When Life Gives you Lemons … Bonus Round

From the When Life Gives You Lemons … Drink Limoncello Series.

Part 6: When Life Gives You Lemons … Make Lemon Curd from the Leftover Limoncello Lemons.

or How to Make Lemon Curd.

You thought I was done with the whole lemon thing, didn’t you?  Well, honestly, I don’t know if I’ll ever be done with the lemon thing.  There is just so much to love about lemons. But I thought to add one more Bonus Round to the series.

If you do decide to make your own limoncello (and I hope you do) you may find yourself with a mountain of naked lemons.  Lemons that you took much time and care to grow and nurture only to find that it was just their peels that was needed to make the, admittedly awesome, limoncello I’ve been rabbiting on about for so long.  Such a waste to not have a purpose for the rest of the lemons, right?  Again, you can go back to squeezing lemon juice over everything in sight (lemon juice is great as a cleaning product, too.  Here are 24 Things You Can Clean With Lemon) but my favourite thing to do is to turn them in to lemon curd.

Naked lemons.  Kinda sad, right?  (pic from oddlovescompany.com)

Naked lemons. Kinda sad, right?
(pic from oddlovescompany.com)

Ina Garten has a great recipe here but I feel there is a lot of equipment I have to wash up once done (food processor, saucepans, extra mixing bowls).   I’d rather take the easy way out and do it all in one bowl in the microwave.  I’m afraid I wrote this recipe down from a library book and have lost the citation.  Let me know what it is if you happen to know it.

Lemon Curd – Microwave

Ingredients

  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup fresh lemon juice (juice from 6-8 lemons)
  • 3 lemons, zested
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted.

Directions

  1. In a microwave safe bowl, whisk together the sugar and eggs until smooth.  Stir in lemon juice, zest, and butter.
  2. Cook in microwave for 1 minute intervals, stirring after each minute until mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
  3. Remove from microwave and pour in to small sterile jars.  Store for up to 3 weeks in the refrigerator.

    Delicious Lemon Curd - one of my favourite things ever

    Delicious Lemon Curd – one of my favourite things ever. (pic from Liren@KitchenConfidante.com)

I’ve never had it last longer than 3 weeks because it has all been eaten up so fast but I would imagine it would keep like any other butter product, even longer in the freezer.  It is heavenly on crepes and toast, in tarts and jelly rolls, between mini merigues topped with softly whipped heavy cream, or as a filling for lemon bars.  So many uses!  But for me, I find it most delicious when eaten straight from the jar with a spoon.  Yum!  Another great gift for those you love.  Make some lemon curd.  I promise you, you won’t regret it.

Advertisements

When Life Gives You Lemons … Take Care of Your Lemon Tree

From the When Life Gives You Lemons… Series

Part 3: When Life Gives You Lemons … Take Care of Your Lemon Tree 

or How to Care for Your Potted Lemon Tree

Now that you have successfully chosen and installed your beautiful new lemon tree it is important to treat it kindly to get it to produce to its best.  Here is what you do:

Gorgeous potted lemon tree.

Gorgeous potted lemon tree. (pic from whiteonricecouple.com)

1.  Watering

All citrus do best with infrequent, deep waterings as opposed to more frequent but shallow waterings.  A good rule of thumb is to stick your finger in to the soil up to your second knuckle.  If your finger feels dry it is time to water well.  If it is still moist then leave it another day or two.  Another tip: If the leaves start to wilt but perk up after watering then you left it too long between drinks.  If the leaves are yellowing and curling and don’t improve after watering then you are over-watering.

I have mine on a drip irrigation system which, frankly, is not ideal as it tends towards the more-frequent-less-deep method of watering which does not make lemons happy.  Still, although I am a keen urban gardener I admit to being a lazy urban gardener and we all have to make compromises in places.  This is where I make mine.  It still seems to work ok.

2.  Fertilizing and Pruning

Lemon trees tend to be heavy feeders and do best with monthly applications of fertilizer during the growing season.  I like this organic brand, E.B. Stone Citrus and Fruit Tree Food.  Look for a NPK formulation with twice as much nitrogen as phosphorus and potassium.  This one is 7-3-3 and is just right.

Love this brand.  Seems to keep my fruit trees healthy without being too powerful or toxic.

Love this brand. Seems to keep my fruit trees healthy without being too powerful or toxic.

I toss a handful around the base of my fruit trees when I remember, so probably not as regularly as is recommended.  It is important to water the fertilizer in well after application.

Most lemon trees you buy will have been grafted on to some other kind of root stock and you may find shoots starting to grow from below the graft join.  These shoots should be removed immediately as they will not grow true to the variety you bought and just suck energy away from the plant.

Pruning should only be done to maintain shape and balance in the early spring.  Look to remove any crossing or rubbing branches as these can lead to wounds and infections.

