Borrego Sun - Since 1949

Soroptimist Reproduce Old Timers' Citrus Cookbook

Preserving Legacy and Taste of Borrego Citrus; and Borrego Bluebook on Sale


Last updated 10/21/2022 at 10:31am

When one of the members of the Soroptimist International of Borrego Springs came across an old copy of Citrus Delites she thought, "Wow, what a treasure. I wonder if we could reproduce this and offer it back to the community?" The club overwhelmingly approved the idea, and has reproduced this unique cookbook, which is going on sale this fall for a $10 donation to the club.

Kat Gibson, the author had passed away, and the book was copyrighted: her family was contacted and agreed to the plan. Tracking the family down is a story in itself, but once found, they agreed wholeheartedly to the idea.

The 2022 – 23 updated version of the iconic Borrego Springs Blue Book phone directory, will also be available at the same locations as the citrus cookbook for a separate donation of $10. A special fundraising project of the local Soroptimist club, the Blue Book is the only annually updated directory of residents and businesses in Borrego Springs. The directory is a major fundraiser supporting the mission and activities of the Borrego Springs International Soroptimist club.

The cookbook, Citrus Delites, originally published in 1997, is 98 pages and includes a taste of Borrego, as well as history of the early Anza-Borrego Desert area when the citrus industry began to blossom.

Dedicated to citrus, the recipes grew out of the growing and new emerging citrus industry in Borrego Springs, which Gibson chronicles in her own unique style. Along with lots of history, the recipes offer an opportunity to explore cooking with citrus products. The following are excerpts of the history Gibson recorded.

"Cattlemen started using the Borrego Valley over a hundred years ago, according to Lester Reed, in Old Time Cattlemen and Other Pioneer of the Anza Borrego Area.

"When grass and browse conditions were poor in the Southern California high country areas surrounding the Anza-Borrego Desert, cattlemen would bring their cattle into the desert; dig for water and pray for rain. The cowboys sang so many stories about the Anza-Borrego Desert, that farmers came into the valley to try their hands at growing wheat, grapes, potatoes, etc., without much sustaining success. But there were those who chose to remain 'desert rats' and a hearty group they were; and are to this day."

"According to Sam Fortiner (with memory assists from wife, Charlotte), 'There wasn't much going on in the valley other than dates and cattle (and one pecan tree out at the old Ensign Ranch) until after The War.'

"Musta been sometime in the early 40's when the Burnand Ranch lines the road with grapefruit. Seley started growing grapefruit commercially in '46 or '47. There's over 2,000 acres in citrus in the Borrego Valley. You'd never know it, but the local white grapefruit, the Marsh Seedless, we call 'Borrego Gold' is actually sweeter than the pink grapefruit that has gotten so popular in recent years."

Gibson explains she got roped into doing the cookbook, when volunteering for Dori Holladay's Grapefruit Festival. "Since the first year I actually lived in Borrego Springs. I've been going around doing 'grapefruit/citrus something' for 10 years."

It seems, it took Alpha Johnson, then managing director of the Chamber of Commerce, asking her to do a 'little cookbook' for the Grapefruit Festival that finally gave birth to the cook book, which, according to Gibson, 'featured recipes from friends and neighbors.' J.D. Robinson was credited as the "real cook," testing the recipes.

All of the recipes are named for Anza-Borrego Desert features and locations. For example, the Palm Canyon.

See below:

2 tablespoons olive

2 cups onions, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 28-ounce can tomato

3 tablespoons tomato paste

1 bay leaf

4 cups water

½ cup Borrego Springs grapefruit juice

½ cup white wine

8 ounces clam juice

½ pound shrimp, shelled and cleaned

16 ounces Lake Henshaw catfish, cubed

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground

1 Borrego Springs lemon, thinly sliced

- Heat oil; sauté onion and garlic until transparent. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, and bay leaf. Cover and simmer for 25 minutes. Add water, grapefruit juice, wine and clam juice. Simmer uncovered for 45 minutes. Add shrimp, catfish, salt and pepper. Cook for 10 minutes. Remove bay leaves. Garnish each serving with lemon slices. Serves 8.

Check out the recipes and have some fun making new dishes, passed along as part of Borrego's History, including yummy desserts and other entrees from Borrego Springs' grapefruit, oranges, and lemons.

A donation of $10 covers the cost of reproduction and assists the local Soroptimist in its mission to help local women and girls, particularly, through funding educational opportunities that give women career and employment independence.

The citrus cookbook and Blue Book directory can be bought at Graphics You Can Trust, Desert Pantry, Ermelinda's, Borrego Outfitters and the Park Store, as well as the Soroptimist table at Borrego Days and the Farmer's market on Fridays at Christmas Circle.