Friday, October 3, 2014

the last book I ever read (Oranges by John McPhee, excerpt two)

from Oranges by John McPhee:

Out of the bewildering catalogue of orange varieties and strains, the Valencia has emerged in this century as something close to a universal orange. It is more widely and extensively planted than any other. From Florida and California and Central and South America to South Africa and Australia, Valencias grow in abundance in nearly all the orange centers of the world except Valencia. Having given the world the most remunerative orange yet known, Spain now specializes in its celebrated strains of bloods and navels. Only two per cent of the Spanish crop are Valencias, and perhaps only half of that comes from the groves of Valencia itself; much of the remainder grows in old, untended groves near Seville, where cattle wander through and munch oranges on the trees, on either bank of the Guadalquivir.

The Valencia is a spring and summer orange, and the Washington Navel ripens in the fall and winter. The two varieties overlap twice with perfect timing in California—where, together, they are almost all of the total crop—and the orange industry there never stops. In Florida, the Valencia harvest begins in late March and ends in June, and for about four months there is no picking. Florida grows few navel oranges, somewhat to the state’s embarrassment. Florida growers tried hard enough, some seventy or eighty years ago, but the Washington Navel, in the language of pomology, proved to be too shy a bearer there. Instead, to meet the fall and winter markets, Florida growers have a number of locally developed early varieties to choose from, and in the main they seem to prefer three: the Pineapple Orange, the Parson Brown, and the Hamlin.

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