The loss of the lemon tree

My (former) lemon tree Having thought that there wasn’t too much different between the New Zealand and Irish climates, I’ve been amazed to discover that lemon trees grow here. And, what’s more, they actually fruit too! While living with the Boyfriend’s parents in Nelson it was a great treat to go out and pick some lemons from a tree that fruits year-round but, as we live in much colder Christchurch, I didn’t think that we would have that option ourselves.

Our first home in Christchurch was a unit – basically a flat on its own land. After years of apartment living it was great to have a garden of our own, albeit a two meter square lawn and some hedges that rapidly got out of hand. I didn’t realise until much later that the green oval berries on one of the garden shrubs were actually nascent lemons and, even though we’ve moved into winter a while ago, they continued to grow and turn yellow until they were small, but perfectly formed, lemons. The tree itself was rather small, with lovely glossy evergreen leaves and, when it was covered with lemons ripening at different stages, it was a magnificent sight indeed. The first batch I harvested got made into preserved lemons – more Moroccan influences! – and they’re sitting curing in the cupboard at the moment.

Alas, my lemon paradise didn’t last for long. Last weekend we moved into a new (to us) house which, although gorgeous, is sadly lacking a lemon tree. But it does have an even bigger garden and I have plans for a sunny North-facing wall – in NZ some things get turned upside down – out the back. Having done some research it seems that the elusive, and beloved of New York Times columnists, Meyer Lemon is the best adjusted variety to the Christchurch hot summer/cold winter balance. Although Meyer Lemons – a hybrid cross between a regular lemon and either an orange or a mandarin – have gotten good press for their sweeter-than-an-average-lemon juice, they don’t have the best skin when it comes to zesting. There might have to be a pair of lemon trees purchased, if I have my way…



Food writer. Broadcaster. Blogger. Author. Married to Eight Degrees Brewing. Member of the Irish Food Writers' Guild, founder of Irish Food Bloggers Association and co-author of Sláinte: The Complete Guide to Irish Craft Beer & Cider (New Island)

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2 Responses

  1. joe age 6 says:

    My Meyer lemon is potted and has some fruit which is yellow but hard.When should i pick it?

  2. Caroline says:

    Well, Joe-age-6, the best test of ripeness would be a gentle squeeze. If the lemon is hard then that means that it won’t have much juice or flavour. Meyer lemons are greenish when slightly immature and then they turn a rich yellow-orange when fully ripe. It sounds like your fruit still has some time to go before you pick it so wait until it starts looking more orangy and it feels softer – if you can!

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