Garden with Grace

"I hope that while so many people are out smelling the flowers, someone is taking the time to plant some." ~H.Rappaport


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When the Garden Gives You Lemons, Make Lemon Drop Cocktails!

At the start of this year, I shared the story about the pink lemon tree acquired in October 2013.

We’ve waited for months for the first lemon to be ready to pick (almost a full year, actually), only to see hundreds of tiny lemons, barely the size of peas, fall to the ground during 3-4 growth cycles. While that may seem discouraging to some people, this plant has been enjoyed even without fruit for months, indoors and out.  Its tiny white and purple flowers are extremely fragrant, as is the beautiful, shiny, variegated foliage. When it isn’t indoors filling the garden room with lemon perfume, it’s outdoors bringing delight to the honeybees.

By late May, the pink lemon tree was moved from the garden room indoors to the back patio where it enjoyed outdoor living for 3 full months.  However, with the temperatures expected to drop into the 40’s (F) in New Hampshire tonight, it is time to bring this beauty indoors during the overnight hours

But, before that happens, we needed to pick a lemon. Today, the first lemon was harvested! The pink lemon variety never really turns completely yellow – it’s a creamy yellow color with green stripes. The fruit size is small, more like a lime or golf ball.

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A lot of thought went into what to do with this lemon – we really wanted to be able to taste its lemony flavor, but with only one lemon, there’d be hardly enough juice for even a thimble-full of lemonade.  The truth is that I didn’t care what the end offering would be, I just wanted to cut open the fruit to see its pink flesh.  It looked a little more salmon color than bright pink – and was beautiful.

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When you grow your own lemons, you enjoy fruit that is not covered in wax because it was shipped to your market from thousands of miles away.  Instead, the outside of the lemon rendered a big spray of oil when it was cut and then squeezed.

Thankfully, if you have vodka in the house, you can skip the lemonade and go right for a lemon cocktail.  I did a quick search online to find a recipe that only needed a few ingredients and Ina Garten offered the solution. Her recipe for a Lemon Drop cocktail was perfect – I simply cut the ingredient portions in half for my one, lonely lemon.

Voila! The most delicious Lemon Drop Cocktail that took nearly a year to make!

IMG_4917Cheers! And, here’s to the remaining 4 lemons that should be ready in as many weeks. If you have suggestions on how I should plan to use them, let me know via a comment!


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Growing a ‘Load’ of Lemons in New Hampshire

Fifty lemons are a load for one person, but for fifty persons they are perfume. – Ethiopian Proverb

I saw this proverb today and thought about the lemon tree that is now growing in my garden/sun room in New Hampshire.  (It’s such a more positive thought than the proverb about making lemonade from lemons, isn’t it?)

During my travels to the California Bay Area while working for Sun Microsystems and Hewlett-Packard over the past 20 years, I’ve had the opportunity to become friends with many people who live in beautiful cities and towns close to San  Francisco, include Palo Alto and San Jose.

I’ve always been impressed, and admittedly, a little (ok, very!) jealous, of the gorgeous lemon and orange trees that so many of them take for granted in their own backyards.  When I say ‘take for granted’, many comment that the trees are messy and more of a nuisance vs. benefit.

When traveling to California during the winter months, I’d always return home to New Hampshire and think about how nice it would be to have my own lemon tree. Just for that fresh spritz of lemon to brighten a boring piece of fish. Or, a twist of lemon for a cocktail made at home.  I’d be able to do so many things with my own home-grown lemons.

Time to become a Lemon Farmer

I never realized that this desire could become a reality, until I saw the fruits of the labor of two friends, in different areas of NH, who have been maintaining fruit producing lemon trees for the past few years.  Both Bobbi (in Hampton Falls near the coast) and Joe (in Nashua across the street) have had much success growing Meyer Lemons in NH.

This year is my turn to become a “lemon farmer”!

The tree was purchased locally at a nursery just over the border in Chelmsford, Massachusetts late this fall and was about $30. While the Meyer Lemon trees that I know Bobbi and Joe have had success with didn’t look so healthy at the nursery this fall, there was a beautiful variegated Pink Lemon tree (called Eureka) that looked lush and was full of flower buds (which seemed odd since it was fall.)

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Pink variegated lemon tree.

The lemony fragrance of the flowers and foliage was (and still is!) just amazing.  Bringing this tree into my home has been like adding a natural perfume into my home that envelopes my living space.

The Fruits of my Labor

Fast-forward 3 months.  The pink lemon tree has been such a treat – at this point, primarily for the fragrance. However, the bright variegated foliage is a nice addition to the few indoor plants that are maintained inside of my home during the winter.

The lemon tree lives in the one room of my old home that sees natural light almost 8 hours a day in the winter.  I’ve learned that it doesn’t like a lot of water and needs occasional doses of an organic fertilizer.  Overall, it’s been almost maintenance-free.

Baby Pink Lemons - masquerading as limes!

Baby pink lemons masquerading as limes!

The blossoms keep blooming, giving off that perfumy fragrance and the tree is filling out with some nice fruit. If I didn’t know better, I’d think that I was growing limes, based on how they look today.

Hoping for a Load of 50 Lemons

I do hope that I can grow even half of that number of lemons from this little tree!  Of course I’ll add a some fresh lemon twists to some homemade cocktails, and spritz some boring fish. And, I’ll even make some (pink) lemonade! But I will also share these little beauties with local friends who need that uplifting fragrance that a fresh lemon brings during the middle of a NH winter.

I look forward to a blog post early this spring to provide an update when this lemon farmer prepares for the first sunroom lemon harvest!