Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A Celebration of Citrus

Here is the delicious Grapefruit Pie the signature dish of Lang Sun Country Groves in Florida.

This is an unusual variety of lemon called Fingered Citron. Originally from China, Japan and Indonesia it was grown for many centuries for its religious and ornamental value. The thick peeled fruit is yellow with no flesh that opens into fingers.

Who knew there were so many varieties of citrus grown around the world and we were able to taste the many kinds of citrus marmelade made from this tangy fruit.

Well March is almost over and all those snowbirds will soon be returning home. (Snowbirds are those people who make a hasty retreat once winter comes to vacation in the warmer climates of the sunny south of Florida, Arizona and Latin America). And while they were away, I'm sure that they enjoyed eating a lot of locally grown citrus fruits. What could be better than picking oranges and lemons off a tree right in your own backyard.

It reminded me of two trips I have taken in recent years which involved seeing citrus up close and personal. The most recent trip was to Tuscany in Italy where we visited a museum where a large collection of unusual citrus are being grown, preserving this unique varieties from extinction. I never knew there were so many varieties of oranges that didn't even look like oranges. You can see one of those novel kinds above in the Finger Lemon (and don't you agree that it actually looks like fingers!). At the end of our tour, we had the opportunity to taste (and then purchase) bottles of delicious, tangy marmelades from each different variety. Yummy!

My other real experience with citrus was during a media trip to Polk County, Florida. We visited a Citrus Research station where we learned about the pests and diseases that affect citrus plants. We also had a tasty stop at Lang Sun Country Groves, a grower and shipper of citrus to the US. and Canada. At the end of this tour, we sat down and tucked into Grapefruit Pie, the signature dish of Mary Lang. I had forgotten about this delicious dessert until this past month when my Probus Cooking group chose the theme "Citrus". I wanted to do something different so I looked up the recipe I had been given and made the pie (it's so easy). It was a great hit. My daughter, who admitted later that she didn't think Grapefruit was a good ingredient for a pie, loved it and the next day made her own Grapefruit Pie to take to her function.

Citrus is delicious, tangy yet sweet. It brightens the flavour of other foods and it only take a squeeze. And who doesn't love biting into a juicy orange and having that sweet juice drip down their fingers. Celebrate all things citrus by making your own Grapefruit Pie, it will make you feel like a kid again.


Mary Lang's Grapefruit Pie

Yield: 8 servings Preparation: 15 minutes Cook: 10 Minutes Refrigerate: 2 to 3 hours

1 (6 ounce) graham cracker crust

2 large or 3 medium red Lang grapefruit, sectioned

1 cup sugar

3 tablespoons cornstarch

1 1/2 cups water

1 (3 ounce) package strawberry flavored gelatin1

(8 ounce) container frozen non dairy whipped topping, thawed (I used real whipping cream)

Arrange grapefruit sections in graham cracker crust. Set aside.In a medium saucepan, combine sugar and cornstarch. Add water and cook over medium heat until thick and clear. Add gelatin and stir to dissolve. Let cool slightly. Pour gelatin over grapefruit sections in crust. Refrigerate until firm.Top with whipped topping.

Courtesy of Lang Sun Country Groves, Florida – Lake Alfred, Florida

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Market Day in Tuscany

A bountiful array of fresh market produce in Pistoi, Tuscany.

Sometimes life rushes past you and you don't even realize. Such as been the case for The Cottage Gardener. This past fall my life has been taken up with our newest and most ambitious project for our humanitarian charity in Wongonyi Village, Kenya where we are just starting on construction of the Mghongo Leadership Centre, Eco Lodge and Demonstration Farm. But more on that another day.

Today as the snow softly drifts down is a great day to spend perusing the seed catalogues and making selections for our upcoming summer season. These photos from our trip last summer with Donna Dawson and to Tuscany are a delightful reminder of the fresh produce soon to be picked from our own home garden. Just looking at these photos I can already taste those sun warmed fresh tomatoes, oozing juice that drips down your chin. The squeak of fresh beans lightly steamed and drizzled with the olive oil we bought from Marco, our tour guide and a farmer who grows olives and produces delicious honey from his beehives.

I distinctly remember the day we happened upon this market. It was raining and we travelled down a little laneway coming out into this small market square where local farmers had brought in their produce from the countryside. It all looked so delicious as we passed through the square on our way to lunch that I had almost rather been able to purchase some of these delicious and new treats and find a kitchen in which to prepare them. I just wanted to linger and see all that was available, especially garden produce that I was not familiar with (can you tell that I'm a foodie).

I simply love to try new things and also to share that knowledge and love of food with others. Currently I am working with Susan Biehn-Smith, the local co-0rdinator of the Community Garden program and Fresh Food Basket program in Bracebridge. We meet with women once a month on the delivery day of the Fresh Food Baskets and we cook with items that arrive in the baskets. Although we choose a dish or two each month, we sometimes need to substitute with what we get in the baskets. It has been great to see these women embrace new foods and recipes as we have presented them ranging from African recipes like Vegetable Curry, Pojo (lentils with tomatoes and onions), Dovi (a chicken peanut butter stew), and sprouting lentils to this month's offering of Oriental Stir-fry, Sushi and rice paper wrapped vegetable rolls. On a trip to Toronto this week I loaded up on some unusual oriental foods for a taste testing session. And with oriental veggies a continuing trend, we'll be exploring the seeds they can plant in their garden plots this spring. As well we'll be showing them seed producers and sellers like Renee's Garden who package their seeds with 3 varieties in one package, perfect for those with small garden plots or limited space.

If you haven't got your seed catalogues yet or had time to sit down and take a look, it isn't too late to order some seeds. Just remember spring is right around the corner and soon we will be able to once again enjoy fresh produce from our own gardens. What can be better than produce that is simply picked, prepared and plated in only minutes. Yum!