Just when we need that extra boost of Vitamin C the winter’s harvest of citrus ripens providing us with a wide array of both sweet and tart citrus for eating, juicing, and preservation. Citrus was first introduced into the continental U.S. by early Spanish explorers at St. Augustine, FL in 1565.
Here on Little St. Simons Island we are enjoying the first significant harvest from our citrus grove planted 2 years ago (trees are now 3-5 years) in the USDA Organic Garden.
Citrus is grown by “grafting” (joining) a favored selected variety to the rootstock of a citrus known for it’s hardiness and adaptability. For our region Trifoliate Orange (Poncirus Trifoliata) is the rootstock to ask for at the nursery. The first few years of a newly planted citrus need frost protection. If a tree freezes below the graft it will grow back as the (usually inedible) rootstock.
At LSSI we have planted some of the most cold tolerant varieties that are common favorites for the home garden as well. For a sweet peeling fruit we have grapefruit, oranges and tangerines. The Satsuma Tangerine (mandarin) is one of the best for our region with it’s easy to peel skin and sweet fruit. It is also know to be very prolific. A favorite variety is Owari.
Tart citrus are great for marmalade, jellies, and sorbets and are a great substitute for limes and lemons in the kitchen. Calamondine (above) is hardy into the low 20’s and Kumquats can handle temperatures as low as 15 degrees. A kumquat with more sweetness is the Meiwa. Chef Paula reminds us to always use/eat the peel of these thin skinned fruits since it’s in the peel where the sweetness is stored.
|Meyer Lemon and Calamondine Fruit|
Fresh limes are a lovely addition to the home garden but that typically been known for cold sensitivity. A new lime-kumquat hybrid is showing great promise for our region and is next on the planting list for LSSI.
For detailed guidance on citrus planting and maintenance refer to this helpful UGA publication: http://www.caes.uga.edu/publications/pubDetail.cfm?pk_id=7787
Chef Paula has been getting very creative with the citrus harvest this year. Try this incredible citrus marmalade over some olive oil cake for your next special gathering.
|Olive Oil Cake with Citrus Marmalade|
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil an 8 inch diameter cake pan then coat with cornmeal and remove excess cornmeal. Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl to blend. Using an electric mixer, beat the sugar, eggs, and zests in a large bowl until pale and fluffy. Beat in the milk. Gradually beat in the oil. Add the flour mixture and stir just until blended. Stir in the almonds. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan. Place cake pan on the baking sheet to collect any possible spills. Bake until a tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out with moist crumbs attached, about 35 minutes. Transfer to a rack and cool for 15 minutes. Remove cake and place on a serving platter, top side up. Dust with powdered sugar.