Winter Meyer Lemon Harvest. Photos Leslie Halleck

In The Garden: Winter Lemon Harvest

Just when the days are at their shortest and temperatures at a low chill, the sunniest of harvests springs forth from our Dallas gardens. Late-December and early-January aren’t exactly times you’d expect to be harvesting a bounty of tropical fruit in our climate. We regularly drop down to sub-freezing temperatures and ice storms are always a threat. Nonetheless, a big haul of fresh Meyer lemons brought in the New Year at my house. So what exactly are Meyer lemons? We think they are a cross of ‘Eureka’ or ‘Lisbon’ lemons and a mandarin orange, known botanically as Citrus × meyeri. It’s the orange parent that gives the Meyer lemon it’s sweeter flavor and slightly more orange color. As a self-proclaimed citrus addict, I can think of almost nothing better than the tangy sweetness of a fresh Meyer lemon. Especially when it turns into lemon curd.

Halleck_Meyer_lemon_bowl

Many citrus fruits become harvest ready in Dallas just as the winter solstice is upon us. Satsuma oranges, lemons and Mexican limes brighten up otherwise dreary winter patios with their cheery ripening fruit come November & December. The timing can be a little tricky though…plants still need good light and moisture to finished developing their fruit. Bringing your citrus indoors either during the flowering or fruit ripening stage can result in dropped flowers or dried up fruit (the air in our homes is very dry). So the trick is to leave plants outside for as long as possible, covering them when temperatures drop below 30 degrees. Citrus fruit typically sustains some damage after temperatures drop to 28 F degrees or below. Otherwise, the fruit will be fine. Once temperatures drop into the low 20s or teens, citrus plants can be damaged or even killed – this is the time to move them indoors. Growing citrus in containers is the best way to protect your plants. Look for citrus plants at your local garden center in January and February. Plants will soon be coming back into flower.

So back to that lemon curd. I’ve decided it’s pretty much the very best thing you can do with your Meyer lemons. (Except for maybe lemon bars, or lemon cheesecake, or lemon tart…)

  • Zest of 3 Meyer lemons
  • 1/2 cup Meyer lemon juice (about 3-4 lemons)
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups sugar (depending on your sweet tooth)
  • 4 XL eggs or 5 small/medium eggs
  • 1/4 lb unsalted butter (1 stick, room temp.)
  • 1/8 tsp. salt (optional)

In a saucepan on the stove, whisk your juice, zest, sugar and eggs together. Turn on low heat and stir in the butter. Keep whisking mixture on low heat until it’s thick and you start to see some bubbling. This could take about five minutes or a little longer. Don’t overcook! Pour the curd into a bowl and chill it in the fridge.

Eat lemon curd on scones, toast or as a glaze for cheesecakes and tarts. Or, just eat it straight out of the jar. Not that I would do such a thing…

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