This post is all about my family’s visit to our friend’s orange grove located north of San Diego, California.
Wow – this is my first post for 2012! I hope you find it worth reading! ha! ha! I don’t know about you, but I’ve been enjoying my kids’ winter break from school helping my husband with projects around the house. We painted a bathroom, took off the old yucky mirror and added a new framed one. We resealed all the tile floors downstairs. And, we added a new hanging light over our dinner table. Of course, when I say “we” I suppose I mean “the hubby,” but I was clearly directing all the work and purchases! Needless to say, my husband was glad to be back at work, doing his real job and away from my endless “to-do” list!
We did steal away some fun moments. We’ve had exceptionally warm and gorgeous weather here in San Diego, so I did have to let my grumbling worker run off to the beach to go lobster hunting with his buddy. Not much was found, but it was a beautiful morning to be at the beach. A hike here, a brunch there, a round of father-son golf and parties galore.
Don’t be jealous about our winter weather. Sometimes I wish it get super cold and snow. But when we need our winter fix, we can drive to the mountains. Instead, San Diego is a haven for those of you escaping the frigid cold and snowy weather winter usually shares.
For New Year’s Eve we spent the day roaming around Valley Center, an area north of San Diego. A friend of ours invited us orange picking on his land there. He told us we could pick as many oranges as we wanted. But before we went orange hunting, we stopped at one of our favorite family friendly spots, Bates Nut Farm, for a picnic.
Bates Nut Farm is little treasure hidden in rural San Diego County. My kids visited the farm on field trips with the school as well as with my husband and I. Although Bates Nut Farm started out as a walnut farm, they sell a variety of nuts from all over the world: pistachios, pecans, cashews, peanuts, sunflower seeds and so many more. But my kids are just happy to see the animals.
This part of San Diego has evolved a lot over the years. It’s under an hour drive from the coast, and filled with farms, including acres of avocado groves and orange groves. Our friend has a plot of land that he wanted to build some homes on. The area used to be part of a large orange grove, and this plot of land still hand 20 or more orange trees still producing loads and loads of fruit.
After a wonderful lunch and lots of duck chasing and goat watching, we were energized and ready for the next leg of our journey and go orange picking. The oranges on these trees were Valencia oranges. Valencia oranges have thinner skin compared to the navel orange and other varieties, making them great for marmalade. Valencia oranges are also full of juice and perfect for juicing.
Because these trees were leftover from a former orange grove, they have been growing completely organically and largely ignored. And, they were covered with hundreds and hundreds of oranges. We opened several and the kids enjoyed taking dinosaur bites of oranges with the juice dripping all over their sticky, grimy faces. It was an awesome site to see!
Did you know that you can leave the Valencia oranges on the tree for up to two years before picking them? Many of the large oranges we picked were there from last season. The skin thins out as the fruit continues to fill up with sweet juice. The harder fruits were left on the tree to be picked at a later excursion.
We spent hours picking oranges, exploring the area, running around chasing dogs and eating oranges. Needless to say, we picked a van load full of oranges!
This is how we enjoy our winter in Southern California. Don’t be jealous. Now I’m off to make dozens and dozens of recipes using these beautiful oranges!