Orange You Glad We Have Citrus in Tucson?

By Sarah Jane Price, one of Tucson’s own, on locally-grown.

In the very beginning of the eighteenth century, a time before our desert belonged to the United States or even Mexico, a humble priest spread his influence through the Sonoran. Father Eusebio Kino (ever wonder where Kino road got its name?) laid the foundations for San Xavier Mission in 1700, and around the same time pressed the first citrus seeds into what would become Arizona soil. By the 1900’s our state proudly dedicated over 40,000 acres to the commercial growth of citrus, a number that has sadly been on the decrease ever since. Only about half of that land is still being used in citrus production, and today only one grove remains in Tucson.
Desert Treasures Citrus and Date Groves is appropriately located on Orange Grove road, where 460 boastful trees offer a range of citruses from oranges and mandarins to lemons and grapefruits. The grove is carefully nurtured with organic fertilizers, well water, and the complete absence of pesticides. During fruitful seasons, Tucson’s farmers’ markets are painted with their bright and zesty display. Navel oranges, lemons, kumquats and mandarins kick-start the season, appearing in mid-December. They are followed in January by a range of sweet oranges with fancy names such as Travitas, Arizona Sweets, and Valencias. Grapefruits make their first appearance in late January, and we are privileged to choose between the traditional Red, Ruby Red, Pink, Cocktail, and White varieties. Fill your basket with these while you can, as their supply will begin to dissipate as summer peeks over the horizon.

The season of citrus is here- and we’re throwing a party. Join us in celebrating the arrival of our zesty friends at the annual “Citrus Fest”, held this weekend. Most of the excitement can be found at the Oro Valley Farmers’ Market on January 22nd, where Chef Colin King of Harvest Restaurant will demonstrate his culinary talents to eager shoppers. Collect his useful tips, recipes from the farmers, and all of the freshest local ingredients for your continued celebration of citrus at home. If you can’t make it Saturday, do not despair: Sunday’s farmers’ market at St Philips Plaza (at the intersection of River and Campbell) and Friday’s Farmers’ Market at Jesse Owens Park will feature the same great products and ideas. This once-a-year fiesta honors both the fruits we love and the men and women who work year-long to keep them growing in our backyard. ¡Viva Naranja!

Lemon Cake
3 medium eggs
3 cups of flour
2 cups of sugar
1 cup of buttermilk
3/4 cup of butter
2 Tlbs. of lemon juice

Preheat your oven 350 degrees. Cream the sugar and butter together. Add 1
egg at a time until all 3 eggs are well blended. Combine flour, salt and baking
soda; add to mix, alternating with buttermilk. Stir in lemon juice, grated rind
and vanilla. Pour all ingredients into well greased 10 inch tube pan or 9 X 5 inch
loaf pan. Bake for 60 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.
While cake is still hot, prick with fork and pour lemon glaze over top.

Lemon Glaze

Mix together
1 c. powdered sugar
1/3 c. lemon juice