Category Archives: Fruit

Citrus Desparado

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This is a story about a man whose son supplemented his day-job income by working as kind of a jack-of-all-trades for a company that produced concerts and other shows at large entertainment venues in a particular mid-sized southern city.

One day Don Henley came to town. Former co-leader of the Eagles rock group, the singer-song writer-guitarist tours with his own band now, and was preparing for a local show.

It’s somewhat customary for well-known entertainers to request and be provided various foods and other comfort items for consumption before and after their shows. In this case, so the story goes, the owners of the concert venue required such items be obtained from a hotel attached to said venue and being operated by a national hotel chain.

But after an ominous breakfast, which included a salad containing metalic foreign objects, it became clear the hotel was not capable of providing this particular group’s needs.

For instance, the lemons were inadequate. “I hate small lemons,” Henley was quoted as saying, approximately, to the people producing the show. “Don Henley hates small lemons,” the production company officials said to the son mentioned above. “Go out and find us the largest lemons available.”

“You’re not going to believe this,” the son replied. “But it turns out that my father grows the biggest lemons in the world.” Then he drove to his home and retrieved a half-dozen lemons given to him by the man who is the subject of this story.

It turns out that man is me. While it is an exaggeration to call them the biggest in the world, it is true that I grow Meyer lemons, which are considerably larger than Lisbon lemons – the type almost always seen in grocery stores. Meyer lemons, more importantly, are incredibly flavorful and fragrant.

And while I have not been directly informed by any of his people, I have heard no complaints whatsoever about the lemons my son provided to Don Henley, and it is my belief that he probably found them of outstanding size and flavor, and may even recall them with fondness in the future in the likely event he is presented with some inferior lemon.

Which just goes to show you, anything can happen. I forget that sometimes.

As kind of a postscript, I have to say that my lemon tree was seriously damaged in our recent and uncommon freezing weather. I have hopes that the tree will survive, although nothing is guaranteed. I have decided that if the tree manages to live and produce fruit, I will heretofore refer to them as Desparado Lemons, just for fun.

Also posted in Garden, Kids, Metaphysics

Adam & Eve, Party Of Two – Your Table Is Ready

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Unexpected consequences from the Great Flood of ‘016 include a ruined fig and pecan crop – pretty disappointing to those of us who look forward to those gastronomic treats. However, the pain has been eased by a great load of Hachiya persimmons from what looks like the Tree of Life out back, several large bunches of bananas with more ripening, and a promising crop of Satsuma oranges and Meyer lemons. You win some, you lose some.

Our house took on not a drop of water from the raging Brazos River, which crested at nearly 55 feet just four months ago. However, our five figs and all the towering native pecan trees in the neighborhood stood in three or more feet of water for several days, and apparently that was traumatic enough to ruin the crops. The usually delicious dark figs in back ripened up and looked fine, but when you bit into them, they contained almost no sugar. As for the pecans, most of our trees have almost none. Usually they have many hundreds.

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So you eat what you have. Stop by this fall for a banana-persimmon smoothy.

Also posted in Brazos River, Food, Garden, Nobody Gets It Like They Want It To Be

When Life Gives You No Lemons, Make No Lemonade

Actually, life gave us quite a lot of lemons initially this year, and Satsuma oranges, too. It’s how they wound up being distributed that is, I think, noteworthy.

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Maybe I shouldn’t bitch. I still have a couple dozen “ice cubes” of lemon juice in the freezer from last year’s crop – lemon zest, too. I have the biggest canning jar you’ve ever seen, crammed full of lemons preserved in salt, the peel from which will add zinging flavor to many salads, stews and soups to come.

We’ve been eating Satsumas since Thanksgiving, and this year they were juicy and sweet.

Really, both trees have finally hit their stride, and provided dozens, maybe even hundreds of fruit. So I used as much as I could, then started giving the fruit away – baskets to the neighbors, bags to relatives. Bags to people who came to the door.

First, two women from somewhere in the neighborhood, one asking in broken English if those were my oranges. Yes. “Would it be all right if I picked one?” she asked. No, I told her, you have to take several, and some for your friend. “What kind of oranges are those?” she asked, pointing to the lemons. “Those are lemons, would you like some of those, too?” “Could I,” she asked. “Sure,” I said, leave some for me, but take some.” “Can I come back sometime and pick the ones that are touching the ground?” she asked. “Otherwise they might go bad.”

Two days later, a man identifying himself as the first woman’s husband asked for some oranges “for him,” gesturing to an older gentleman who spoke only Spanish. And some lemons, too? “OK,” I said, “go ahead, but leave some for me.”

The next day, two more men were at the door. They had heard about the free oranges and lemons and wanted in on the action. “I used to mow your neighbor’s lawn when that other lady lived there,” one of the men told me. “Can I come back another time for some lemons?” Yes, I was still saying yes to everything. I glanced out the window to see him and his partner filling too plastic shopping bags full of Satsumas, then another with lemons.

