The Last of the Lemons and Mandarins

Here is a picture of our Meyer Lemon tree inside the greenhouse, snug as a bug in a rug! You can see there are a few ripe lemons left on the tree.

Several years ago I bought a dwarf Meyer Lemon tree and have truly loved it ever since!

Our new homestead in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in Northern California has a few days each winter below freezing (rarely below 26 or 27 degrees) for a day or two at a time, and most citrus trees cannot withstand that low of a temperature for that long.  So, we are keeping our citrus trees in fairly large pots, which allows us to move them for the winter into a greenhouse or cover it with a frost blanket, or both!

We live in USDA zone 7b or 8a, and yet our citrus trees have done well, in fact they have positively thrived since moving up to our new homestead.

The move up here was particularly hard on the citrus trees because most of their leaves got shredded while travelling in the back of our pick-up.  It was so sad and we didn’t even know it was happening until we arrived, but the poor dears bloomed just a few short months later anyway.  Now that’s what I call resilience!

This shows part of our garden/orchard area this past winter during yet another snow (we had more than usual). You can see our little greenhouse with the mandarin and  lemon trees, along with my faithful stevia plant tucked inside.

In Italy, lemons are very popular, and so many homes are built with a “lemonaia”, a room with southern window exposure just for citrus fruit trees to overwinter!

A picture of our Meyer Lemon tree in full bloom last year.

For those who don’t know, a Meyer Lemon is actually a cross between a regular lemon (Lisbon or Eureka) and a mandarin orange, which is why the Meyer is sweeter than a regular lemon.  However, it may be less acidic than a regular lemon, which is why you should not use one for acidifying fruits or vegetables while canning.

The Lisbon and Eureka lemons are usually larger than a Meyer Lemon, and the coloring of the fruit is also a little different, with the Meyer having a slightly orange tinge to both the rind and the flesh.

broad bean hummus

Here are a couple of our Meyer Lemons with some Fava bean hummus.  The Meyer Lemon zest is also very flavorful – much sweeter and brighter tasting (in my opinion) than a regular lemon.

I just adore the sweet/tart flavor of the Meyer, especially dripped onto salmon patties, or infused with basil or lavender in a glass of iced cold water… especially on a hot summer day!

Our tree produced about 15 lemons this year, which is a lot for this little tree, and there were a few left on the tree just this last week.  I figured I should get them off the tree, since I saw there were already small flower buds on the tree for this year’s crop!

My mother has had a regular lemon tree in her backyard for quite a few years now (I think it is a Eureka) and only picks the fruit when she needs them, and so she has had mature fruit, immature fruit and blossoms on the tree all at the same time.  Although it doesn’t seem that her tree minds this in the least, hers is in the ground and mine is in a pot, so I thought I would unburden the tree by picking the last of the lemons.

Our dwarf Tango Mandarin tree loaded with unripe fruit. This picture was taken last fall before we put it into the greenhouse.

Our mandarin tree is a Tango Mandarin and is about four years old now. Last year we got almost three dozen mandarins from this dwarf tree!  The Tango is supposed to be seed free, but every one of ours have had seeds.  After a bit of research, I found that this is probably because of it’s close proximity to our Meyer lemon tree, and the apparent cross pollination.

Who knew?

Obviously we didn’t… but we live and learn!

However, since we don’t mind a few seeds (a perfect excuse for a lady to spit!) we will continue to grow them together.

Believe it or not, this little tree produced almost three dozen fruit this year!  The Tango mandarin isn’t usually completely ripe until late January or February, and the quality of the fruit does not degrade for a month or so after ripeness when left on the tree, so we have been enjoying the “fruits of our labor” day by day as we walk by and pluck a snack.

The mandarins are starting to ripen! We took the citrus trees out of the greenhouse when the danger of a hard freeze had passed, so that the sunshine would help the fruit to further ripen. If you compare this picture with the one above, you can see that a couple of months in the greenhouse saved the tree, but the fruit was just barely more ripe!

What did I do with the last of my Meyer lemons?  I cut them, squeezed them, strained the and poured the juice into ice cube trays.

Frozen Meyer Lemon Juice

I ended up with three trays of frozen Meyer lemon juice cubes.

I thought of making lemon curd, but to save time I thought I would first freeze the juice and then decide later what to do with it. I found a great recipe for lemon curd that can be canned in half pint jars at National Center for Home Food Preservation.  If I don’t make the curd, I will probably use the ice cubes this summer in iced tea or infused water.  Mmmmm… doesn’t that sound good?

Someday, if we ever get our new house built, I am going to put these trees on our front porch, which will be on the south side of the house. When the trees are in bloom the aroma is heavenly, and I think they would make a beautiful welcome to all who visit.  I want to add a lime tree and probably another Tango mandarin, and will use them as a border along one side of the porch where I can set a couple of pretty patio chairs.  Won’t that look pretty?

Where the party is:



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19 thoughts on “The Last of the Lemons and Mandarins

  1. I have wanted a lemon tree for so long! I really just need to go out and buy one! And like you said,…it can live in a pot that can be moved around. Thank you so for all the info on the lemons and the mandarins! And I love your idea for the ice cubes in water for the summer.

    • Good morning! I am sooooo glad I got my lemon tree, and you will be glad when you get one. It needs a fairly large pot, which (depending on what type you get) can be expensive, but it is so worth it. And, I should have mentioned this in my post, you will need to give it a bit of citrus food now and then. The ice cubes are great – especially in tea or infused water. I hope you try it when you get your lemon tree!

    • Haha – Debbie – you crack me up! Yes, they would be great in vodka! You know, I think you could have a citrus tree that you bring inside for the winter. I know you get pretty cold up there on your mountain, but if you put the tree in a sunny window (just like the Italians) it will thrive! You know, I just thought of something else… how would it be to put some ice cubes in a blender with some lemoncello? Kinda like a lemon Slurpee, Right?

  2. I have two lMeyers lemon trees – one in a pot and one in the ground. I live in Florida so we don’t get cold weather usually. Mine are blooming and have lots of lemons on them. We also have key limes, Florida peaches, mangoes and oranges.
    It is great to be able to pick them and have fresh lemons. I put lots in ice cube trays too.
    Stopping by from Grammy’s Meet and Greet to say HI.

    • Well, hello Beverly! It’s nice to meet you! Do you think I could grow a mango? That would be so cool. Thank you for commenting on my blog. Have a great week!

  3. Mommy’s tree is a Meyer; we bought it for her because she loved our prolific Meyer that provided fruit for almost all year long! We planted another Meyer lemon by our pool. Usually Fruit or blossoms thru out the year. They are the best. Love you sis❤️

    • Whaaaattttt? Then why oh why are hers so large and yellow? Well, that’s a great how do you do! 😉 Love you more!

    • Soon. Soon. You guys are leaps and bounds ahead of us right now. I love reading your building progress on your blog and felt bad that you had to remove your footings for an underfooting! Oh well. As you say, cha-cha-cha…

  4. I would love to have some citrus trees. I never really thought about putting them in pots so you don’t have to worry about frost. Thanks for sharing on the #WasteLessWednesday blog hop!

  5. Oh, it would be heavenly to have a lemonaia! I wish Seattle had long enough summers for citrus, but we really don’t. The smell of lemons and oranges is one of my favorite things (let alone the fresh juice, and cooking with them right off the tree).

    • Yes, I am lucky to live where our summers are warm enough, and winters gentle enough, to keep citrus trees. But then, YOU get all that great seafood! 🙂 Thanks for commenting, Beth. I hope to get some time to do some more reading soon, so thanks again for listing some really great book reviews on your blog.