The lemon tree

I always wanted a lemon tree in my garden. My years in Chicago made it impossible due to the harsh winters. After enjoying homemade limoncello in Positano, Italy, I dreamt of lemon trees for months. Moving to Tucson ten years ago made those dreams a reality.

At our first home we planted two kumquat trees in large pots. There are a few common varieties of kumquats, the ones we planted were the oblong Nagami and the round Marumi. Nagamis are delicious eaten straight off the tree while Marumis are best for marmalade. When we moved to our new house, the two trees came along with us. In the garden we planted a lemon tree. And grapefruit, orange, lime, blood orange and tangelo trees. I bought books to learn more about fruit trees, but two of my trees reverted back to their original root stock, so now I have three lemon trees. Those two trees look like orange but are a lemon-orange blend on the inside. The garden smells divine in the spring when the trees bloom.

I vowed to use the fruit in my cooking. I make limoncello, thanks to my friend Elisabetta, who gave me the recipe from her father Marcello. When I am in Tucson I eat a grapefruit every morning. Over the years I have made lemon vinaigrette, preserved lemons, lemon curd, lemon marmalade, lemon bars and kumquat marmalade. I garnished a tiramisu with chocolate “leaves” molded on lemon leaves. I candied kumquats for a gingerbread trifle. I candied orange peel for spice cookies. I found a recipe for making dried orange peel which can be ground into a powder to rub over salmon. The possibilities are endless.

At the St. Philips Farmer’s Market we found a very unusual fruits this winter. One of them was kaffir lime. The fruit is native to asia and primarily used for cooking  Thai or laotian curries. The leaves are often used in Indonesian cooking. The other unusual fruit I found was a Buddha’s Hand. It’s a very fragrant citron with long fingers. It has a thick peel and very little pulp, if any. The peel can be used for zest. I decided to make a batch of “buddha”cello with the Buddha’s hand. Cheers!


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