Every season has its winners and losers. In my garden, some of the losers are my beloved apple trees, which are only just losing their leaves and are on track to receive so little winter chill that they may fail to break dormancy and flower in spring. But rather than focus on what isn’t doing well, I’m taking a glass half full outlook and focussing on what is thriving in the warmer than average weather.
My lemon tree is going gangbusters. I purchased it as a ‘Meyer’ lemon, specifically choosing this variety because of it’s ability to handle frosts. The fruit, however, is quite different to that produced by Meyer and I’m thinking that the tree is probably a ‘Eureka’. This is a blessing in disguise really. Meyer is a cross between a bitter lemon and an orange. It’s fruit is wonderfully juicy but ever so slightly sweet. What I’m after is the true bitter lemon flavour, and I’ve fluked it with a mislabelled tree and a local climate that’s become less prone to heavy frosts.
Whatever variety it is, my lemon tree is so productive that I find myself in the enviable position of having a glut on my hands. I love gluts. They fly in face of all the naysayers who take great pleasure in reminding me that home food gardens are characterised by scarcity and will never feed the world. Blah, blah, blah. The thing is, I’m not trying to feed the world. I’m trying to grow enough fresh produce for a family of five, and we regularly have such an abundance that we’re able to sell surplus produce and share some with friends.
To make the most of my lemon glut I’ve been preserving the fruit for use over summer. Preserved lemon is a beautiful ingredient that’s savoury, rather than sweet, and perfect for middle eastern and Moroccan dishes. The actual preserving process is as simple as falling off a log.
Start by rinsing half a dozen lemons in clean water, then make a cross shaped incision from the top of the fruit, almost to the bottom, leaving a flap of skin at the base to hold the quartered lemon together. Open the fruit up a bit, fill it with salt (any will do but a good rock salt is best), and pack salted lemons into a large sterilised jar. Sprinkle the fruit with an extra couple of tablespoons of salt, then pour over half a cup of lemon juice. Add a few bay leaves and cardamom pods for extra flavour if you want, then fill the jar with boiling water and seal. Leave the preserved lemons in a cool place to mature for a month before eating. Easy peasy and oh so tasty!
By: Justin Russell
First published: December 2020