Then the lawn mower came back and asked for lemons the following day. Yes, yes, OK.

Did I forget to say “leave me some”? Maybe word got around that it was open season on our trees. I took a day trip to the farm to put up a cable dog run for Boo the wonder pup, came home tired, went to bed early. The next morning, upon pulling out of the driveway to take the kids to school, I noticed the lemon and orange trees had been stripped bare. Despite all the recent pickings, there had been at least 100 lemons still on the tree, and probably almost that many Satsumas.

Kinda pissed me off and took some of the bloom off of my Christmas spirit.

I’m trying to get over it. Maybe one of the folks who stopped by earlier believed they’d been given permission to come back for more, pounded on the door, determined I wasn’t home and figured I wouldn’t mind if they helped themselves, since obviously I was just giving the fruit away anyhow. (And mostly, I was, although Meyer lemons reach their peak of flavor in January, and my intention was to let plenty of them ripen up on their own out there.) Maybe whoever hauled off all that citrus gave most of it away to their extended family and neighbors, and didn’t put it up for sale along the roadside.

Maybe the Universe saw that we had more of a thing than we could use ourselves, and the Universe saw some others with less, and did what the Universe does by balancing things out.

Maybe, but I have to confess it still kinda pisses me off.

Also posted in Communications, Food, Nobody Gets It Like They Want It To Be, Uncategorized

Yellows

When Life Gives You LemonsI’ve had to pick more lemons than I can immediately use, because the tree is so full of fruit that many of the branches were bent all the way to the ground. So many lemons. Yesterday I preserved my first jarful of the season – cut about six of the big Meyer lemons into quarters, almost, leaving them attached at one end, then pour salt inside each, then press them down into the jar, then fill to the top with juice from another two or three lemons. After a couple of weeks in a dark corner on the counter, I’ll refrigerate them and they’ll be ready to use. It’s the rind you’re preserving. And you can mince it up and add it to any dish for a great citrus zing.

Then there are these Aji Limon pepper plants that won’t stop producing. The chilies are yellow and narrow and about an inch and a half long. And pretty hot, with a fruity aftertaste some describe as lemony. I’ve been harvesting a *lot* of them. After making a nice jar of hot sauce and a lot of salsa, I still seemed to have as many as when I started.

As luck would have it, I learned from the Google box that you can combine these peppers with Meyer lemons and make some damn fine hot pepper jelly. So I did:

Aji Lemon Jelly

Hot Pepper HarvestIngredients:
→ Two bell peppers or three sweet frying peppers, finely chopped (I used Argentina heirloom Aconcagua peppers)
→ A dozen Aji Limon peppers, seeds and membranes removed, minced (and you might want to wear kitchen gloves while handling these bad boys, or else be very careful who and what you touch with your hot-pepper fingers)
→ Juice of three lemons, or 1.5 cups of juice (if you don’t have that much juice, you can add white vinegar to get the full 1.5 cups)
→ Zest of two lemons
→ 6.5 cups of sugar
→ 1 tsp. of butter
→ I packet of standard fruit pectin
→ 7-9 glass one-pint canning jars, with lid rings and tops

Method:
Wash the jars and lids. Simmer the jars in a canner or large pot of hot water, and put the lid rings and tops in a smaller pan of simmering water.

Stir the sweet and hot peppers, the lemon zest and the juice into a large pan and turn the heat on high. Stir the mixture and allow it to reach a full rolling boil. Add the butter to keep the foaming down.

Stir in the pouch of pectin, wait for the ingredients to reach a full rolling boil again and allow it to boil for exactly one more minute, then remove from heat.

Skim off any foam and then ladle the hot jelly into the pint jars, filling them to within an eighth of an inch of the top. Use a damp paper towel to wipe any excess jelly off of the jar, then put a top on the jar and screw the lid ring on snugly. Once all the jars are full, put them back into the canner or large pot, make sure the water is deep enough that they are at least an inch under the surface, and then bring to a gentle boil. Boil the jars for 10 minutes, and you’re done.

Use tongs to lift the jars out of the hot water and onto a rack or cutting board. Within a minute or less, you should hear a clicking sound come from each jar as the tops seal. At this point the jelly may appear to be very runny, but as it cools off in the jars, the pectin should cause it to thicken nicely.

My first batch gave me about 6 and a half pints of jelly. I sealed up and saved six jars and used the extra half-pint for immediate taste-testing. Wonderful, hot and sweet, and with a pretty good color, too.

There’s no reason you couldn’t use the same recipe with serranos or other similar-sized hot chilies. However, if you have habaneros, try using just 3-4 peppers, not a dozen, or you might hurt yourself and your breakfast guests.

Also posted in Food, Garden, Recipes