Fruits / Garden of Eatin'

Valencia… Limes? No, Not Really

Valencia orange tree

I’m sure you must be looking at this picture, thinking, “Obviously, this is an orange tree.” And you would be correct.

But last year, I didn’t have an orange tree. I had a tree filled with bright green orbs all over, and I plucked them all at this stage, thinking they were limes. Don’t laugh.

When I moved into my house last summer, most of the fruit trees were not in good shape. The previous owners had said the mulberry was barely fruiting, and the avocado tree — despite being at least a couple decades old — gave them less than a dozen avocados.

So when I bit into my “lime” and found it dry and bitter, I blamed it on poor fertilization. Or poor watering. Or maybe it was still a little unripe — never considering that maybe it was still a lot unripe!

After I harvested all those awful limes, after I squeezed them over fish tacos and dunked them into beer, I found out that the tree was, in fact, a Valencia orange tree. And the few fruits I had left on the tree because I couldn’t reach them eventually ripened to a brilliant orange color, with the sweetest, juiciest flesh inside.

This year, I finally have an orange tree!

Valencia orange tree

Perfectly round, tender fruits dangle like Christmas ornaments from tree branches. Winter citrus always perks me up after feeling a little sad that the bounty of summer has passed. Now that I’ll have a real harvest of oranges soon, I need to start conditioning my arms for all the juicing I’ll be doing!

Valencia oranges in various stages of ripeness

Nearly ripe Valencia oranges

About Author

I'm a plant lover, passionate road-tripper, and cookbook author whose expert advice and bestselling books have been featured in TIME, Outside, HGTV, and Food & Wine. The No-Waste Vegetable Cookbook is my latest book. Garden Betty is where I write about modern homesteading, farm-to-table cooking, and outdoor adventuring—all that encompass a life well-lived outdoors. After all, the secret to a good life is... Read more »