Thursday, June 28, 2007
Still Life with Lemons
Our house painter--who is also an artist--said these lemons looked like a Dutch still life, sitting on my kitchen counter. I liked how they looked lined up on the tiles of our deck. Oddly, he did not mention their monstrous size. Maybe they have mammoth lemons like these in Bulgaria. I have only seen lemons like these from one place: the tree in the Berkeley backyard belonging to my father and his wife. My sons were over at their house, while we were at a surprise party for my mother. Besides playing Mexican Trains, a sort of domino game on steroids, they harvested two paper grocery bags full of these lemons. My stepmother was mowing the lawn the other day and one of these lemons fell on her head. She said she saw stars. So I guess behind the generous impulse there was a survival instinct in harvesting the lemons. Just in case the colossal nature of these lemons is not apparent in the first picture, I have included a second one with a normal, ordinary lemon next to the Godzilla lemon.
Despite their thick skins, these giant lemons are surprisingly fragile. After only three or four days out on the counter, they began to mold. I had to do something with them. I thought of making lemon marmelade, especially since the skin has a slight grapefruit-like fragrance--perhaps they are some kind of cross between a grapefruit and a lemon--but in the end I juiced them and froze some of the juice and made lemonade with the rest. There was no trace of the grapefruit flavor in the juice, but it seemed particularly sour. It was freakily refreshing.
Postscript: According to what I could find online, my dad and stepmother's lemon tree is probably a Ponderosa lemon, which some think is a cross between a lemon and a citron. My mom actually has a Ponderosa lemon tree, but her lemons never get as big as those monster ones. I like to think some UC Berkeley botanist gave the earlier owners of the house some rare, unnamed, experimental hybrid. How about "Bowling Ball" lemon?