Posts Tagged ‘orange’


The garden, mid-April

April 26, 2010

Yes, yes, mid-April is long gone.  That’s what swimming with icebergs will do … it freezes the brain and results in days passing without you realising.  Beware of icy cold water!

Good grief, will this lot never stop growing?  When we bought them we had no idea how much use the garden loppers would get.  Considering they cost less than 20€ they have proved invaluable.

The citrus trees are, pretty much, pruned for this season.  Far too late we know but at least they are done.  The poor old orange tree ended up having a haircut of epic proportions.  One of the branches was making a break for the sky and was easily as high as the second floor.  Some of the tree was in poor condition, and the break-for-the-sky branch was alive with bugs.  So we, reluctantly, took the decision to prune it drastically in the hope that it would solve a multitude of problems.

Top two-thirds of the orange tree gone

Should the tree make it through the year then it is a prime candidate for our own fruit cocktail tree experiment.  Imagine being able to graft a branch of our tiny lime tree onto the mature orange and kick-start our lime production.  At the moment we get about 3 a year so any increase on that would be appreciated; we can buy limes in the fruitaria but they are usually imported from South America.

The bougainvillea is also attempting to set world records for the fastest growth possible in an improbably short space of time.  How, exactly, did we manage to forget that it did this?  We’ve fallen into a weekly routine of lopping back the worst overhanging branches just so we have a chance to make it to the front door.

Note the re-appearance of the painting kit

Underneath bougie

This week the first colour started to appear.  The plant’s flowers are tiny, white and unremarkable; the fantastic display of colour is provided by bracts, a type of modified leaf.  Poinsettias, the plant so often seen in deepest winter is the same, the deep scarlet comes from a coloured leaf, not a flower.

Meanwhile the pomegranates are flowering.  This is both good and bad news: the flowers are absolutely gorgeous but the local wildlife enjoy them too much.

Did you spot the euphemism there?  Doesn’t local wildlife sound better than pack of rats who we can’t get rid of despite many attempts and significant amounts of angst?  Regular readers will have seen the occasional reference to a rodent problem.  Lets be clear; both the derelict house next door to us and the empty plots behind have rats.  This is deeply, deeply troubling.  Apparently these rats adore the seeds from unripe pomegranates and next door’s tree abuts our wall.  Our tree, as named on our deeds, abuts our bedroom window.  No prizes for guessing which window never, ever gets opened!

We’d discussed stripping both trees (yes, including the one on next door’s land – these are rats!) of their blossom in the assumption that no blossom would mean no fruit which would mean no rats.  Sadly this plan came crashing to the ground as one of those creatures was seen romping up the tree which doesn’t even have any fruit on it yet.  Plan B, possibly involving a gallon of petrol and a box of matches, is under discussion now.  Really we can’t endure another year of sitting in the garden eating a pleasant meal with friends whilst watching those things run up and down the tree trunk.

Anyway, let’s concentrate on the positive.  The flowers?  They are really, really lovely.  And when you consider how desolate the trees looked over winter it is amazing what a show they put on just a few months later.

Pomegranates, if they don't all get eaten

Some of the roses have decided that there’s no point in having one flower when you could have a dozen or more.  They have an incredibly short lifespan though lasting just a day or two.  Since there are another few dozen rosebuds to follow it’s hard to object though.

Pink roses

In other news we finally found time to plant up some large containers that we brought with us from the UK.  Either side of the front door was now have a matched pair of guards comprising of some white geraniums and ivy.

Guarding the front door


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.


  • 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

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.


The garden, mid-November

November 23, 2009

The weather is changing.  Daytimes are bright, sunny and hot out of the wind.  But dusk comes early to our valley at this time of year; the sun starts to disappear behind the hill to the west of us not long after 3pm.  The temperature falls quickly once the sun has gone but the house, with its half metre thick walls still retains the heat well.

In the garden the citrus fruits continue to ripen.  In England all our fruit came from the supermarket so it is still strange to us to see the different stages the fruits, particularly the small satsuma/clementine/tangerine goes through.  Right now we have plenty of green fruit alongside those that are both pale yellow and weak orange in hue.  We think it will be a least a couple more weeks before the first of them are fully ripen.

Meanwhile the lemons continue to ripen and plump up.  Surprisingly, it is our first full year of owning a lemon tree, we have a small second blossom and therefore some new lemons setting just as the early crop is finishing its ripening process.

Elsewhere the pomegranates are ripe to the point of splitting.  The 20 foot high yucca has decided that outward, rather than upward, expansion is the best course of action and is producing offsets at an alarming rate.  These need to be broken off and potted up for friends.   While we had our backs turned clusters of bulbs have woken up; best guess is that they are some sort of narcissi.  From last year we know that they are similar to paperwhites but rather smaller and without such a pronounced fragrance.

Finally Mands efforts earlier this year to dig up the arum lily at the base of the large pithari appear not to have been entirely successful; the lilies are back again.  The flowers, and foliage, are wonderful but their position right at the bottom of the staircase is dangerous.

Assorted photos below.  Click on any picture for an enlarged version.


The garden, mid-October

October 15, 2009

The sun is shining, jobs are done for the day so before we put the kettle on for a well earned cup of tea we thought it would be useful to get some photos of the fruit trees in the garden and surroundings. The fruit is ripening day by day so it’s a good time to capture where each of the trees is in their cycle.

The small citrus tree is absolutely laden with fruit … they are tiny, but there are plenty of them.

Mandarins ... tangerines ... satsumas ... clementines?

Mandarins ... tangerines ... satsumas ... clementines?

So far we aren’t entirely sure what they are … mandarins, clementines, satsumas, tangerines?  Mad Alex allowed someone to strip all the fruit from the tree before we took possession last year.  For some time this wasn’t clear, leaving us thinking the tree produced no fruit at all, until we spotted two stray fruit lurking right in the very centre.  Clearly too hard to harvest for whoever took the rest of the fruit!  We picked the remaining two and they were lovely … not too sweet or too tart and not oversupplied with pips either.

So far it looks like we’ll get a good crop but at the moment over 95% of the fruit are still a dark green.  The occasional one or two are starting to turn to a pale green, then yellow before becoming bright orange in late November.

Just starting to ripen

Just starting to ripen

The two lemon trees are also doing well.  The tree near the gate has larger, still solid green, lemons; the garage tree  has smaller but more advanced lemons which are just starting to turn yellow.

Green lemons on the gate-end tree

Green lemons on the gate-end tree

Ripening lemon on the garage-end tree

Ripening lemon on the garage-end tree

The pomegranate tree is presenting some problems with regard to its attractiveness to local wildlife, but that’s an issue for another day.  In the meantime the fruit that have escaped such attention are ripening fantastically well.  One of our neighbours has three trees in her courtyard.  Last year she estimated that they produced over 100 kg of fruit between them.  Far, far more that she could use or give away to friends, so she ended up bagging up the fruit and leaving them outside her house with a note offering them for free to tourists.

Near-ripe pomegranates

Near-ripe pomegranates

Just around the corner, down the donkey track, there is a derelict plot containing the remains of a partially renovated two storey house.  If anyone is looking for an adventurous renovation project then look no further!  In the absence of any care and maintenance pomegranate and particularly fig trees have been growing unchecked.  The figs are coming on well, with a mix of under-ripe and hard green fruit and delicious looking ripe purple figs.

Ripening figs

Ripening figs

Yet more figs

Yet more figs

Those with a keen eye may notice an interloper in the second of the fig photos.

The photographer gets no points for observation today having missed the tiny praying mantis posing on a branch just off to the left of the figs.

All being well, updates to come in due course!