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Awake at the Whisk: My Main Squeeze

Monday, August 4, 2008


My Main Squeeze

Most folks jump-start their mornings with a jolt of liquid caffeine. I was once among the coffee addicts of the world. When I quit, cold turkey, it was orange juice that took its place. Each morning, I need a kick in the pants from nature’s sugar to get my own juices flowing.

After reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, I began to resent my fruity, orange wake-up. Every fresh carton or can of concentrate proudly proclaimed, “Florida oranges.” That’s an awfully long haul, and plenty of fuel burned, to bring me a morning cup of nectar. I was ashamed. Meanwhile, up and down the orange tree-lined streets of Sacramento, the beautiful orbs were falling to the ground like unwanted trash. What’s wrong with me?—buying juice from Florida that can clearly be made right here?! The farmers’ markets are teeming with oranges at all times of year. That’s the beautiful thing about citrus. There are varieties that will bare fruit in winter, and other varieties that will fruit in summer. In California, we can proudly gather ripe oranges nearly year-round.

In my kitchen cabinet, sitting alone and waiting for some attention, was my juicer. It’s a simple gadget, purchased for less than $30 at a Target. All it takes is a sliced orange, a bit of pressure, and “Wallah!”—orange juice.

Each week for the past six months or so, I have purchased a large bag of oranges at the farmers’ market. For a whopping price tag ranging between $3-5 for a 10lb bag, I easily fill a large pitcher with fresh-squeezed orange juice. It takes about 20 minutes of my day, once a week. This amount of juice lasts my husband and I exactly one week—until the next farmers market rolls around and I can buy another fresh bag of oranges.

For $5, I could buy a half-gallon of “fresh” orange juice that has just been shipped in from Florida—a trip that would take several days on a refrigerated truck. I could buy this orange juice, which may be made from a concentrate, or which may have added sugars or preservatives. Or, I could spend the same amount of money on a bag of oranges purchased from a local farmer.

Ultimately, my husband and I hope to plant our own orange trees. We have one mature tree already. It ripens in the winter, when we take full advantage of the glorious fruit for orange juice, fruit salads, and succulent snacks. In due time, we hope to plant a summer-ripening variety as well. But in the meantime, we love having quick access to the oranges grown proudly by local farmers.

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