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Monday June 10, 2013

Oranges are the only fruit

There I was picking oranges in the orchard when a very English voice began calling to me from the gate. I hopped off the ladder and went over to see my unexpected guest who it transpired was a holidaying hill walker who’d lost her way on the outskirts of Soller and ended up on our dead end track. After offering her directions I wondered why she seemed reluctant to head off.

Finally she plucked up courage to ask for an orange. In fact so enchanted was she by the vision of the golden globes hanging heavy from the trees, that I invited her to take as many as she pleased. I haven’t seen such a look of intense joy on a face for some time.

Once again, it made me realise how lucky my husband and I were to have such a healthy and abundant crop of citrus fruits right on our doorstep. Of course here in Soller you can’t give them away. At the height of the season everyone dreads the moment when a friend turns up at a dinner party clutching a bulging bag of oranges – coals to Newcastle comes to mind. So when we have a surfeit on our own land, we head off to Palma and distribute bags of fruit to friends living in apartments, knowing that they won’t turn us away at the door. So plentiful is the fruit that many Sollerics place boxes of oranges in front of their homes, instructing visitors to help themselves.

Of course now is the month when local oranges have reached their peak. One of my favourite varieties, the sweet and exceptionally juicy Canoneta from the Blanca family, has graced the valley for nigh on 700 years, and was purportedly the orange most favoured by Louis XIV and he knew a thing or two about oranges. Not only did he commission the building of the orangerie at Versailles with its 3000 orange trees but he also invaded the province of Orange, thus putting William III (of Orange) severely out of sorts.

To celebrate the new crop, the town holds an annual orange festival from 1- 16 June known as Fira de la Taronja. For a set price of just €23, 17 local restaurants in the area create sumptuous three course menus themed around oranges, often trying to outdo one another on the creativity stakes. It’s a perfect opportunity for citrus aficionados to gorge themselves silly for a few weeks at different culinary emporiums in the port, town and nearby villages.

So in truth I totally understood the euphoria felt by my unexpected guest at the garden gate. Long before I moved to rural Majorca, I remember the thrill when on holiday in Greece an elderly local offered me lemons from her tree. It is after all the simple things in life that give most pleasure and with a bumper crop of fruit increasing the fortunes of the valley annually, for Soller, at least, the future is orange.

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