to in kitchen for several hours with large bag or oranges from hot sunny place and proceed to juice, cut, slice and stir, over hot pan. My pan full, bubbled orange with sunshine and bitter sweetness and vapours hot, wafted around me. Inhale deeply from the marmalade cloud. Bliss. And later: half a dozen jars of zingy sunshine marmalade. Feeling much better.

Two heavily orange themed books I’ve enjoyed are Joanne Harris’ quirky book, Five Quarters of the Orange (the power of the orange to cause a mother’s sickness is cruelly exploited by a daughter in post war France) and John McPhee’s book (also quirky) titled Oranges. It’s just a hundred and fifty pages but crammed with fascinating stuff about the orange; from how it went global after getting very big in Florida and then reduced to ‘concentrate’ and almost extinction because a lot of folk in America don’t like peeling oranges. Mr McPhee writes a compelling story.

The second sunny delight this month is a rediscovery of Sicilian blood oranges. As a child I believed eating blood oranges would turn me into a wicked girl but that didn’t stop me eating them, then or now. There is something peculiar about a fruit that bleeds.

Even stranger then to find an orange in my box known to pomologists as a ‘chimera’. Identifiable by a colour change in a section of the orange peel that appears to correspond exactly to the shape of a segment of flesh inside. Something to do with genetics or cosmic rays according to McPhee’s book written in 1966. Anyway thanks to oranges and stories, nature’s deviants and fascinating facts, I got through January with a lot more zest than I usually muster at this time of year.





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