Last weekend we visited the Citrus Festival in San Anton Gardens. Hosted by the President's wife, Margaret Abela, it's the one time of year I know of that the President of Malta's private gardens and orange groves are open to the general public.
Have you ever smelt an orange grove? They are divine.
It never ceases to amaze and delight me when citrus fruit comes into season in Malta in, of all months, January. It's such an unexpected burst of colour and fragrance and flavour in the middle of a Mediterranean winter, when everyone needs just that.
We first attended the Cirtus Festival way back in 2011, when it was in its infancy. While the festival was busy back then, there was plenty of citrus to go around (you can buy oranges and lemons by the bag, and fresh orange juice by the cup - proceeds benefit the Puttinu Cares Foundation). But not this year! We arrived around 2 pm, and watched as the last glass of fresh orange juice sold out (cue sad trombone).
Tip for next year: go early!
(And prosit* to the festival organizers for creating an event that is too successful for its own good!)
Buying oranges in Malta this winter? There are two main types of oranges on the island: larger larinġ lumi (the sweet kind, good for juicing) and smaller, bitter oranges (used in marmalades). You can tell the difference by the price: larinġ lumi is about €2.50-€3 per kilo during peak season, while bitter oranges are €0.50-1 per kilo.
Lemons are my favourite local bit of produce. I eat them by the segment, like an orange. I've never had a better lemon than a Maltese lemon. More sweet than sour, and beautifully dirty and dented and misshapen. And available almost year round.
And just how good are oranges in Malta? Good enough for royalty. Every Christmas since 2009 the British High Commissioner in Malta, Joseph Zammit Tabona, sends a box of larinġ lumi to the Queen as a Christmas gift.
On a related note, I bet your city has a cool festival or event going on this weekend. Get out there and find it. Who says you need to travel to travel?
Have a great one!
*p.s. prosit means congratulations, bravo or well done in malta
(not to be confused with the drinking toast)