Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Picking Citrus with Robert Lambert

From Robert Lambert
A week ago today I visited two of the farms where Robert Lambert gets his rare citrus. We picked rangpurs for our Rangpur Lime Syrup, yuzu fruit for a syrup he's making for us this summer and lots of other interesting things, some of which didn't have names. I'm working on a longer piece about the trip. In the meantime, here are some photos and an excerpt.

...We walk around Gene Lester's grove and eat. The experience is extraordinary. Let me try to describe it for you. Gene talks about the tree’s health while Robert plucks off a piece, usually stooping because the tree is short. Each is a different color, size and shape. There are dark green finger limes as tiny as a toe. Giant sun-yellow celebes pepada, as big as a bowling ball. Gnarled Buddha’s Hand, whose tendrils look like a Thai dancer’s hands with outsized finger nails (he's holding two, above). Robert lines up his fingers into an open fist and scratches the peel with his nails. He smells and passes it to me. The aromas are outrageous. There are sunny bright citrus notes, of course, but much more. Dark smells, that I wasn’t expecting. Depending on the fruit there is clove, nutmeg, cedar, leather, bay, white pepper. The aromas are lingering, intense and are not tiring or cloying. Nothing like storebought citrus.

Robert slices into the fruit with a long, thin serrated pocket knife, common among citrus farmers. If it’s a small fruit, he hands me half. If it’s big, just a wedge. Gene only tastes a few, from trees he especially likes. I sniff the flesh of the fruit – usually not a strong smell – and, on faith, plunge the piece into my mouth, not knowing what to expect. Some fruits are gentle, like the Fairchild mandarin. It is as sweet and luscious as any fruit I’ve had, a texture more like a raspberry than an orange. Many are a shock to the system, the kind of experience you get when you guzzle orange soda thinking it’s orange juice. Rangpur limes have sour flavors that make my cheeks convulse. Other have spicy flavors, like chutney. Some finish like petrol, some like honey. We finish sucking on the fruit, throw the peel on the ground, go to the next tree. We did this a hundred times. No scurvy for me in '09!

1 comment:

Tim said...

Nice photos, Mo! :~)