Monday, January 7, 2013

Meyer Lemons and Key Limes

Key Lime (left) and Centennial Variegated Kumquat (right)

December is always the month when our little citrus trees ripen a beautiful bounty of fruit.  Lots of good vitamins for the inevitable post-holiday blitz of colds and flu. The delightful variegated kumquat, shown above, was gifted to a friend of ours. Next to it is one of the Key Limes, but I have to admit that our Meyer Lemon is my favorite.  I took this photo long before the holidays and now I'm down to only a couple of fruit hanging on.  Those are mine, mine, mine!

It's so much fun sharing fresh, sweet lemons and limes at the holidays! There is no comparison, is there? Tree-ripened lemons and limes are a delicious pairing of tart and sweet - much, much sweeter and more "rounded" in flavor (I don't know how else to describe it) than supermarket citrus.

It reminds me of my father's stories of getting each child in the family getting one orange or tangerine in their stocking at Christmastime back in the early 1900's.  It's hard for me to imagine having only ONE citrus fruit a year. Why, I have more citrus fruits every year on my little Virginia Beach patio than my father had for the first few decades of his life!

Do you remember when it was a Big Deal for the folks who wintered in Florida to return home with boxes of fresh grapefruit, oranges and lemons? Now we expect them every time we go to the grocery store.

We've had these trees for 10 years or more and they carry on in their pots, spending nine months of the year out on this patio and then, as the temperatures truly begin to drop at night - now, in January, moving to the adjacent "sunroom" (our converted garage, where south-facing sliding glass doors replaced the double car garage door).  The pots have stunted them - doesn't take much pruning to keep them at a reasonable size and the small size doesn't slow down their ambitious fruiting!

Whoooo - right now new blossoms perfume the entire sunroom to the point of madness!

As a side note, one of my great concerns is the current rage for adding citrus "zest" to all sort of dishes.  Generally speaking, citrus don't rank high on the list of things you should absolutely buy organically grown because the usual assumption is that you'll be peeling the fruit you eat.  Zesting, on the other hand, means you are using ONLY the very, very outside of the peel - the part most sprayed and saturated with horticultural chemicals.  Not a good idea at all.  Great reason to buy them organically grown (and then scrub the fruit regardless) or - better yet! - grow some citrus of your own so you know that outer peel is safe.

Brave little citrus trees, they get by on not much care, with an occasional guilty fertilizing.  I have to say that they've held on beautifully - it's a feast every year.  I do hand-pollinate the lemon and lime blossoms, just in case the bees aren't out on the warm days (or I forget to put the citrus trees outside).  By the end of each winter season, I'm fighting scale like mad, but some serious soap and dormant oil sprays blast them away and we do fine going into the spring.

Enough blogging - I'm off to brew some tea for honey and fresh lemon!


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