Saddest Citrus Post of the Year

Sorry to end the year with a sad post....but it'll make the first New Year even happier.

What's up? Got any lemons?

While we were away in England in November, the temperatures really dropped.  Apparently it went lower than 19 F which is very unusual for Northern California. We've not seen it anywhere close to that in our 10 years here.

Sadly, it destroyed our citrus.  We are worried that it may have done more than just ruin our enormous crop of citrus, as some of the trees themselves look dead too. I guess time will tell.

Dead lemons from just one tree, below

Sometimes we have had frost damage to the fruit, but this year, it was more than frost - it was the cold temperature generally.


We stripped the trees of ruined fruit as we couldn't stand looking at them - and threw away 2 wheelbarrows full :-(
Frozen lemons and limes

Lemons, limes and some oranges.  It seems the mandarinquat and grapefruit are tougher than the rest!

Limes and its frozen tree

We've also had burst pipes - including the fire sprinkler system and the lovely faucet on our outdoor bathtub.   But maybe its worth it to show you these wonderful photos of Max in the bathtub last year!  We'll have to get the faucet repaired before he comes back!

What's that I see?

Lets hope 2014 is a gentler citrus year!

But never fear.  Even though we had a sad day collecting ruined fruit, Everything is Tickety-boo in the citrus front as my friend bought me an Australian Finger Lime tree so I can have citrus caviar!  Luckily I got it after the cold and so it is still indoors, and well protected!  Thanks K for my lovely gift. Can't wait to have my caviar!

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New food of the week: Citrus Caviar aka finger limes



I first heard about finger limes just a few months ago when I was looking at a fruit tree catalog.  I thought, "what an amazing fruit".  It's description was:

Unique Citrus:  Australian Finger Lime (Microcitrus australasica) 
One of the most fascinating discoveries in our fruit world, this unusual variety is sometimes called Citrus Caviar.  Contained in the dark purple, 3" long fruit are a multitude of juicy capsules, bursting with intense, sweet-tart, lemon-lime flavor.  Found in the wild in Australia, Finger Limes have been cultivated for less than 10 years in the US.



Well we have lots of citrus trees growing in our garden so the idea of citrus caviar just sounded wonderful to me.  Think of all the uses...I could put it in drinks - little floating beads of citrus; I could decorate desserts with it - imagine a dairy free lemon cheesecake with pearls of citrus caviar sprinkled on top; or just sprinkle them on salads or anywhere you'd use lemon zest......My mind was buzzing!

So yes, I had to order a tree.  I mentioned them to a friend and she asked me to order her one too so we could see who had the better climate for them - Sonoma or Glen Ellen!

But sadly, the company who are based in Oregon, said they can't ship citrus trees to California :-(

Oh dear. I was sad. So I've been asking around at local nurseries to see if they can get one for me....and no luck so far.


Then the other day, I was out in a different part of the county that I don't usually visit, seeing a new client.  On the way home I had to pick up some items for dinner so thought I'd call in a Raley's supermarket.  I've only ever been in a Raley's 3 times in my life - and always this same one. As it happens, I enjoyed shopping in there, as they had lots of different things from what I see in my usual supermarket.  But it was in the produce section that I got really excited.  I'd been around the section a couple of times and just found fresh pomegranates, which we don't normally see at this time of year. This encouraged me to look a little closer, thinking what else might they have that I don't normally see?  

And what did I spy but a little packet labelled "citriburst"! Yes - fresh finger limes for sale :-D


But when I turned the packet over, they looked very unattractive and I figured they were old and out of date.  But on closer examination, I found that their black, dark green color is actually their fresh color! All was not lost.

So 2 packets later and here I am trying them. 

They are fun!  Little pearls of citrus with a crunch to them too!  The description in the catalog was spot on - a little sweet and a little tart. And a burst in your mouth.  The pearls are different colors in each finger - some are a little pinky in color, whereas others are "lemon" in color (!) and apparently they are sometimes neon green!


So I tried sprinkling a few on top of a marmalade oat hemp bar I made, with a little of my homemade soy yoghurt.  Combination of the marmalade with the citrus caviar was great!

The best way to get the caviar out is to cut the limes in half and squeeze each half, as you see in the first couple of photos.

Got to get making some new things now with my new found friend. 


Have you ever seen them or tried them? I can imagine them being great with seafood, if you eat seafood - and a cocktail...well....we'll have to see what cocktail hour brings this evening! Give them a try if you can find them.  They are a happy food!  Something different to delight your eyes as well as your taste buds.

Have you tried a new food this week?

Here's the supplier's video:


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Lemon juice or lemon zest?

I was watching Yotam Ottolenghi on telelvision today and something he said, struck a cord with me. He said lemon juice just tends to add acidity to a dish, but adding lemon zest, adds so much more.  Isn't that true!



The zest contains aromatic oils, which is where the real flavor and perfume of lemons comes from.  So don't try and substitute lemon zest for lemon juice.  You just won't get the flavor.



I still use juice in many recipes, but if I want a real lemon flavor, it has to have zest in it, for example when making my gluten free vegan lemon cheesecake,  as opposed to adding lemon juice to a savory dish.



If you are going to juice a lemon, zest it first - its much easier than trying to do two halves!  And use the zest immediately when it is most flavorful.

A great citrus you buy if you want a lot of zest is a Buddha's hand! They are all zest and no fruit pulp.  Just pull a finger off and zest it.  The Buddha's hand was traditionally used as a room freshener - for more info, check out my post on Buddha's hands!



