I came home one day this week to find a big box of lemons sitting outside my door. Citrus fruit and pomegranates are my favourite fruit to have around the house – for their flavours, their smells, and also because they make a beautifully natural and vibrant decoration.
It turns out the lemons were from my friend Susana, who lives in a village outside Limassol with a beautiful lemon grove surrounding her house. This month we see lemon trees all over Cyprus, their branches heavy and sagging from the bright and fragrant fruit.
Ask any Greek, and they’ll say they love lemons – whether hanging on the trees, flavouring their food, or decorating their home. And at this time of year, so many of us are either enjoying the fruit from our own trees, or have friends and relatives who bring around baskets full.
The ones greeting me were freshly picked and organic, and Susana clearly knew that I’d find many uses for them.
When lemons are in season, there are so many things you can do with them, both to enjoy them immediately but also to preserve them for later when they become more expensive. Here are some of my favourite:
- Make a delicious lemon tart, with a tangy topping made with yoghurt, vanilla, sugar and the juice and peel of four lemons.
- Add a slice of organic lemon peel to soups, rice or boiled potatoes for a little lemon fragrance.
- Make homemade lemonade! Mix equal parts of sieved lemon juice and sugar, then allow to sit for several hours so the sugar can dissolve. Add water and ice for a beautifully refreshing glass of lemonade. I use my parents’ old fashioned hand press, which means that the oil from the lemon peel is also captured, adding an old-fashioned fragrance to the lemonade.
- Use lemons as a natural cleaning product in the kitchen.
- Freeze lemon juice in ice cube trays or little jars as a handy way to add fresh lemon juice to soups and sauces when they’re out of season.
- Grate lemon peel and freeze it to add to cakes and sauces.
- Make egg and lemon soup (you don’t know how nice it tastes until you’ve tried it!).
Of course, this season’s lemons won’t last forever, so when you have them, it’s good to preserve them. You can either freeze the juice and peel as described above, or you can opt for a more traditional trick used by our parents and grandparents.
Get an old box, basket or any container you have available and line it with sand. Add your lemons, then pour in more sand until you almost cover the lemons – only the tip should be visible. You then place the box in a cool, dry place and your lemons will keep for months!
I’m thinking all these things as I open my front door and carry the box of lemons inside. But the very first thing I think I’ll do with my treasure box of lemons is to make the favourite recipe of my friend's father, Mr Costas.
Mr Costas was a great fan of the traditional Cyprus brandy sour drink. I can still see him now, sitting in his garden, holding out two fingers. “You get a tall glass with two fingers of lemonade. Add two fingers of Anglias brandy, eight drops of Angostura Bitters, and top it up with soda water. Half a slice of lemon and a couple of ice cubes, and you’ll always remember me!”
I certainly am remembering him tonight. You try his brandy sour, and you’ll remember his words too!