Lemon Season

January 12, 2010

Everyday is lemon season in Oakland.

After living in our Oakland neighborhood for a little over a year, I have learned that the amount of lemons in your kitchen is a direct representation of how many of your neighbors consider you a friend. This was especially evident at Christmas time, when every tall glass vase, fruit basket, bowl and pitcher in my house was of full of lemons.  When we visited, or were visited by our neighbors, we’re earned more and more lemons.  So many, that we became lemon givers, and not just lemon receivers.  But what is more inviting to the eye or encouraging of a smile then a bowl full of bright yellow lemons, especially with a few green leaves still attached.

Also, having fruit (or food of any kind) gifted to you is a true blessing.  The bounty of our neighborhood helps us subsidize the occasional expensive ingredient like grass fed beef or pesticide free strawberries that we have incorporated into our diet.

Lemon and orange slices for ornaments, along with popcorn and cranberry garland.

We made lemonade, lemon tea, lemon ginger tea, lemon drops, and lemon bars.  I dried thin round slices (along with oranges and grapefruits) as Christmas decorations.  I also began putting a few slices of dried citrus, a few sticks of cinnamon, and a handful of star anise together to make a “mulling spices” gift.  Together, they look especially festive in a glass jar, and can just be dumped in a pot of apple cider for spice and character.

I fell in love with lemon zest, and added it to everything.  I especially fell in love with the lemon bars that a friend in the neighborhood makes.  Carol is an especially talented baker, but even if you fumble this recipe and the custard separates, the crust burns or they never firm up (yes, all that happened to me), the end result is so amazingly tasty that you still won’t have leftovers. It’s a  perfect ending to a big meal, especially with a cup of (locally roasted) coffee.

Having no yard, we had considered buying a lemon tree and seeing if we could get it to grow in a pot on our rooftop balcony.  But now, after letting our friends shower us with lemons, it seems a bit redundant to have our “own” lemon tree.  I think we’d prefer to use it as an excuse to pop in unexpectedly on our neighbors and climb a tree.

If you have a generous neighbor with a lemon tree, try Carol’s lemon bars.  They make a great “welcome to the neighborhood” gesture for new neighbors.

Lemon Bars

-For the crust:
1/2 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 cups flour
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
-For the filling:
6 extra-large eggs at room temperature
3 cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons grated lemon zest (4 to 6 lemons)
3-4 tablespoons grated ginger
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup flour
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
I hand cremed the butter & sugar and then folded the flour in, just enough to mix. The less you handle this essentially, shortbread, the better.
Dump the dough onto a well-floured board and gather into a ball. Flatten the dough with floured hands and press it into a 9 by 13 by 2-inch baking sheet, building up a 1/2-inch edge on all sides. Chill.

Bake the crust for 15 to 20 minutes, until very lightly browned. Let cool on a wire rack. Leave the oven on.

For the filling, whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and flour. Pour over the crust and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the filling is set. Let cool to room temperature.

Cut into whatever geometric shape you like and dust with confectioners’ sugar.

Says Carol, “Good luck!  Holler if you need more lemons.”

I think I just might….

Next on the lemon list is Lemon Curd, with this recipe I found at

Dried Citrus Wreath


4 Responses to “Lemon Season”

  1. Jackie said

    Hey Betsy! Love the lemon ornaments! Have you tried to make candied lemon peels? I put a recipe on my blog recently. (Travis loves them!) Sorry I forgot to tell you Happy Birthday…I hope it was a good one.

  2. […] cut in half (the last of the Funk Town tomatoes), a few thin slices of onion, the juice of half a (neighbor’s) lemon, a few stray arugula leaves (Funk Town) and 2 baby carrots (cut up, Funk Town Hippie Carrots).  A […]

  3. […] town hippie baby carrots) 1 small apple (Grand Lake Farmers Market, $0.50/lb) 1/2 a small lemon (neighbor’s tree) 1/4 red onion (Grand Lake Farmers Market) 1 small or medium ginger root (Jack London Square […]

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