Chomp. “Looks like they got that one.”
Understatement alert, hon, but yeah.
And yet. I haven’t stopped planting more fruit.
When I was a teenager they were building a Mormon chapel closer to home and the locals were asked to pitch in and do fundraisers to help speed things along. (These days, it’s all handled from Salt Lake City to even out the resources between communities.)
Dad had heard of a friend of a friend who really knew his citrus and who was driving truckloads of a type of mandarin none of us had ever heard of from Florida to the DC area for fundraisers for various groups–they get their fundraiser, lots of people discover what was/still is said to be the best-tasting citrus there is, he gets paid for driving his truck, everybody wins. So Dad asked for the guy’s phone number.
And that is how he and Joe Ney became good friends with a shared enthusiasm and purpose. After that building in Potomac, Maryland was finished, Dad continued to commission a truckload every Christmas.
Because everybody who’d bought a case of those juicy Page oranges (technically, tanangelos, a Minneola cross crossed with a mandarin) came back for more whenever they could; there was nothing like them and they were too small to go big commercially and I don’t think they kept particularly well so you couldn’t get them unless you had some kind of a connection to them down South. Dad wasn’t about to let go of enjoying and sharing the best of the best every December, so, if it was a truckload he had to order, a truckload it would be–sign the sheet and state your number and give everyone on your gift list a box and know that they’ll never forget it and they’ll forever be grateful.
Then a major freeze hit Florida. For all the misting and wind-machining and whatever all else they could do, most of the Pages didn’t survive, and since it was such a niche market to begin with and young trees were the most susceptible to the next frost, most growers simply didn’t replant them.
Then Joe Ney dropped dead of a heart attack. (And I hope his family somehow sees this post and knows what a great gift he shared with so very many people and how grateful we all are.)
And I have not had one of these beautiful, deeply colored, juicy, paper-thin, easily peelable almost always seedless little balls of exquisiteness since. The Cuties they sell every Christmas? That’s like an old Hersheys vs. Scharffenberger, or even more now that those two have the same owner, vs. the fantastic upstart Tcho’s.
I wrote here Tuesday about whether anyone had any fruit varieties to recommend for my newly-cleared fenceline. I got a private note asking me if tangerines could grow where I am?
Ding ding ding. That was it!! THAT was what some corner of my brain had been struggling to dredge out of the depths! Richard! We could grow our own PAGES!!!
Oh I cannot tell you how excited I was.
Which quickly got tempered by not being able to find a single source outside of Florida that night, much less one anywhere that would ship to me. There’s a quarantine on citrus trees around southern California, no help there either.
I tried again the next day. Help me out here, Google.
Google came through. Google is my friend.
And so it was that there is a grower in northern California who sells three-year-old Page tanangelo trees for $40 and says that they’re large enough that they should be producing the next year after planting. Wow!
Monday Chris’s stump grinder guy comes to give me a bid on how many stumps I want taken out and where. Monday Four Winds Growers mails out my tree by third-day UPS. Not wasting a moment here, and I had to call my mom, and when Dad wasn’t home I had to call back later to talk to him directly: after all those years after those last boxes, we are going to have Page oranges again!
The one glitch? That no-freezing thing. But if the next-door neighbors can tent their young and vulnerable orange tree with a giant lightbulb inside last January, and they did, and they celebrated their 50th anniversary something like ten years ago, seems to me I should be able to manage doing that just fine myself. Or ourselves. (And let’s see, if I get a Gold Nugget variety too we can have mandarins in winter and spring and early summer…)
Just one tree for now. Pages are also rare in that they’re a citrus that is nearly thornless–and I have grandchildren to keep from getting scratched up. I’ll keep it short enough to stay inside one of my new walk-in-size fruit cages; that should thwart the raccoons at least for a little while. (My brain is suddenly singing Little Boxes.)
Some part of me knew when I wrote that throwaway line ending that blog post that I really really did want…something….
Imagine looking forward to your first bite of chocolate in 37 years. It’s like that.
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