With them the seed of Wisdom did I sow,
And with mine own hand wrought to make it grow;
And this was all the Harvest that I reap'd-
"I came like Water, and like Wind I go."

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Found: Valley Lemons

I confess, I can't take credit for this find. My boyfriend's mom went searching for home grown tomatoes and returned instead with a bag of Valley Lemons. Not being a native Texan, I silently wondered about this "valley" I had twice heard of before.... Where is it and why does it make amazing lemons? These large, extra juicy marvels seemed similar to the ones widely grown in Louisiana: Meyer Lemons. But the greenish cast of their skin and sharp tartness was throwing me off. Meyers are sweeter than their counterparts because they are crossed with a variety of orange. So in secret….unwilling to expose my ignorance.....I Googled. I learned that Valley Lemons and Meyer Lemons are one in the same, or rather Valley Lemons are Meyer Lemons grown in the Rio Grande Valley at the southernmost tip of Texas and in Mexico. And ours were early lemons, offered at the beginning of the season, and still a little green.
Lucy and I motored through the first bag of these wonderful lemons in no time, both being tea drinkers. She was squeezing copious amounts of the mild puckery juice into her iced tea and I was doing the same, actually cooling super-hot mugs of black tea with so much juice. Another confession: my favorite thing to do with these lemons? Simply cut them open, hold them right up to my nose and deeply breathe in their vibrant green citrus-y-ness.
A small panic ensued when the vendor and his pickup truck failed to return to the usual corner. Thankfully I spotted him in a parking lot a few days later. He had just pulled in and had barely begun to unpack the truck. I handed him a five dollar bill and delightedly watched him cram as many lemons as could be fit into a large sack. I craned my neck and squinted my eyes to read the small print on the lemon crate, wondering exactly where the fruit came from. Like everything else I could see on the truck, including huge lime green avocados, the boxes read "Product of Mexico", but no particular farm or grove.
One of the great things about living in South Texas are the Mexican vendors who set up roadside stands, selling everything from Pinatas to palm trees for next to nothing. The produce usually isn't home grown, not even made in the usa, but I'm always intrigued by the random finds I sometimes come across when I’m simply driving to and from home.  While researching for this article I came upon several websites selling
Valley Lemons, their Texas growers shipping anywhere in the US, but I'm happy to do business in my neck of the woods with the enterprising Mexican vendors. We all have to make a living somehow....
Epilogue: I split up the sack of Valley Lemons and made gifts of them to my mother, the ladies at the Frio County courthouse and to a few friends. Everyone loved them: Jill made fresh lemonade and my mom used them in a lemon pound cake. I plan to enjoy these beauties as long as they last.

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