Posts Tagged ‘lemon’

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The garden, mid-August

August 30, 2010

This post may be late but the photos were taken around the middle of the month.

This August, our fourth on the island, has been a record breaker.  The intense high summer heat has been higher than usual and more troubling has lasted much longer than it normally does.  Cypriot tradition states that the weather starts to ease after the big holiday on August 15, the Assumption of the Virgin.  This year that simply hasn’t happened.  Now, in the last days of August, the temperatures are as high as they were as the start of the month.  The forecast suggests that by the middle of next week we might see a drop of one or two degrees.

Meanwhile the Government continues to issue severe weather warnings and the Fire and Forestry departments battle to deal with local wildfires, many of them believed to have been started deliberately.  The blog is still receiving a fair number of visitors who are searching for information about Cyprus heatwaves.

The garden has gone into a strange summer hibernation; apart from the citrus and the bougainvillea nothing is growing.  Regular watering is preventing things dying but the plants seem to have slipped into a stasis mode.  Once the temperatures drops they should start showing signs of life once more but for now they are in a deep sleep, and not looking particularly photogenic as a result.

The citrus trees are taking things in their stride though; tiny green fruit are slowly growing and swelling.  The new season lemons are some way off being ripe and for now the only yellow lemons in the supermarkets are imported.  It is the time of the lemon drought in Cyprus.  Happily we’ve still got supplies of both frozen juice and sliced lemons to see us through.

New season green lemons

The mandarin tree is still giving some cause for concern.  Last year we had hundreds of fruit, this year we feared that we had none.  Blossom was very sparse and no blossom means no fruit.  We’ve now spotted a few clusters of tiny mandarins, and they look to be progressing well, but it is a very poor crop compared to last year.  It looks like we might get 30 or 40 mandarins as opposed to the thousand or so we had last year.  Clearly we missed a vital part of the annual maintenance but what?

Tiny mandarins

Our old friend, the yucca plant, produced another set of offsets before the temperature got too high.  We missed the chance to remove them when they were very small so a hacksaw may be needed to separate them from the main tree now.  They are incredibly resilient; remove them from the tree and put them straight into a pot and they will start to grow.  They will even cope with being put straight into the ground with no other care.  They will grow in the poorest soil with no additional feeding and only minimal watering.  In Aradippou a friend gifted us half a dozen offsets; within two years they’d grown to over four feet tall and were producing offsets of their own.  To be honest, anyone with a yucca here is always looking for someone with a new garden who needs fast growing plants.

More yucca offsets

And finally while the bougainvillea continues to grow it is also starting to drop its coloured bracts.  And a plant as large as ours has an awful lot of them.  This carpet below would fill five or six dustbins … if only the heat would ease so that we had the energy to shovel them up.

Bougainvillea carpet

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More German lemons

July 13, 2010

The German obsession with lemons continues.

We were standing down in the garage-that-isn’t-a-garage this week talking about the next work to be done when a group of German tourists walked by.  They peeked through the gate as they walked past; we said hello as we always do.  Ian commented that, before they’d seen him, the two adult males of the group had tried unsuccessfully to pick a lemon overhanging the wall.  That’s fine, as far as we’re concerned the lemons hanging over the wall are fair game; we pruned the tree to leave them there, referring to them as the tourist lemons.

As we were discussing the ongoing tourist love of the lemons one of the German men walked back to the house accompanied by one of the children, a boy aged perhaps six or seven.  We hello’d once more, or rather Guten Tag’d to be polite, and the small boy launched into a carefully prepared question.

Could he … would it be possible … would we mind

he said before getting caught up with both nerves and speaking in English to strangers.   We helped out by preempting his second attempt.  Did he, perhaps, want to pick a lemon?  His face split into a huge smile, indeed it was a lemon he wanted.

At this time of year there are very few ripe yellow lemons about.  The next crop are coming along well but they are currently small and green and without a drop of juice.  They look very much like limes.  Still we managed to find one of the remaining ripe lemons and his father lifted him up so he could pull it off the tree.

Satisfied with his possession he and his father both thanked us politely and went on their way to catch up with the rest of their group.

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Tried & Tested: Frozen Lemons

July 1, 2010

Having two mature lemon trees means that we have masses of fresh lemons for much of the year.  However, even when our lemons were sourced from UK supermarkets we went out of our way to get every last bit of use from them.

