Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Citrus - in New England!

That’s a photo of a Florida Orange growing in Central Massachusetts in December. Citrus fresh from the tree in New England in December? "Not possible!" you would be inclined to say.

(Okay, so it is being grown indoors, and you can’t pick it, but it is still an orange tree bearing fruit in a New England winter!)

This photo was taken at the Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Boylston, which has an 18th century style orangery. We made a recent trip out to see the Orangerie there (and the rest of the Tower Hill land), and it was an absolute treat.

If you are unfamiliar with an orangery, it is similar to a greenhouse but is used mainly for growing citrus. Early orangeries were a symbol of prestige and wealth. More information about them can be found here.

The Tower Hill structure is home to many types of citrus (as well as other plants/flowers). The trees at Tower Hill include Florida Oranges, Calamondin Oranges, Meyer Lemons, Dancy Tangerines, Persian Limes, and Ponderosa Lemons. Only the kumquat and grapefruit trees were not currently bearing fruit.

The smell in the greenhouse was spectacular. You could smell the orange blossoms the second you stepped into the room! I strongly suggest everyone take a trip to Boylston (only about 45 minutes from Boston) to see the Orangerie. The girl and I will be going back throughout the next year to see the rest of the Tower Hill grounds as different things come into bloom (they have 100+ apple varieties!!).

You can visit the Tower Hill Botanic Garden website here. Also, feel free to take a look at the photos the girl took at the Orangerie here.

Inspired by all the fresh winter citrus at Tower Hill, I bought kumquats just after Christmas. The girl and I decided to candy them, modifying the recipe below by adding whole green cardamom (her current favorite spice).

Cardamom-Infused Candied Kumquats (adapted from Ruth Reichl’s recipe from The Gourmet Cookbook)

1 cup water
1 cup sugar
⅛ tsp. salt
4-6 slightly crushed green cardamom pods
2 cups halved kumquats (leaves and seeds discarded)

1. Bring the water, sugar, and salt to a boil in a saucepan; stir the mixture until the sugar has dissolved.

2. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 2 minutes. Add halved kumquats and green cardamom and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally for 10 to 12 minutes or until tender.

3. With a slotted spoon, transfer kumquats to a heatproof bowl.

4. Boil syrup for 3 to 7 minutes, until reduced to about ¾ cup. Pour syrup over kumquats and cool before serving

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