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On the hunt for a vainiglia orange



bergamot-292Spring is here and with it the uncertain weather that brings on late winter colds and flu. Just as well the citrus are ripening, ready to boost immune systems and add cheer to a dull day. Large round balls of orange glisten on the trees. From the scent of the flowers through to the fruit, an orange-citrus tree is a pleasure in any garden. There are varieties that ripen from now through till autumn. Mandarins and Valencia oranges are ripening now. I have a Harwood late orange that ripens from summer through to autumn.

I have cleared my top terraces to make room for more citrus trees. One ugli was not enough last year and I am planting another. Citrus can be prone to borer, and a tree that was flourishing can suddenly die as did my grapefruit last year. If there is room it is a good idea to plant more than one.

Last week we had dinner with Nat and Jac who began the first garden centre here, just up the road in Devon Street. Later they built a nursery on the corner of Molesworth Drive and Moir Point Rd. Nat served a dessert made from vainiglia pink oranges. An acidless fruit, the segments are pink, juicy and so sweet that Nat said she had squeezed lemon juice over them to increase some tartness.

Originally from Italy, the vainiglia orange is also known as vanilla orange, strawberry orange or mango orange. The fruit ripens between August and September. It is ideal to juice and blends well with limequats and lemonades. The tree is small to medium sized and very productive.

I knew nothing about vainiglia oranges and went on a search for them. Ces at the market said he’d had them but no one bought them. Like me not many people had heard of them. Ces says he is hoping to supply both limequats and finger limes in the future. At the moment he has Yen Ben lemons, Meyers, blood oranges, kumquats and a parent navel orange, which he says is a wonderful large commercial variety.

In my search for a pink vainiglia, in Mitre 10 Warkworth, I came across a bergamot orange. I had quite wrongly assumed that the bergamot flavour in Earl Grey tea comes from the herb bergamot. In fact, it is the essence extracted from the aromatic skin of the bergamot orange that provides the flavour. Bergamot oranges are mostly grown in southern Italy, France and Turkey.

I had been planning to plant a bergamot for my tea plantation and have discovered that being a small to medium tree it too is ideal for my small terraces. The fruit resembles an orange in size and shape but is more yellow in colour with flesh similar to a lime. Apparently it makes great marmalade and recent studies have revealed that it has compounds similar to commercial chemicals that are given to lower cholesterol. I’ve decided to devote one terrace entirely to them.

There are other blood oranges worth mentioning. Blood orange moro from Sicily is acidless and has the most colourful fruit with deep red flesh. Colour in blood oranges depends on the climate. The hotter and drier the more colour. I am still on the hunt for a vainiglia. I hope I find one soon or I will have already filled my terraces.

VARIETY: Bergamot orange fruit is somewhere between bitter orange, mandarin and lime with its distinctive flavour.

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