Oranges From Nisson Ranch - Tustin
I must have driven past the thatched hut fruit stand on Walnut Street near Redhill in Tustin at least a thousand times without ever stopping.
If the ramshackle wooden structure seems from another world, another time, it is.
The property it is attached to belongs to the Nisson Family, a Danish clan that settled in Orange County at the turn of the century. The story goes that Mathias Nisson came from Denmark in 1876 and started growing oranges in Santa Ana.
His son Clarence bought land in Tustin to do the same in 1915, and what remains there today is still owned by his descendants, who still live there and still maintain the remaining 4-acre orange grove, one of the last orange groves in a county named after oranges.
(To see what few orange groves remain in OC, check out Gustavo Arellano's map here).
At ground level, you can kind of guess how big the property is; but the satellite view reveals how the small, lone rectangular patch of verdant green slowly gets swallowed up by concrete, asphalt and tract homes the more you zoom out.
To see it from the overhead perspective is to observe a game of Farmville in reverse.
View Larger Map
But you can still, quite literally, enjoy the fruits of their labor. In this day and age when no one leaves their door unlocked, the Nisson shack still sells oranges by the bag using the honor system. The fruit stand is unmanned. You drop your $2 in the metal lock box, grab your bag-o-oranges and hope that the next guy has the decency to do the same.
The shack, despite looking ancient, is ingeniously designed. The oranges are deposited in the front part of the structure, inside a see-through slot. So if you drive by, you can immediately see if there are any available--a fruit fuel gauge, if you will.
The bags weigh in at about five pounds (I think) and the fruit you get is seedless and pristine, so sugary it would make a great glass of OJ; and so juicy I peeled and ate them over the sink. You can't get closer to OC history or more localvore than this.
On Walnut Rd. near Redhill,
Tustin, CA 92780
THIS WEEK ON OC WEEKLY:
Burger Parlor - Fullerton