Lemon orchard tour

Here's a photo of Bob from a couple years ago. He's been taking us on the orchard tour for many years now.

Last week, during our annual December trip to Southern California, Steve and I visited our lemon-grower friends in Ventura County, Bob and Sally Grether.

Bob and Sally live on property that Bob's father, an immigrant from Germany, bought in the early 1900s.

First they invited us to lunch. Mexican food (tamales, enchiladas, rice and refried beans) from a renowned little place in nearby Somis.

Bob shows us a block of lemon trees planted two years ago.

Then we climb into Bob’s Ford pickup (he always has a late model Ford pickup) and visit various blocks of lemon trees, stopping along the way for some picking.

I'm amazed that the lemons smell so good. "That's because they're fresh off the tree," Bob says. "The ones you get in the store might be six months old!"

For the fresh market, pickers use clippers to clip the lemons off the tree. But since we’re just picking a few for us to take home, we’re picking them without the clippers.

Even though the tree is full of mature lemons, there are also blooms and buds. Lemon trees in this region of California actually bear fruit all year long, a continual cycle of life defying the idea of seasons. Lemons are harvested four or five—even six—times a year here.

These mature lemons are on the same tree as the blooms. They have a green tinge but they’re ready to pick — since lemons are supposed to be sour, you don’t have to wait for sugar to develop. In the packing house, they’ll turn yellow before they’re sold to grocery stores or restaurants.

Meyer lemons are a little more rounded than the common lemon and have a golden color.

Bob said that Grether Farming Co., which sells through Sunkist, is planting a lot of Meyer lemons these days.  “Chefs love ’em,” he says. The Meyer lemon is a natural hybrid of orange and lemon which was discovered by agricultural explorer Frank N. Meyer in China in 1908.

Row crops, especially berries, have replaced many of the citrus orchards near Grether Farming Co.'s orchards.

“They call this Walnut Avenue because there used to be walnut trees here, “ Bob says. “But in my lifetime, it could have been called Lima Bean Avenue and Lemon Avenue. And after I’m gone, it could well be Strawberry Lane.”

A gift of fresh strawberries was an atypical part of the lemon orchard tour

As we passed a strawberry field adjacent to a lemon orchard, the man on the left waved us down and offered us some strawberries. They were swollen from a recent rain and wouldn’t keep long enough to sell. They were tasty!

We're heading back to the house -- but first, Bob has some citrus specialties to show us.

The peel of Bergamot orange is used for its scent in perfumes, and is also the flavoring in Earl Grey tea.

Buddha's Hand citrons have finger-like lobes, which when pressed together, resemble a hand in prayer. They are used as religious offerings on altars in China and Japan.

The last part of our lemon tour always takes us to the citron tree. Citron is a lemon ancestor which lacks juice but has a wonderful fragrance. Most citrons look like large bumpy-skinned lemons, but the Buddha’s Hand, with its segmented fingers, is an  eccentric variety.

Steve chose out a few smaller ones for us to take home.

The scent of the Buddha’s Hand is said to evoke happiness.

They’re also used as a decoration. I think they did a lot to brighten up the  table in our room at Motel 6!

We did take home a lot of lemons! One can never have too many....

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7 Comments

Filed under lemons

7 responses to “Lemon orchard tour

  1. The photo of the lemons in the suitcase is wonderful!!!

  2. martha

    i agree…love that suitcase one also!

  3. Maggie

    Being as that it was another gloomy, low-cloud, greasy gray winter day here, I needed to see these colorful photos and read the equally illuminating text, thanks Toby.

  4. Jesús

    I grew up near the Grether’s on the next street over from Walnut. I went to kindergarten with their youngest daughter and we remain friends. This was a great tour and I’m glad to see Bob and Sally looking healthy and well!! Somis is an ideallic place to grow up!

  5. Hi Bob and Sally,
    I enjoyed the pictures of you and your ranch.

  6. Hi- I love your pictures. Have you guys ever considered having a “Lemon Orchard Themed Wedding” I’m a resident of Vta County and cannot find the ideal wedding spot. I’m loving the lemon orchard wedding theme. Yellow, Green, Quiet, Romantic Lemon Smell… Would love it if you would share my idea.
    Blanca Estela Huizar

  7. Hi- I love your pictures. Have you guys ever considered having a “Lemon Orchard Themed Wedding” I’m a resident of Vta County and cannot find the ideal wedding spot. I’m loving the lemon orchard wedding theme. Yellow, Green, Quite, Romantic Lemon Smell… Would love it is you would share my idea. Excited to hear from you, Blanca Estela Huizar

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