Monday, July 18, 2011

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.

Nisson Ranch
On Walnut Rd. near Redhill,
Tustin, CA 92780

Burger Parlor - Fullerton


At 11:57 AM, Anonymous JB said...

You even cover fruit stands in Tustin

When you are given the key to the city, I'm there

Glad you took the time to honor the county's agrarian heritage and educate the masses, most of whom upon hearing Mathias Nisson will think it's an enterprise that sells cars on Harbor Boulevard. And who is this Gustavo Arellano you speak of - ?

At 10:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is another place I've been meaning to stop by - alas there were no oranges when I last tried. I've also been meaning to try Myung Dong Kal Guk Su, which isn't too far away. Have you tried it?

At 11:45 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...


HA! Thanks!

If I get the key to the City, I hope it opens the locked gates to the Tustin blimp hangers. I've always wanted to go in there and check it out! Now there's Tustin history!


I've actually been to Myung Dong Kal Guk Su! I reviewed it and compared it to the one in Anaheim, and determined it was just as good, almost identical.

Here's the writeup, if you're interested. Myung Dong.

At 8:34 PM, Blogger Bill said...

Never knew there were still orange patches in So. Ca. And I use to work down the street from this place.

At 9:31 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...


It was there then and still there now! I just got another bag last night and caught a glimpse of Mr. Nisson himself. I said "hi" and he said "thank you!"

At 1:35 PM, Blogger ChristianZ said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 1:41 PM, Blogger ChristianZ said...

On Saturday I helped pick oranges at a 100-tree grove in Villa Park. One more to add to the map.

At 10:41 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...


Cool! Sounds like fun time out there!

At 8:09 PM, Anonymous mimi said...

Is this orange or tangerine?
I bought a bag today. But it tastes and looks like tangerine to me.

At 3:24 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...

I think they're Valencias, but I could be wrong!

At 2:32 PM, Anonymous mimi said...

You are right. They are oranges! (when I cut them). Interestingly, if I peel it, and eat it slice by slice, it does taste like tangerine.

At 3:41 PM, Anonymous Jennifer Greene said...

My son always brings some old bread to feed the chickens, peacocks and turkey when we get our oranges. Just a little bit of farm life for our kids in the middle of suburbia.
Mr. Nissons dogs are also very nice, although they eat the


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