The thrill of the â€œhuntâ€ is often enough to get me up at an ungodly hour to trek to a market and poke around. Occasionally, the hunt yields a brilliant findâ€¦ in this case, superb Sagada grown oranges. I always knew that the North was producing more and more oranges of various varieties and quality levels. A big article in one of the local papers just last year chronicled the travails of growers who were finding it difficult to match the price of cheap imports, etc. So I was not surprised to find several vendors in the Baguio market offering â€œSagada Oranges.â€ But one vendor in the center of the market had a box filled with enormous and unblemished oranges, claiming they were not only from Sagada but sweet and seedless to boot. They were some of the best looking oranges I have seen in the local markets so I started to bargain. At a starting price of P160 a kilo, this was nosebleed material. I haggled it down to P120 a kilo and bought just over one kilo with the intention of tasting them back at the hotel and returning if I needed to buy more.
Later that day, I peeled an orange with great ease (the skin readily separated from the orange sections inside), popped one section into my mouth and literally moaned. The juice was sweet and flavorful, there was not too much pulp and there were almost no seeds at all. A definite hit! Delicious! I believe these are Valencia oranges (as opposed to Navel) that have apparently taken to the Sagada hillsides and thrive, bearing wonderful fruit. The oranges looked like they were freshly picked and I was guessing had far less insecticide sprayed onto their skins and/or wax to ensure that they kept for months in cold storageâ€¦ so the skins looked brilliant and I was thinking ahead to candied orange peelâ€¦
The next day I returned to the market, got to the same orange vendor and bargained like crazy until she agreed to P110 a kilo and I bought nearly every orange in her box. Using a standard juicer, we squeezed 2-3 oranges to make the finest fresh orange juice I have had in years. The flavor was clean, the juice nearly pulp free and â€œsmoothâ€. If I had a bottle of dry champagne they would have made spectacular mimosas (orange juice and champagne drink usually served at brunch)! At close to P80 a glass this was a luxury but well worth it. I tried to justify my extravagance by saving the orange peel and throwing them into a ziplock bag and into the fridge for later use. If you get a chance to taste these Sagada oranges, please do so. Perhaps not all of them are as good as the ones I got but how nice that we grow these in our own back mountains as it wereâ€¦ Now why donâ€™t chi-chi restaurants in Manila start using some of this great locally grown produce in their dishes???