Off the Grid Calamansi

I grew up with a calamansi tree in our backyard. For those of you who don’t know, calamansi is Philippine lemon only it is shaped like an orange and it is as small as a grape. I will add an original picture to this post when the rain has passed and I am able to take a picture outside.

When I was young, we would pick calamansi from the backyard whenever we needed it. I remembered that we grew the biggest calamansis I have ever seen in my life! They were about an inch and a half in diameter (almost like a small dalanghita – a local green orange) People visiting did not even want to believe that they were calamansi but, yes, they are. Tangerines with a sour high note and a sweet mid-note – those were tastes of the ones from the backyard. You can get twenty at a time and it would be fine. Calamansi juice is the family favorite and using calamansi to marinade beef brings out an exciting tangerine to the taste buds once cooked.

Today, I was making hummus for the first time and I planned to again alternate lemon with calamansi in the recipe I found. It was time to harvest due to need. It was raining today so it was extra difficult to walk in slippers on the rain submerged grass. When I got to the tree, I could not find any fruit at the bottom of the tree, only small malnourished ones at the top that I could not reach. I went back into the house disappointed. This year, was the hottest time in Philippine history and the tree suffered for that. Instead of growing big like they used to, the fruits ripened right away in their small size. The leaves also fell and the tree is less lush.

When dad got home, I told him about it. I said it was the first time that getting calamansi was a problem. He told me there are some inside the refrigerator. I asked where. When we harvested a lot, there would be a bowl on the top level of the refrigerator and you would see it as soon as you open the door. It wasn’t there but I tried to find it. Finally, I saw a plastic bag of calamansi in the vegetable bin. I was surprised…

“Did you buy this?” I asked dad. “Yeah” he said, “I knew we were not going to have calamansi.” He apologized. He said he knows that the ones in the grocery are not like ours, that ours had thin skins and are juicier and plump. It made me sad.

Our calamansi is one of the few things I can proudly consume off the grid. It makes me feel one with the land. We care for the land and the land loves us back. When I grow older, I’d like a farm, solar panels and a rain catcher. Sustainable living is food for the soul and I’d like to nourish myself and others through it. I hope the calamansi tree survives. The rains are back to balance the heat. There is hope.

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