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 »


  • Shawn G
    April 20, 2017 at 7:04 am

    You mentioned that the trees seemed under cared for and had minimal production when you first moved in. What did you do to help rejuvenate the trees and restart their production? I’m a school teacher and I’m renovating our garden and we happen to have two citrus trees with minimal production that need some attention. Would it mostly just be bathing the soil with compost tea?

    • Linda from Garden Betty
      May 18, 2017 at 8:28 am

      I fertilized the trees every few weeks (specific to the types of fruits — there are ones made for citrus) and put them on a consistent watering schedule.

  • Richard K
    September 11, 2016 at 12:34 am

    Have you tried Yuzu Linda? You should plant one!

    • Linda Ly of Garden Betty
      October 15, 2016 at 12:38 am

      I’ve slowly been collecting container citrus trees for my patio (usually a new one each year), and yuzu is the next one I want to get. 🙂

  • Charity Dominic
    October 29, 2014 at 12:36 pm

    I get inundated during citrus season with grapefruits, lemons, and oranges. My arms wear out. Can you suggest an electronic citrus juicer?

    • Linda Ly
      November 3, 2014 at 6:06 pm

      I have an inexpensive model from Hamilton Beach that works well. It takes up very little counter space and has juiced hundreds of citrus by now! Still going strong.

  • Michelle
    December 18, 2011 at 6:51 pm

    Amazing! You are going to have a ton of oranges to juice! Orange Jam is my favorite!

    • Linda Ly
      December 18, 2011 at 10:43 pm

      Ohhh, orange jam?!! I make a marmalade… the recipe is actually going up tomorrow!


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