A lot of things go over the porch rail here at Pure Florida HeadQuarters (PFHQ).
Things like coffee grounds, vegetable scraps from making salads, onion peels, and a host of other plant-based compostables.
All of this is considered sheet compost for the sandy,nutrient-poor Florida "soil".
This dumping is socially acceptable here, where it might not be in your suburban yard because we have no neighbors in visual range.
PFHQ sits in a hole in our forest, smack in the center of our 10-acre kingdom.
You could sip tea on the porch in your birthday suit all day and maybe only surprise the UPS guy on rare occasions.
Every once in a while, I throw a little dirt on the composting veggie scraps and turn the soil. We call this a flower bed, but it's really made up of perennials like amaryllis, daylilies, plumbago shrubs, a lemon tree, and cape honeysuckle.
Point is, it's more green than flowery anyway and all this green hides the compostieness of it all.
But what about the Porch-spit Seed-grown Orange Tree Flavor Mystery?
I'm getting to that... just setting the scene.
See, there is one other thing that gets launched over the porch rail.
Got a juicy peach or pear?
Eat it over the porch rail and spit seeds.
It's that last one that started the mystery.
Sometime, about 8 years ago, an orange seed arced over the rail and landed in just the right place beneath the plumbago where no weeding or tilling ever happened.
And it grew.
I remember first spotting it and thinking, "I should dig up that little guy and move it."
But I didn't.
When the little seedling survived the record-setting winter of 2009-2010, I decided 2 things.
1) This must be a sour-orange tree. They are notoriously cold hardy.
2) Any citrus that survived weeks (1-inch thick ice in the goldfish pond that lasted for 10 days!) of below-freezing temps deserved to live.
The thing about citrus tree varieties is that many are hybrids and seeds from that supermarket orange often don't produce the same fruit you ate. In fact, they seem to revert back to sour orange.
So I expected the tough little tree baby to eventually produce sour oranges.
Over the years the tree grew taller than the porch roof. It had all the signatures of the sour orange trees you sometimes find in the woods.
Those being wicked 4-inch woody thorns and being impervious to North Florida Winters.
As it grew, I trimmed away branches that overhung the porch and all thorns below 6 feet.
If you've ever raised up after weeding and rammed your head into a 4-inch long wooden thorn, you know why.
The tree grew lush and green and I became its lawyer when it needed defending.
I've got your bark, tree.
"Someday it will bloom and won't it be great to sit here on the porch and smell that magic."
"Yes, it will probably be a sour orange, but there are all kinds of Cuban recipes that require sour orange, so win-win if it is."
Along the way, the tree hosted swallowtail larvae, a cardinal nest, and countless anoles.
Eventually, the tree won over everyone, when it bloomed earlier this year.
Not just one bloom, but a host of them from top to bottom.
The green fruit soon followed. I worried that Hurricane Irma might take them with her winds, but they hung on.
Recently, after a series of strong cold fronts came through, the once green oranges completed their change to orange.
It was time.
Time to pick that first orange, slice it, taste it, and solve the Porch-spit Seed-grown Orange Tree Flavor Mystery.
I was totally sure that it would be sour as I sliced through the thin skin and quartered the test orange.
The thin skin separated cleanly for an easy peeling experience.
I raised the section to my mouth and bit into it ...
SWEET, SWEET, SWEET!!!!
I would have been happy either way, but yes, I was hoping against hope that it would be a sweet orange tree.