To make sure that they were ready to hand whenever needed, and had no chance of going off, we do the following:

  • Slice, overlap on a freezer-proof tray and freeze.  The slices behave best if they aren’t flat on the tray so use the ends to provide a support at one end of the run of slices
  • Once fully frozen separate the slices, bag and keep on hand until the next time a gin and tonic, vodka and tonic or glass of coke is poured
  • Because the lemon is frozen it’s possible to dispense with, or at least reduce the amount of, any ice needed

Frozen lemon slices

To squeeze the very last use out of the lemons:

  • Retain the end slices
  • Once frozen bag up separately to the slices and keep until kitchen-cleaning day
  • Boil the kettle, put two or three frozen lemon ends into a microwave-proof dish and add cold water
  • Make a cup of coffee
  • Place the lemon bowl in the microwave for two or three minutes on hot, go away and drink the coffee
  • Once it’s drunk return the kitchen, remove the bowl from the microwave and wipe down all the inside walls and surfaces with a cloth.  The lemon-scented steam generated by the bowl of water will have loosened any baked-on food, the lemon oil and juice will have fragranced and disinfected the microwave

Feel cheerful at the lack of effort involved in cleaning the microwave and the economy of using nothing but lemon ends which would have been discarded otherwise.

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Plenty of lemons

June 1, 2010

The house smells of lemons.  We smell of lemons.  Right now it seems as if the entire world may well be lemon scented.

Today seemed the perfect opportunity to deal with the stockpile of windfall lemons from the trees.  It being our very first full year of lemon tree ownership we’re still getting to grips with managing the trees including when to harvest lemons to get the maximum amount of juice.  As a result of that, and combined with some high winds, we had a fair number fall from the trees.  About 50 or so.

The plan was to wash them, halve them, juice them and then freeze the juice in handy sized volumes.  Because the lemons had fallen we decided to forgo the zest this time.

It seem, having never juiced that number of lemons, we may have slightly underestimated the amount of time it takes to process that many lemons.  Several hours after starting we have a freezer full to the brim with lemon juice – a little over 4 pints (English pints so 80 fl oz all told) frozen in differing quantities.

There are lots of containers holding 4 fl oz for marinading meat for fajitas.  A good supply of 2 fl oz lollipops for lemon cakes and muffins and a dozen or so half ounce ice cubes for salad dressing and recipes which just need a small amount of juice.

The first third

The final two-thirds

A pint or two of lemon juice

As all this work was going on we could hear from the garden the sound of yet more lemons falling from the trees.  It seems unlike that we’ll run out this year.

Gin and tonic anyone?

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The garden, mid-May

May 22, 2010

Another month, another round-up of the garden.

The main lemon crop needs picking.  Strong winds over recent days have dislodged a good number of ripe fruit; happily there are dozens more on the tree still.

Dropped Lemons

Our biggest challenge is finding homes for them.  There’s no question that we can use sliced lemons, zest and juice throughout the year and within a few months there won’t be ripe lemons left on the trees.  The only issue is just how much we can squeeze into the freezer.

The arum lilies have decided that they’ve had enough for this year.  The last of the flowers have gone and the foliage is dying back.  Once it has gone completely we’ll be able to have another attempt at lifting the remaining rhizomes and relocating them to elsewhere in the garden.  The narcissi have already had similar treatment; they were scattered in and around the area containing the monster yucca.  Having tied them up some months ago and allowed the foliage to die back we spent the good part of an afternoon searching them out and lifting them.  The plan, such as there is one, is to plant them in a series of containers which can then take centre-stage when they are in flower.

Elsewhere the pomegranate trees are in full bloom.  The flowers are absolutely fantastic and as the fruits set the petals fall from the tree creating a delicate red carpet across the donkey track.  Were it not for the minor rodent issue we would be absolutely over the moon with the amount of fruit we might expect.

Pomegranate flowers

An abundance of blossom

Pomegranate in full bloom

A carpet of petals

The pomegranate isn’t the only one bursting into life.  Last month we mentioned that the bougainvillea was putting on a massive amount of growth and the first colour had recently appeared.  In less than a month it has gone from a tiny amount of coloured bracts to being absolutely stunning.  As an added advantage, when the plant had this much growth it provides good and solid shade underneath which, as the days heat up, is very welcome.

Bougie, from above

Coloured bracts

More next month.

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Tried & Tested: Citrus Body Scrub

April 1, 2010

Sometimes for a little effort, and perhaps some mess, it is possible to make a product that is superior, cheaper, bespoke and more natural than similar items in the shops.  Citrus body scrub is a fantastic example.

If you know people who don’t follow this blog (Really, you do?  How is this possible?!) then you may even be able to take said item, pop it in a pretty jar, wrap some ribbon around it and gift it as a Christmas present or similar.

Think of the eco-kudos.

No darling, it’s just a little organic/natural/customised thing I made for you myself!

