Discover Flavour Series Part 3: Sour
By Hans Wieland
When my mum sang ‘Kennst du das land, wo die Zitronen blühn…’ (Do you know the land where the lemon trees bloom), she was dreaming of Italy. The lyrics are actually a poem by Goethe, who had visited Italy. My own literary connections to lemons stem from Chris Stewart, a former drummer in Genesis and travel writer (“Driving over lemons”), who moved to the Alpujara mountains in Andalucia to grow lemons and other organic fruits. To compete with Chris not only behind a drum kit but also as an organic farmer I started growing lemons in our conservatory. We are living in the North West of Ireland after all.
Most ecologically minded people, who grow some vegetables and fruits or at least shop local and organic, face some ethical dilemma when it comes to citrus fruits and air miles. And because I use a lot of lemons in my weekly kefir production and also in salad dressings I am in a big dilemma. So “Grow it yourself” is my challenge!
Can we grow our own citrus fruits? Yes, but with a lesser yield. They not only like a high intensity of light, they want to be caressed by the sun, which is a challenge even in the best of Irish summers. They thrive in temperatures of 20-30° Celsius, are an evergreen and tolerate temperatures down to zero in the winter, when the ripening fruits turn yellow.
I started out a few years ago with a three year old tree given to me as a Christmas present. I planted it into a 30 litre pot and positioned it in the south west corner of our conservatory. During the summer I water regularly and feed with homemade compost and comfrey water every two weeks. After Christmas, I usually harvest 15-25 lemons from this one tree.