Growing up on the Murray River in South Australia, I know a bit about oranges.
Each morning, the schoolbus drove past row upon row of grapevines and fruit trees, taking us (reluctantly) to class with kids from Berri, the next town along, with its juice packing plant, cannery and stinky wine makers. We played “baby jesus” under the mandarins and grapefruits on my auntie and uncle’s citrus block. And of course, I’ve surveyed the great, flat sweep of the mallee from the viewing platform of that mighty SA landmark, The Big Orange.
But growing up, I never witnessed fruit trees quite like the ones on the Amalfi coast.
The Italians could teach lawn-loving Anglo Australians something about growing food. In fact – thinking about the fertile backyards of the first generation migrants that lived in my grandfather’s neighbourhood in Adelaide, backyards crammed full of loquats, olives, tomatoes and apricots – they already have.
Even from the train, we could see that every scraggy patch of dirt between the tower blocks on the southern fringes of Naples had its well tended veggies and caged fruit trees. Fennel, broccoli and artichokes found a place between holiday villas and upmarket boutiques on the vertiginous slopes of gobsmackingly gorgeous Positano.
What a grand notion! Fruitful city streets; boulevards and avenues of lemons or pears or mangos! Why doesn’t every city and town look like this? Okay, it might take gun-toting fruit police patrols to keep the street trees looking good for the tourists. Will I lose any shred of PC respectability if I say… it might just be worth it?*
*Obviously, I don’t mean this. Nor, just to clarify, do I support Switzerland’s strategy of recruiting, via conscription, geranium police, a cadre whose mission is to guarantee a consistently high standard of floral displays on balconies throughout the summer months. In case you were wondering.