If truth be told this Tried & Tested came about from a glut of useless oranges.  To backtrack … when we first looked at the house MadAlex declared that the oranges on the tree in the garden were the best he’d ever tasted.  “They are fantastic, dahhhhhling!”  He was as designer with a fairly relaxed grasp on reality.  Perhaps you may have gathered that from previous posts?  Anyway, he picked two oranges from the tree and presented them to us.  As we drove home the car was filled with the most fantastic citrus smell.  With great anticipation we tried the oranges.

Imagine, a house with a whole tree of the very best oranges in our garden; we’d have to buy the house!  Suffice to say the oranges were absolutely rubbish.  They look great, they smell wonderful … they taste of water.  We tried palming them off on folks but got nowhere.

There’s an outside chance that the lack of taste is due to lack  of watering on MadAlex’s part, only time will tell.  Until then we needed a use for a tree’s worth of un-orangelike oranges and so the citrus body scrub was born.

So;

  • Take a pile of oranges, or lemons/limes/grapefruit or any other citrus fruit you have handy
  • Into a large bowl add about a kilo of salt.  Cheap and cheerful is fine; regular sea salt is perfect
  • Using a medium kitchen grater remove as much of the zest of your fruit as possible.  Do this directly over the bowl so that you don’t loose any zest or oil
  • Once you’ve zested the first fruit use a spoon to work the zest through the salt.
  • The amount of zest you’ve been able to remove and how much oil is in that zest will depend entirely on your fruit.  With our oranges fresh from the tree three or four of them will colour, frangrance and oil a kilo or so of salt.  Shop-bought fruit will yield less but once you’ve removed the zest the fruit can be used for juicing or eating
  • Work the zest through the salt until it’s even distributed.  Feel the salt between your fingers to see if you can feel any oiliness.  If not zest another orange or two or, for a heavier scrub, add a spoonful or two of almond oil or similar
  • When the consistency seems right, decant into jars

Such promise from just oranges and salt

Lashings of zest

Distributing the zest

Finished orange salt scrub

Ready for the shower

To use;

  • Apply to damp skin and work in a circular motion.
  • Rinse to remove the salt but do not then use shower gel or body wash on the skin.  If you do you’ll lose both the benefit of the fragrance of the citrus oil and its moisturising properties
  • This is best used in the shower but it will leave residual oil so the shower tray needs to be washed out with some detergent (diluted shower gel is fine) so it isn’t slippery
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Fruit cocktail tree

January 10, 2010

Isn’t is strange how you can see something regularly and not recognise what it is?

In the field next door but one to us there are a number of fruit trees.  They’re just there, day in and day out.  It’s an odd mix of trees rather than a regimented orchard and has assorted citrus trees as well as pomegranates and figs as well as one or two others.

Recently we were standing in the lane talking to a neighbour.  As we chatted away Ian kept looking over her shoulder at the trees in the field.  He’d glance for a moment or two, look puzzled, then return to the conversation for a moment only to repeat the whole process once more.  Eventually he broke into the discussion to ask “Does that tree have oranges and lemons growing on it?”  To which the answer was “Yes, it does”.

It turns out that we have a fruit cocktail tree growing next door to us and we’ve never noticed.

Orange & lemon tree

Pretty much all of the orange and lemon trees, and a goodly amount of other citrus trees, that grow here are actually grafted on to another tree.  Bitter oranges and rough lemons are usually used as the root stock as they grow so well.

Rough lemons have a very thick nobbly skin, sour juice and so many pips that they are not particularly useful for cooking. Bitter oranges, as their name suggests, are not in any way suitable for traditional eating.  Some time ago we were gifted several dozen.  Some ended up in a Christmas syllabub where their tartness was welcome after a rich meal; some became Arancello.

If someone wants a sweet orange then a branch of that is grafted on to a rootstock of bitter orange or rough lemon.  Since the root stock will accept multiple grafts there’s no reason why different varieties can’t be grafted onto a single root stock.  As such it’s possible to get crops of different fruits from the same tree.  In the US these are often called Fruit Cocktail trees.

Some time ago we were given a lime tree as a gift.  It’s very small and produces a handful of tiny fruit each year.  Whilst lovely to have our own limes the tree doesn’t go far in reducing our need to buy limes, we seem to get through a significant amount, so we continue to have to buy fruit imported from South America.  As we have two very large and mature lemon trees here the plan had been to try and graft some of the lime tree on to one of them.  A single branch of full sized limes would be hugely useful.  The discovery of the lemon & orange tree nearby might be just the prompting we needed to start the experiment.

Edited to add: We weren’t entirely happy with the photo of the orange & lemon tree so we headed back at a later date to get one or two more.  They can be found here.