Thursday, February 2, 2012

Meyer Lemon in the Making

It was a little over a year ago that I made a trip to Toledo with the specific intent of purchasing a Meyer lemon tree (Citrus x meyeri 'Improved'). Because I made a silly assumption, that trip didn't have the ending I anticipated. You know what they say about assuming.

However, being a good sport, I had a good laugh over it all and the opportunity to purchase a decent-sized Meyer lemon plant came several months later. And now I find myself with two in my living room. One of them isn't mine; it's my mom's and I'm keeping it over the winter for her. She thinks she's getting it back come spring.

See the sleeping kitty?

12 August 2011
Hers is more than twice the size of mine and it's bloomed more than twice as much as mine. But mine has a lemon on it! It was a bitty thing when I bought the plant in August. It's now full-sized and has begun to ripen. It takes a long time to make a lemon! I estimate that it will be fully ripe and yellow tinged with orange sometime in March.

Just beginning to turn yellow...

The Meyer lemon is the result of a cross between a traditional lemon and either a mandarin or common orange and because of this, it's sweeter than a traditional lemon. It's Chinese in origin and was introduced in the United States in 1908. Its use by chef Alice Waters and Martha Stewart are thought to be responsible for its rise in popularity.

Meyer lemon bloom

The Meyer lemons we grow today are actually 'Improved' Meyer lemons. Many of the original plants were found to carry a virus in the 1940s and most were destroyed so that they didn't infect other citrus fruit trees. In the 1950s, a virus-free version was found and in 1975, the 'Improved' Meyer lemon was introduced for sale.¹

I read a fun book earlier this winter called Paradise Under Glass by Ruth Kassinger, which I reviewed here. I learned that conservatories and greenhouses got their start as "orangeries" - a place for gardeners to keep their citrus trees in the winter in colder climates. When glass became available in larger sizes, this allowed it to be used in the construction of elaborate buildings, with the first ones being built in Italy in the 16th century.

The first known orangery in the U.S. was thought to be in Annapolis, Maryland, when it was discovered during excavation of Calvert House, once home to the governors of that state. It was about 10 feet square and estimated to have been constructed around 1770. What remains of it can be seen today through a glass floor at Governor Calvert House, a luxury hotel on the original site.²

A more detailed history of orangeries can be found here.

An early Dutch orangerie (1779)                    (Wikimedia)   

¹Wikipedia,  Meyer lemon:
²Richmond Oak Conservatories Ltd., Orangeries - A History of the Orangery:


Lea's Menagerie said...

Great post on lemon growing and the history of greenhouses. I did not know they were originally built for citrus trees.
Have a great day!
Lea's Menagerie

Julie Kroske said...

What a great source of info you are! I think I can cruise your past blogs and find anything I need to know! Orangeries is such a funny name! I am sure your.Orangerie is doing wonderful things right now.

Unknown said...

I bought a Meyer Lemon for my husband as an anniversary gift a few years go. It hasn't produced any lemons but at least it's still alive :)

Amy Junod said...

I want a lemon tree! Do your cats stay away from it?
Can't wait to see the lemon fully ripened.

Dawn said...

There's a beautiful Italian-style Orangerie at Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Boylston, MA.

Aimee said...

Pretty cool! Such beautiful trees too. We have friends in Berkeley who have a huge one in their backyard - more lemons than they can keep up with. I immediately set to work making lemon sponge pie last time I visited. I hope yours ripens well for you! It will be interesting to see how much they grow in the next year!

meemsnyc said...

I have a meyer lemon tree for the last 3 years and it hasn't grown well at all. What's your secret?

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