When we first moved to El Paso, the Lower Valley was full of cotton fields, dairy farms and orchards; even the neighborhood where we live was once a pear orchard. With urban growth and the passage of time, nowadays you have to drive for miles and miles to find a farm, but thank goodness, there are still some to be found.
During my teaching days, I taught several members of the same families, including Clementine, Tangerine,
and Limón of the famous Meringue family, whose orchards were almost as widely known as the famous Stahmann Farms Pecan Orchards in New Mexico. I was surprised to learn that they even grew some lemon trees, not that common in this area. I remember Clementine once writing in her journal that her grandmother Baba Ganoush, who was originally from Morocco, used preserved lemons in much of her cooking. She included the family recipe, which I copied.
Steep four whole lemons in cold water for 3 days. Change the water daily.
Cut the lemons into quarters or eighths and pack them in a glass jar. Add 1 tablespoon of coarse salt to each lemon. Put two layers of baking parchment directly over them, and weigh them down with a 2-lb. weight or a clean smooth stone. In warm weather, keep the jar in the fridge.
At the end of the week, the lemons will have released their juice, forming a brine. Remove the paper and the weight, cover the jar, and keep in the fridge. Wait 2-3 weeks to use.
Lemons preserved this way will keep for one year.
That was many years ago, of course, and I hadn't thought about either that recipe or those students for a long time, until I had a phone call recently from Pavlova Meringue, Clementine's daughter, who has been doing research with some cultivars of citrus fruits. "Mrs. Newman, my mom said you were very interested in Great-Grandma's preserved lemons recipe many years ago, and she thought you might like the opportunity to see a one-of-a-kind lemon tree that is the result of years of our research. Why don't you drive down for a visit and we'll see that you get something really special, fresh off the tree."
"How nice to hear from you, Pavlova, and thanks; I would love to visit."
So, early the next morning I got my hat and drove down old Highway 80 until I reached the Meringue Orchards.
I noticed a little girl standing underneath a U-Pick sign, but no evidence of anyone else.
"Hi," I said. My name is Wanna. Is this the Pavlova Meringue Orchard?"
"Yes, ma'am, it is, and I'm Lima."
"Are your parents here?"
"No," she said, reaching for the lemon slice her dog brought her. "They got a call from the airport that somebody important named Bill Gates wanted to talk to them, and they had to leave before you got here so they could meet with him. But my mother told me to watch for you. She said you would want to see our special tree."
Lordy, lordy! I looked up in awe at the large tree towering over us. "This is unbelievable," I said. "Amazing! Think of the work one saves!"
"Oh yes," the little girl said matter of factly. "They said this would impress you. Do you want to climb a ladder and pick some yourself?"
It had been years since I was on a ladder and I hesitated, "Well, ...."
"That's okay. Mama said you were kind of old, and she filled a bucket for you. It's over by the ladder."
"Oh, you are so sweet," I said. "I would really appreciate that, and a bucket full would be more than enough." I followed her past some lovely hanging baskets.
And yes, I was relieved not to have to climb that ladder!
Together we loaded the bucket into a rusty wheelbarrow, which we used to move it to my car. "What do I owe you for the bucket?"
"Oh, nothing at all," Lima said. "My parents said you could bring it back and get some more fruit in future if you want to."
"Please thank your parents for their thoughtfulness, and tell them I am looking forward to hearing about their visit with Bill Gates."
"Oh yes; I am sure they will call you."
"Bye!" she called. I waved in response and drove away. And I am here to say those lemon slices were the best I have ever eaten. We cleared a lot of stuff out of the freezer to hold the excess and I doled them out for special treats throughout the summer and into the fall.
I will tell you about the Meringues' visit with Bill Gates another time. You won't believe what happened!
NOTE: This project began when my husband completed a Jigidi puzzle and sent me the picture. "I'll bet you could do something like this," he said.
Well sure, I could. lol Now you know why I love that man so much!
This little setting fits within a 4x4x7 inch container.
I knew I had fruit canes in my stash and was relieved when I found more than one size of lemon slices. I used a new razor blade to make many little slices, which I found to be very difficult until I recalled my locking tweezers.
They turned out to be ideal for firmly holding the cane while I sliced through with the razor.
The next thing I looked for was a tree. Serendipitously, I had just been filling a three drawer rolling cart with landscaping materials to put in the end of our pantry, and during that process I had come across several trees. I chose one that I thought would work well in a quarter scale setting, a readymade with a tightly packed mass of green stuff across the top. And, in another lucky stroke, I found a container that would hold the tree if I cut away some of the massed green and smooshed the tree more toward the middle.
I pulled and stretched and cut away excess so that it would have a more open look. I was amazed at the amount of greenery bits and crumbles that fell off as I worked. I saved it all to use later.
And then I began gluing on the lemon slices. It took more slices than I initially thought, so I had to go back and cut extras as I worked with the scene.
I painted the trunk of the tree and then dry brushed it with a darker shade.
The base was cut from a piece of strong corrugated cardboard mailing carton, painted with brown iron oxide. The first thing I glued in place was the tree, locating it as far toward the back as possible so that I would have room to showcase more items in the front.
I used a foam brush to coat the base with a thin coat of Tacky glue mixed with paint, then sprinkled on the soil, which was a mixture of several varieties of tea from cut open tea bags. I sprinkled on some of the finest green stirred in from the crumbles and pulled apart sections from the top of the tree that I had saved. Soil was mounded at the base of the tree, and around the stand which holds the metal U-Pick sign. The rather heavy metal turned out to be too unstable, however, so I added stones around the base, made from model railroad scatter which I grunged up.
The printed U-Pick sign was a leftover from some I made for a quarter scale market stall swap. Its support is from a decorative stand designed to hold individual photos. I cut off the base to lower it after my husband said it looked too tall when I asked him to view my finished scene. So I pulled it out, used my wire cutters to remove an inch or so, then glued it back in place, adding a drop of Super glue to the Tacky.
He was right, as he always is about such things. I am often so involved in what I am working on that I don't always see "the forest for the trees."
The purple hanging pot was made by Paula Isaacs; the pink and white pot was made by Pat Hale. They are so tiny, and so pretty in real life.
The twig and sunflower bench was a swap item; I think maybe by the late Jane Markstrom? I added the green throw. The dachsund was a purchase from Holly Larson.
The ladder, bucket and rusty wheelbarrow, which is very difficult to see because it is so tiny and so dark, were from my stash.
And lastly, the tiny doll, only slighty over one inch tall, was one of four that I purchased recently from an estate. I had planned to remove that hat and replace it with a special one from the late Rosa of Sweden, but it was glued firmly and I didn't want to mess up the hair.
Thank you, Robert, for working that puzzle, and for thinking of me. It has been fun forming my version of that lemon tree and providing its story.