“Lemon tree, very pretty and the lemon flower is sweet, but the fruit of the poor lemon is impossible to eat.” Or so went the “bittersweet” melody by Peter, Paul and Mary. While you’re not likely to munch on a lemon as you would an apple, the juice and zest will bring tang to your recipes and brightness to your life.
Taking a Tree into Your Home
Bob and Peggy took up citrus growing after having had an avocado tree (nourished from a seed) turn their living room into a “Little Shop of Horrors,” demanding space, but producing no blooms or fruit. After several years of babying the “Invader,” they returned the plant to Mother Nature and reclaimed their living room.
Next, they turned to citrus growing with the purchase of several dwarf fruit trees from Stark Nurseries that, if pruned, stay under three feet.
A Few Questions
I quizzed Bob and Peggy about their mini citrus grove:
How long did it take your lemon and lime trees to produce? “We have Key Limes and the thin-skinned Meyer Lemons. The first year the trees encouraged us with blooms and even a few pieces of fruit. But they soon fell off. By year three we had 9 lemons and more than 20 limes.”
Is there a difference in the taste of homegrown citrus? “The fruit is milder and more distinctive, but the smell doesn’t seem to be as intense as the fruits I’ve seen grown in large Florida groves.”
Where do your trees reside? “They go outdoors after the last frost and stay until the first fall frost. Indoors, we keep them in a sunny spot on an enclosed porch and trick them into thinking they’re in Florida by using a space heater when needed.”
How hard are the trees to grow? “They require good sun, soil and water and occasional plant food. In January, we sometimes have to deal with aphids. Surprisingly, the trees have some thorns, that you have to handle with caution.”
Lovin’ Them Lemons
Lemon are nutritious little work horses with the same vitamins and minerals as other citrus fruits, but with less sugar. On the health scale, one lemon provides half your daily requirement of vitamin C. They also improves blood pressure, heart function, cell growth, and cholesterol levels.
Drinking lemon water made lab mice gain less weight when eating fatty foods. (Hmm. . . next time you might want to wash that lasagna down with a glass of fresh-squeezed lemon juice.)
Add Some Zest to Your Life
Lemons and limes are expensive, so it’s a good idea to use both the juice and the zest. Before juicing, bring the fruit to room temperature and roll it beneath your palm to extract maximum juice. Or zap the fruit in the microwave for 30 seconds to soften it up.
The average lemon will deliver 3-4 tablespoons of juice and one tablespoon zest. Limes are a bit stingier. You get only one tablespoon juice and 1 1/2 teaspoons zest.
At Amazon I ran onto a half dozen, or more, cookbooks, that were entirely about cooking with citrus. Sweet and Tart: 70 Irresistible Recipes with Citrus has a recipe for Lemony Strawberry-Rhubarb Cobbler, that caught my eye, as did the Roasted Pear Tart with limoncello custard and rosemary. More on those later.
Here’s a few of my favorite ways to use lemons:
- Lemon Garlic Noodles
- Greek Lemon Soup
- Lemon Chiffon Cake
- Greek Lemon Chicken
- Lemon Goat Cheese Cookies
- Crispy Lemon Potatoes
- Lemon Ricotta Pancakes