Oh, God.....it is Lime Season again. If that sounds ungracious and ungrateful, wait till you know the entire story before judging me.
Forty years ago when I lived in an apartment I bought a Dwarf Lime tree to jazz up my Balcony. It was a sweet little thing about 2 1/2 feet tall and lived happily in a terra cotta planter till 1972 when I bought my present house. I figured at the time that it would surely find a proper home on the front porch or possibly at the side of the swimming pool om the garden and so it did, producing lots of shiny green leaves but nary a lime nor an inch of growth beyond its potted Dwarf stage. Then, its fate and mine changed significantly when a wonderful lemon tree in my garden succumbed to some unfortunate overwatering (sob) and, in a foolish moment, I planted the Dwarf Lime in its place thinking that perhaps being in the ground like a real tree would encourage it to produce at least one or two fruit or at least a few fragrant lime blossoms. You know the old saying, "Be careful what you wish for".....Had I but known........
After the prior 3 or 4 years of potted stagnation, suddenly within 6 months the Dwarf Lime had grown at least three feet and was ominously threatening to cast shade over the sunloving roses surrounding it, so I did what any thoughtful but ruthless gardener would do.....I dug it up (with many apologies and promises of a better life to come) and moved it to the back corner of the lot where it would not shade anything that wanted sun and where, remembering the sad fate of the lemon tree, it would be watered very sparsely since the sprinkler system barely extended its farthest flung drops to that corner.
And so it was, with much amazement the following summer, that I trotted out one morning to feed the birds and squirrels at their feeding ground in the far eastern corner of the north 40 and stumbled over an incredible pile of greenish fruit cluttering up the ground around the feeding station. Gazing upward in disbelief I realized that the Dwarf Lime was dwarf no more....nay it had become, when I wasn't looking, the incredible Gigantic Green Monster that threatened to take over North Hollywood and, rather than producing a few blossoms or several fruit, it appeared to be laden with about 6 gazillion limes.....give or take a couple. Obviously a serious labelling error at best and possibly a major garden threat at worst.
Being cursed with the inability to waste ANYTHING and the lack of imagination to figure out what to do with more than a dozen or so of the 6 gazillion limes, I made a deal with a young woman I worked with at Disney Studios.....one whom I knew raised veggies and sold them at a farmers' market..... to go to my house, harvest the lime crop and sell them for a profit which would be all hers and, having pulled off what I felt was a brilliant maneuver, wiped the beads of perspiration from my brow thinking I had solved the problem.
Little did I know that this lime tree, once known as Dwarf Lime and now emerging (like the Incredible Hulk) as The Lime Tree that Ate Lois, produced not one but 3 or 4 crops a year......Oy Gott.......what have I done to deserve this???? To make a ridiculously long story just a bit shorter, the girl at work soon decided that it was too time consuming to harvest 3 or 4 crops a year so she abandoned me to my fate which then consisted of gathering what seemed like thousands of fallen limes daily in the hem of my bathrobe, schlepping them into the kitchen and packing them into old grocery bags to be trundled up and down the street and thrust on all the unwary neighbors who made the mistake of opening their doors to me. And, since I had, by this time in my life, collected a sizeable stable of doctors who kept the various parts of me functioning, I never left the house to go to an appointment without the requisite bag of limes to contribute to the staff and whoever I encountered in the elevator. Then, by freezing about 20 or 30 (they freeze well and can be used beautifully in cooking when thawed) and putting the remaining numbers at the curb in a huge cardboard box with a sign reading "FREE LIMES" I found I could pretty well get rid of each crop without having to let them rot (a sight which offended my Waste-Not-Want-Not mentality and broke my skinflint heart).
And so it has continued fairly successfully until this year when a weird brainstorm overcame me and created a new menace. The whole business of unloading on the neighbors had palled reminding me painfully of the year when I was 5 or 6 and my Father forced me to go up and down the street in West Philly selling Liberty Magazine to the neighbors (it was the Depression and my father was a ruthless and unscrupulous exploiter of Child Labor....especially when the Child was Me)......I always hated the look of pity on their faces mixed with resentment at having to take the damned magazine or be considered unkind and ungenerous.......somewhat akin to the expression on my neighbors faces after the 20th or 30th time I appeared on their doorstep with my saddlebags of limes...so I came up with the idea of making Lime Marmalade !! After all, didn't I have a recipe given to me by a member of the Marvelous Blumenthal Family......Little Jenny (called that to distinguish her from Big Aunt Jenny who actually was little but had seniority).....Little Jenny had sent it to me when I remembered the wonderful candied orange peel she used to make when I was a child. Incidentally, Little Jenny was actually not at all little ....must have weighed about 250 pounds and had a definte moustache on her upper lip, but she was a good soul and she certainly made marvelous candied orange peel. Anyway I was sure I could use up hundreds of surplus limes that way so I went to my recipe box and found the card labelled "Pomerantzen". (dun't esk) It was then that I remembered why I had never used the recipe. It started out, "Take some orange peel and some sugar" and went swiftly downhill after that.......
Undaunted I figured I could do just that and add "some water" and go from there by taste and seat-of-my-pants to a happy conclusion. Sigh. After burning up not one but 2 perfectly good soup pots full of some limes, some sugar and some water by failing to properly monitor the final hour of this3 or 4 hour project I finally got the hang of it and have found that 2,983 limes plus some sugar and some water will produce about 2 ...maybe 3 pint jars of lime marmalade or candied limes........actually an utterly brilliant solution to my excess lime problem......now the only trouble is, I haven'tbeen able to justify to myself the expense of replacing the pots nor the cost of the damned sugar.......sigh. I was right......It's Always Something.
The New Yorker covers: February 10, 1968
7 hours ago