Honey mandarin about ten feet tall growing in Santa Cruz California.
We have a very small lot in Santa Cruz with 20 fruit trees all sharing space. Nothing can match tree ripened fruit. Grocery store fruit, picked green and hard, just can’t compare. They all seem to know and accept their close quarters, grateful for their chance to grow in California. They provide us with more fruit than we can eat and we always give away fruit to neighbors or even strangers walking by. All are trimmed to a compact size but they don’t seem to mind. Mandarins especially grow more vigorously after pruning. We have started and cared for many small orchards over the years. There is one particular tree that I wanted to tell you about. She is a honey mandarin of about 30 years and is in her prime. I had always told her that she grew the best honey mandarins in the world. She knew she was my favorite. We have an apartment in Spain, which is famous for citrus, yet no citrus in Spain can match the honey mandarin. She is a level above them all.
A few years ago I had a brain hemorrhage with internal bleeding. Afterwards, I was having trouble walking and in order to recuperate, I decided I would walk an ancient pilgrimage in Spain called El Camino. I felt walking would heal me and I spent every waking moment thinking about and preparing for El Camino. Six months later, just at the time we were to walk, the honey mandarin produced a bumper crop and we ended up taking mandarins to Spain. Which is kind of ironic as Spain is famous for their mandarins.
One walks for days on El Camino with just a small backpack, a change of clothes and some food. Weight is the enemy of the pilgrim as a few extra pounds makes walking much more difficult. We ate honey mandarins for breakfast on our pilgrimage and left the seeds along the path. It was fortunate that we had mandarins because often times there was no place open for breakfast. I had fed and cared for the honey mandarin all her life and now she was caring for me. Feeding me nutritious fruit as a mother would.
There was one unusual thing about these mandarins that year. They had blue veins running down the sides of the fruit after peeling. I know the honey well and she had never done this before. I think she was telling me that she understood what happened to me with the brain hemorrhage. I have never seen a store bought mandarin do this. In fact, no other mandarin in the yard has blue veins on the fruit and we have several other mandarins. Encore, clementine and gold nugget just to name a few.
I did have to stop working after the brain hemorrhage as I was more than a little messed up, although I am mostly recovered now. But there was one more thing I want to relate to you about the honey mandarin. Previously, she had produced the best mandarins in the world, year after year. It was like clockwork. The same large crops, the same great taste. But after my brain hemorrhage the honey mandarin changed, beyond simply the purple veins. She began to produce different kinds of mandarins, some like Valencia oranges, some like kids fruit punch and some sweet like sugar with no mandarin flavor. She even made some that tasted like “Tang” (the orange flavored powdered drink of astronauts), which I loved as a kid but was never allowed to have. I had never even told the honey mandarin that I liked Tang but somehow she knew.
I believe that the honey mandarin was trying to tell me that even though she made the best honey mandarins in the world, that she did not have to keep doing that the rest of her life. And neither did I, as my work life had ended because of memory problems I was able to walk and bicycle everyday in the hills around Santa Cruz. Everything always works out well for me. It is not exactly words she uses but maybe stories are a better description. She tells stories with fruit. Or maybe I just don’t understand her language yet. I am hoping to learn more.
I could be anthropomorphizing but I don’t believe so. I know the honey mandarin was intentionally helping me. In return, she was able to travel to Spain where her mandarin mothers and grandmothers are from. Many mandarins originated around the Mediterranean region. Her niece is a Clementina of Spain which is my second favorite mandarin. Maybe everyone likes to return to their ancestral home, even mandarins. I know that I still like to see the rolling hills and wooded river valleys of Iowa where I was born, even though California has truly spectacular natural beauty on a stunning scale. Or maybe she helped me for no reason at all but simply because she is the best honey mandarin in the world.