Hands down (!) lemon zest is one of my favorite flavors. As we have 3 very prolific lemon trees, I use it a lot. What about you?  If you don't - give a go - using the zest for real flavor and the juice for acidity.
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Dehydrating fruit

So here is the dehydrated fruit I made - what is left of it, and before its all gone!


Don't the oranges look nice and glossy!


And I love the waviness of the apples - like they have been gently pleated as they dried.


What is your favorite dried fruit?  I don't like pears - they turn a little gritty, and last year I did some of our green table grapes that we grew - making yummy sultanas.....Maybe I'll have to do persimmons this year... Now if only you could dry quince without cooking them.....

I wonder what my next dehydrator project will be????  Oh, if only there were more hours in the day. I love having so many ideas in my head!
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Dehydrating fruit

I had an idea to try dehydrating some citrus fruit.  We are finally coming to the end of all our citrus fruit from the garden but have a few oranges left.  I've never dehydrated citrus before but thought it sounded a nice idea.

And so I sliced them thinly, and added some apples and a couple of strawberries at the same time - might as well fill the dehydrator.


I dried them until they were crispy - and all of them are delicious.


It's great to eat the whole orange - peel as well and because its sliced so thinly, it doesn't taste too bitter.

I had great plans for these crispy snacks - creating something more than just dried fruit - but we ate them before I could finish the plan! I'll have to do some more and not leave them out to be eaten!!

This really is the easiest way to
preserve apples and when our harvest starts later in the year, I know I'll be doing plenty more. You don't have to peel and core the apples - just slice using a mandolin, no need to add anything to them (so unlike bought dried apples, no sulphur or citric acid) - and then just put them in a dehydrator and forget about them for a few hours.

Easy Peasy!  Roll on apple harvest!
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Eating a variety of fruit


One of the four food groups in a plant based whole foods diet is fruit (the others are vegetables, legumes and grains).  Fruit was the focus for our first meeting today with a new Food as Medicine group.


We spoke about the different phytonutrients in different fruits - from flavonoids, bioflavenoids, antioxidant activity, lycopene, carotenoids, anthocyanins etc and fiber, minerals, vitamins etc.   Then we cooked together to create a fruit based lunch. Here was the menu:

  • kiwi guacomole - adding two kiwi to one avocado gives a good boost in Vitamin C to the mix and also reduces the fat density
  • goldenberry chutney - this is a great tart chutney that you can use as a dip or spread or condiment.  Dried goldenberries are mixed with onion, jalapeno pepper, ginger etc to make a vibrant chutney
  • pear soup - made with sweet potatoes and pears, this is a great source of pectin fiber and carotenoids
  • rainbow salad with strawberry dressing - red lettuce with blueberries, cherries, blood oranges and the dressing of strawberries and vinegar
  • quinoa and goji berry salad - with spices of cinnamon, turmeric, cumin, cilantro....
  • raspberry crunch to go - a layered dessert (or breakfast) in a small pot with lid, made from buckwheat, raspberries, raspberry cream (made from raspberry flour and cashew nuts) and then a crunchy nut topping.

My favorites are the goldenberry chutney and the raspberry crunch.


We definitely all ate a rainbow in one meal!  Did you eat a rainbow today - ie fruits and vegetables from all colors of the rainbow? As I drove to the class, I even saw a rainbow. How fitting!
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New food of the week - Buddha's hand

My new food this week was a Buddha's hand citrus.


Quite a scary food from it's look. Would be good for halloween!

It is a citrus fruit but has very little flesh and is juiceless and often seedless.  The fruit is made up of fingerlike parts unto 12 inches long.

It is a fragrant fruit and used predominantly by the Chinese and Japanese as a room freshener.  Just place a Buddha's hand in the room and the fragrance perfumes the room.  It is also used for freshening the smell of clothing.

The fruit is also used as an offering in Buddhist temples.  Apparently, Buddha prefers the fingers to be more "closed" rather than as an open hand, to signify prayer.

As a food, just the peel is used.  The inner pith- the white part under the peel is not as bitter as pith on other citrus fruits so the fingers can be cut off and then sliced longitudinally - pith and all -  and used in salads or with fish dishes etc.


I decided that I'd use a microplane to get the zest off the fingers, and then dehydrate it for future use.  I used some of it on a salad and it had a lovely citrus flavor - not too sharp.


Next time I'll try a finger, whole!

Did you try a new food this week?
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Marmalade Granola

You may recall that I made a gluten free granola a few months ago, that had no refined sugar or add oil in it.  It was plain in flavor, which is nice when you want to change your additions each morning for breakfast.

With 3 fig trees all full of ripe fruit, you can bet I add figs to my marmalade granola breakfast!
However, this week I made a flavored granola that I am just loving.  It's marmalade flavor, made with "no sugar added" marmalade.  There are a variety of marmalades and jams available nowadays that don't use refined sugar but instead utilize just the sweetness of fruit as their sweetener.  Be careful however, some utilize artificial sweeteners instead, which aren't good for you.

My favorite is an Italian organic citrus fruit "spread".  It's by Alce Nero and contains only orange peel and pulp,  apple puree and lemons.


Here is the recipe to make gluten free, no oil added, no refined sugar marmalade granola:


1 cup GF old fashioned rolled oats
1 cup unsweetened puffed brown rice
1/4 cup Alce nero Citrus fruit spread

Mix the ingredients together and spread on a parchment or silpat lined baking sheet. Place in the oven at 400 degrees F for 10 minutes. Stir and replace in the oven for an additional 5 - 10 minutes, but check frequently as it can quickly go from golden brown to over done.


Enjoy every morning with your non-dairy milk.


PS I make double the quantity listed here, and of course you can vary the ratio and types of grains as you please.
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