3. Pests.

My lemon tree tends to get aphids.  These little insects suck the sap from the leaves causing them to twist and deform.  If left untreated they can cause leaf drop and finally limb death (yikes!).  Best to tackle aphids early on.  You can use a commercial insecticidal soap for a serious infestation but for smaller problems I find a quick blast of water from the hose will knock them right off.  Alternatively, I might try a simple soap spray of 2tsp liquid dish soap in a gallon of water and a small slug of vegetable oil.  Spray all over the leaves paying particular attention to the undersides to get them all.  The dishsoap and oil suffocates the little beasts so be liberal in your application.

4. Winter Care

As previously described, I bring my citrus inside for the winter.  I normally think about moving them in when the night time temps consistently get to about 40*F.  They will certainly suffer, maybe even die, if caught in a frost so I move them in proactively.  I find my citrus are happiest in an unheated storeroom off the garage with a South West aspect.  In fact, they are so happy here they bloom all winter instead of sleeping.  I try to make the most of the early lemon friskiness by hand pollinating the blossoms myself, blogged about here.

Do you grow citrus in non-citrus friendly areas?  How do you protect them from the damaging frosts?  I’ve head in more milder climates people will wrap them in Christmas fairy lights to ward off the cold.  I bet that looks pretty too.  Any other ideas and solutions?

NEXT UP: When Life Gives You Lemons … Move it Inside

When Life Gives You Lemons … Grow More Lemons

From the When Life Gives You Lemons…  Series.

Part 2: When Life Gives You Lemons … Grow More Lemons

or How to Pot Up a Lemon Tree

1. Pick what kind of lemon tree you want to grow.

Since we’ll be growing our lemon tree in a pot we’ll need to pick a small-er growing lemon variety.  Some lemon tree varieties that do well in pots are:

  1. Improved Meyer Lemon
  2. Lisbon
  3. Eureka

Of these three my favourite is the Improved Meyer Lemon.  If you have ever tasted a Meyer Lemon you wouldn’t have to ask me why.  The fruit is much sweeter than the lemons you buy at the store, still with a classically fresh lemon tartness but with none of the bitterness.  You can almost (almost) eat them like an orange they are so good.  They skins are thinner, too, I find, and are great for zesting.  There is very little pith to worry about.  The pith is where much of the bitterness of the lemon is found.

Potted Meyer Lemon tree.  So pretty.

Potted Meyer Lemon tree. So pretty. (pic from homeanddecor.ca)

I have found that with a little TLC my Meyer Lemon will produce heavily.  The picture of the tree above doesn’t surprise me although I know it doesn’t look real.  In my first year my Meyer lemon tree gave me 14 lemons. 14!  Not bad for a baby, huh?  Now, the second year I got zero (I grumble about that here) but moving forward I expect my lemon tree to produce beautifully just like in the picture.  TIme will tell.

You may also have a choice in the shape of the tree you buy.  I bought a standard tree, which means it had been trained to look like a ball on a tall stick.  I think it looks more elegant although it will take more upkeep to maintain the standard shape.

2. Choose your pot.

A full grown lemon tree can grow 6′-10′ tall although they will likely be smaller when kept in a pot.  But still, a fairly sizable pot is needed, maybe 15-20 gallon pot to start.  Lemons need good drainage so make sure there are plenty of drain holes in the bottom.  As you’ll be moving it around pay heed to how heavy the pot is.  And pick a blue one.

3. Choose Your Growing Medium

I know it seems strange to talk about the growing medium but I promise you that a little time and research now will pay big dividends later.  You can buy a ready made citrus potting mix with different additives such as peat moss, perlite or vermiculite, just ensure the soil is light enough to drain the water well.  If you are like me you might want to just make your own.  I like a recipe I found on a citrus growing forum long ago and wrote down:

Citrus Potting Mix Recipe

  • 1/3 MiracleGro Vegetable Mix
  • 1/3 small bark chips
  • 1/3 perlite (although I use vermiculite as that is what I had on hand).

4. Potting Up the Tree

When transplanting a lemon tree I like to shake off most of the old potting soil before replanting, just because I know what is in my potting medium recipe and I know it works for my environment.  Your lemon tree may also come bare-rooted like this one from William Sonoma.  The sawdust is just to try to keep the roots moist during transit.  You will shake them all off before you plant this tree.

Bare root meyer lemon tree sold by Williams Sonoma

Bare root meyer lemon tree sold by Williams Sonoma

Before planting examine the roots.  Cut off any that are damaged or broken, or are circling around and look root bound.  Also trim off any broken or dead branches you might see.

Place the bare root tree in your pot, gently packing in the soil around the roots.  It is important to get the height right.  Plant so the roots are just below the surface but that the crown is just above it.  Water in well to remove any air spaces and to settle the plant in nicely.

NEXT UP: When Life Gives You Lemons … Take Care of Your Lemons