Saturday, January 16, 2016

The Fruits of Our Labor

Potted Meyer lemon and lime trees
 Three years ago, I fell victim to a sale for something I really didn’t need. Well let’s face it, many of us do. This one was from Logee’s Plants for Home and Garden in Connecticut.  It offered a three-fer on little citrus trees. It was like I’d been sucker-punched and went into an auto-order daze. I love Meyer lemons. They cost the moon in the shops -- when you can even find them -- and limes are a staple here for all kinds of reasons (gin and tonic in the summer being one, fish tacos another).  I bought three little trees – a Meyer lemon, a sweet lime and a key lime -- in a daze of bargainry, not really thinking about how I’d look after them or the limited space in the small backyard greenhouse that I use primarily to start my vegetable seedlings.

I’ve left the trees outside in summer. The first year I brought them into the greenhouse for winter they were only mildly crowded with the vegetable seedlings. Last spring I repotted them (how they’ve grown, I’m so proud!). Now, it’s like I’m trying to cram a four-pound sausage into a two-pound casing and I’m not sure how I’m going to have room to grow all the little seedlings for the garden while they’re still there until the weather warms enough to shove them outside again.  But that worry is for another day (coming soon).

 At the moment they’re feeling peaky, what with a little bacterial mold (aphid-borne, I’m guessing) and a lack of moisture on the leaves. (They loved it when I hauled them outside on a warm day in December and vigorously hosed off their leaves, but they are as large as I can manage on my own, and even then, I purposely let the root ball dry out a little to make them lighter -- every gardener needs a cast-iron back with a hinge in it). I’ll hit them again with an insecticidal soap this weekend and hope for the best.

Meyer Lemons and the fruits of their labor
Despite being a semi-clueless tree-mom, those little guys have been generous. We’ve got a bag of little key limes in the crisper, though we’ve finished the 30 or so sweet limes the lime tree gave us. (Not all on gin and tonics, honest). But the Meyer lemon was the start -- 40 sweet fruits!  I made preserved lemons to use in a Moroccan lamb recipe I’ve been eying for some time, and Meyer lemon curd and Meyer lemon marmalade. But mostly, I’ve been making little Meyer lemon sponge custards. They’re a super little dessert or breakfast. Tartish, sweetish, delicious and, I gotta believe, good for you.

Meyer Lemon Sponge Custard

3 Meyer lemons
¾ cup sugar
2 Tblsp butter
3 Tblsp flour
½ cup whole milk
2-3 eggs, separated

Preheat oven at 325-350. Butter 6 custard cups and put in a bain marie (a water bath in a Pyrex dish or something like it – water about halfway up the sides of the cups). Grate rind of lemons gently, since the skins are thin, and you don’t want pith, which tends to be a little bitter. Then squeeze them into the same container. You should have about ¼-1/3 cup of juice and rind. Cream butter and sugar together, add egg yolks, beating until they are well incorporated and the batter is beautifully smooth. Add the flour, then gradually add the lemon juice and rind, and finally add the milk gradually, beating the whole time. Whip egg whites, and gently fold into the batter. Pour into the custard cups and bake for about 25 minutes or until puffed a little and slightly browned on top. Remove from the water bath and let cool. Chill if your family doesn’t scarf them all up immediately or if you’re keeping them for breakfast.
Meyer lemon sponge custard


  1. Very impressive! My lemon tree has lost virtually all of its leaves (have not a clue what I am doing wrong. Yes, it is inside) and my lime tree is not too hot looking either. I have a feeling something is not right with the soil. Any suggestions?

  2. This isn't my area, Sabine, but you might try repotting it in clean organic potting soil. I was told when I called Logees that they need to be in clay pots since the roots have to dry out periodically (tho the leaves seem to really benefit from a shower), but I couldn't have lifted clay pots the size they are now, so they're in plastic and seem to be mostly fine. Vic Priapi, who has lemons in his high tunnels/greenhouse, suggested I use horticultural oil (not dormant oil spray) on them while they're in the greenhouse,(presumably your equivalent is in the house). If it's small enough, maybe you's want to haul it up to Vic, wh is what I did last year, and get his opinion.

  3. These were delicious!! I only needed 1.5 lemons for the required about of juice.

    I'm having the same problem with my Meyer Lemon. I'll try repotting and see if that helps.

  4. Maybe it has simply gotten too much water. I did repot it last season, but will do it again. And yes, clay pots are too heavy since this plant resides upstairs during the winter.

  5. They like to dry out between waterings -- stick your finger in and if it's dry to about the first knuckle it's time to water.


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