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100 years of Sweetness

100 years of Sweetness

 The 100-Year-Old Washington Navel Orange Tree: A Cherished Family Heirloom

There's something magical about a fruit tree that has been around for over a century. Such is the case with my family's Washington navel orange tree, which was planted by my great aunt over 100 years ago when she immigrated to Northern California from Portugal. Despite its age, the tree continues to produce an abundance of sweet, juicy oranges each year that we use to make the best marmalade in Placer County. In this blog post, I'll take a deeper look at the history of the Washington navel orange and share with you why it holds such a special place in our family's heart.

The Washington navel orange is not just any ordinary fruit. It's a citrus variety that has a rich history and has become a symbol of California's agricultural history. Its roots can be traced back to Bahia, Brazil, in the early 1800s, where it was known as the Bahia navel orange. In the late 1800s, a U.S. Department of Agriculture official named Eliza Tibbets brought two Washington navel orange trees from Brazil to Riverside County, California, where they quickly became a commercial success. The orange variety was named after the town of Washington, which was near Tibbet's family's home in Massachusetts.

The Washington navel orange gained popularity for many reasons. Firstly, it had seedless flesh, making it easier to eat and more appealing to consumers. Secondly, it had an easy-to-peel and thick skin, which helped protect the fruit during transportation. But most importantly, it tasted amazing. It was juicy, sweet, and had a hint of tanginess that made it stand out from other citrus varieties. It wasn't long before the Washington navel orange became the most popular citrus fruit in California.

Apart from its commercial success, the Washington navel orange tree also has a unique and fascinating life cycle. The fruit grows at the base of the tree, and the tree's branches are thorny, making it challenging to harvest. When the fruit is ready to be picked, it detaches easily from the tree and usually falls to the ground, where it can remain for weeks without spoiling. The oranges are harvested during the winter months, and it can take up to a year for the fruit to mature fully.

For my family, our Washington navel orange tree holds a special place in our hearts. Every year, we spend hours picking, cleaning, and peeling the oranges, which we use to make the best marmalade in Placer County. The marmalade has a perfect balance of sweetness and tanginess, and we often give it to friends and family as gifts during the holiday season. Our great aunt would be so proud if she saw the legacy she left behind in this beautiful tree. Her love of gardening and the Washington navel orange lives on through the generations and continues to bring us joy every winter season.

The story of the 100-year-old Washington navel orange tree is more than just about a fruit tree. It's a reminder of California's agricultural history and the hard work and dedication of many individuals who made it a commercial success. It's also a reminder of the importance of family traditions and the love that we pass down from generation to generation. My family's Washington navel orange tree is more than just a beloved heirloom; it's a symbol of our great aunt's love of gardening and the legacy she left behind. We are forever grateful for this beautiful and magical tree and the abundance of sweet, juicy oranges it provides every year.






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