Thursday, 4 August 2011



We have been house hunting, and visiting the home of a Greek colleague, and for the first time in many years I have seen gardens with fruit trees.

This time of the year they have clouds of blossom and the ground is carpeted with pink and white flowers.

We have never had a garden large enough for fruit trees in the UK, but the story was very different in our gardens back home.

A large "Tukee" tree in the back with fruit we could collect by leaning over the roof wall formed the outer margin of the grape vine supporting trellis or "qamaryia", an orange tree to the front, a lemon tree to the back and a "lalengee" tree in the middle just outside the kitchen window were all well established when we arrived.

The pear tree in the front corner was planted by my mother, and the date palm in the rear corner by my father when there was some rule or other that date palm planting was a national duty, but I have no idea who planted the Seville orange trees or when.

They ran in a row, just outside the front wall of the garden, four or five trees packed together just beyond the bougainvillea. Creating a screen of branches and leaves, and a shady area in the front garden where delicate flowers and herbs flourished.

Our Narinj trees were different to the ones in my grandmother’s house in that they had been left to their own devices, and not used to cultivate alternative fruit, one of her trees had a branch of oranges and another of sweet lemons, our Narinj trees produced only Narinj.

After the blossom had been and gone, the fruit, with it distinct smell, and thick craggy orange peel would be plentiful, hanging heavily dragging the branches down. Eventually almost all would fall onto the pavement outside the house or occasionally onto the flowerbeds below.

Passersby would collect some of the sour oranges, the neighbours would be offered some, a few jars of marmalade would be made, and the rest would usually go to waste.

Until one year, for one reason or other parents decided that waste was a bad thing, and that we children would be tasked with collecting all the fruit, squeezing the oranges and then storing the tart juice in a variety of methods for use during the months that followed.

Friday arrived, and the job started, collecting all the fallen fruit, and then climbing up the borrowed ladder to remove the remaining orange balls from the trees, with three or four large tubs full of fruit and water we doused each other instead of washing the fruit, and for several hours after that sat on little chairs in the garden squeezing hundreds of half oranges with the small glass and plastic manual juicers, then decanting into a selection of brown and green bottles salvaged from storage, and sterilized with boiled water.

Some of the juice was used fairly soon after that as an alternative to lemon juice or vinegar, and went particularly well on our Friday morning fried eggs, and of course with the boiled chick peas we would sometimes buy from the” lebleby lebleby” shouting man with his little mobile stove-in-a-trolley.

Someone had suggested the bottles be sealed with a layer of oil to keep them from spoiling, I am not sure what we did wrong, but when we eventually brought these bottles out from the storage cupboard under the stairs the fermented content had become wine like, and it was virtually all discarded.

My mother, having her doubts about this storage process and with years of experience freezing dates, whole grapes and berries decided to freeze some of the juice and thankfully not all was lost, the bags of frozen juice kept us going for a year, and two jugs of sweetened juice were converted to a summer’s supply of refreshing ice lollies.

saminkie said...
Oh dear, what can I say about this post? It is wonderful how you talked about those memories. I smiled so wide, so deep when I was reading your description for those memories. You pinched my memory between your fingers and throught it high, in the sky, where it started dividing into small colored balls, to let tham fall all in my uncles garden where I grew up. My memory balls started bouncing around the garden while you described experiences that I, and many Iraqis, share. It was so nice. You expressed it so well. I especially liked that "leblaby..leblaby ". Thank you .
27 April 2008 14:17

3eeraqimedic said...
Dear Sami
I am so pleased you liked this, it strated with a lemon tree that propted a single memory, but somehow a few other things got triggered along the way into a cascade of word, smells and smiles.
Take care

27 April 2008 18:31

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