A 5-Pound Box of California Citrus Cures My East Coast Winter Blues

Photo: Emma Wartzman

My mom often tries to convince me to move from New York back home to Los Angeles. To her credit, she does so subtly most of the time. But I have to say, never is she more successful at making me yearn for the other side of the country than when she sends me photos of California produce. “You, too, can have flawless avocados whenever you want,” she says without saying anything at all.

In the summer, I can at least snap back that the cherries and tomatoes are coming soon, even if she gets them first. But in the winter? Well, winter is bleak — particularly late January into February, when the glitter of the holiday season is long gone yet spring still feels more distant than right around the corner. It’s cold. It’s windy. It’s dark. It’s dry.

It also just so happens to be peak citrus season across the coast, a glorious time that simply does not exist here. Lemons and oranges abound, but so do finger limes, limequats, kumquats, Ojai Pixies, blood oranges, mandarins, yuzu, and more. My personal favorite (even if they’re not the most obscure) is Meyer lemons. And so it is an absolute delight — far, far nicer than an iPhone picture, if we’re being honest — when a five-pound box of them shows up on my doorstep right when I am considering destroying my puffer because I just don’t want to look at it anymore.

Photo: Emma Wartzman

My mom sends them from Pearson Ranch, a family-run citrus farm in Porterville, California, in the San Joaquin Valley that offers most of the kinds I listed above (and there are plenty of different farms out there that grow the others). Often a box of pomelos comes, too, as well as a type of orange or two. But it’s the Meyers that really get me. They’re certainly tart — but without the serious pucker of a standard lemon (technically, they’re a cross between that and a Mandarin orange). You can use them anywhere you’d use the regular variety, but they have a rounder, sweeter, less acidic flavor.

Five pounds of Meyers comes out to about 25 pieces of fruit, give or take, piled together in a FedEx box. At $35 with no additional shipping cost, that’s less than $1.50 each. But it’s less about the deal than it is about the sheer joy of opening a big package of perfect citrus that reminds me of sunshine when it is 20 degrees outside and maybe snowing and definitely freezing. They look and feel so much better than the Meyers you find at most grocery stores here in New York, shipped in huge hauls over who knows how many days. They’re plump but taut, a bright and deep color, and incredibly juicy on the inside. The smell is intoxicating.

I immediately pull recipes for lemon bars, lemon poppyseed cake, roast chicken with lemons, and pasta al limone. Whatever I can’t use up in a couple of weeks, I juice and freeze in ice cubes or small deli containers to thaw whenever I want — the gift that keeps on giving. I may be settled in Brooklyn for now, but as my friend aptly replied when he saw my Instagram story of this year’s delivery just a few weeks ago: “The ‘come home’ box arrives.” It’s really (really!) sweet of my mom, but she also wants to remind me what I’m missing.

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