January 31, 2012

Meyer lemons

A couple of years ago, we planted a Meyer lemon tree, and I’m happy to say that, with fairly little intervention from us, it seems to be thriving.

Meyer lemons are named for Frank N. Meyer of the USDA who, on a trip to China in 1908, found them being grown ornamentally.  It’s kind of romantic, don’t you think? An agricultural explorer! A plant hunter!

I grew up with sort of a lemon orchard in the backyard and took for granted that citrus would just appear without any special effort. Loads of it. All the time, it seemed like. 

But I've since married a Midwesterner whose mother used to tuck oranges into his Christmas stocking every year, carrying forward a custom with roots in a time and a place where citrus in winter was precious and rare. A sweet tradition. One that makes me appreciate our fruit a bit more.

Meyer lemons are sweeter and rounder than other varieties. They have a thinner skin and a flowery perfume. Only a few are left on our tree anymore: They’ve gone into salad dressings and baked goods and glasses of water.

My favorite thing to do, though, with all that fruit is make lemon curd. So bright and refreshing – especially when it’s gray outside, it really feels like an indulgence.

I like the recipe featured on Food in Jars. It’s simple, and the three or four times I’ve tried it, it’s worked out beautifully.

We’ve eaten lemon curd spread on corn muffins and stirred into yogurt. My daughter likes it right off the spoon. And I think, with only a little more ambition, it would make a really great cake filling. It tastes like sunshine. No kidding.

Want to plant your own Meyer lemon tree? The folks at Port Stockton Nursery told me it's best to wait until after the threat of frost has passed - so maybe hold off a little while longer. 
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