When Life Gives You Lemons…

A California grower makes more than lemonade from the sunny Meyers in her orchard.

When Life Gives You Lemons… | Country Woman Magzine

ANNE HAMERSKY

Karen snips fruit from her orchard. She leaves light yellow and green lemons on the trees to ripen.

When Life Gives You Lemons… | Country Woman Magzine

ANNE HAMERSKY

The harvest of 2007-2008 was a whopping 6,000 pounds!

When Life Gives You Lemons… | Country Woman Magzine

ANNE HAMERSKY

Hand-scrubbed and trimmed, these fresh pickings get a personal touch.

When Life Gives You Lemons… | Country Woman Magzine

ANNE HAMERSKY

Each tree in Karen’s orchard is named for a woman who has inspired her and is represented by a painted tile on Karen’s kitchen wall.

When Life Gives You Lemons… | Country Woman Magzine

ANNE HAMERSKY

Get the recipe for Karen’s Meyer lemon lemonade below.

When Life Gives You Lemons… | Country Woman MagzineWhen Life Gives You Lemons… | Country Woman MagzineWhen Life Gives You Lemons… | Country Woman MagzineWhen Life Gives You Lemons… | Country Woman MagzineWhen Life Gives You Lemons… | Country Woman Magzine

Just driving by, you’d never know that Karen Morss harvests 3 tons of Meyer lemons from 40 trees in her backyard. Her Lemon Ladies Orchard in Emerald Hills, California, hugs a south-facing slope like a fragrant secret garden.

“The Meyer is a cross between a lemon and mandarin orange,” Karen says. “It tastes sweeter and more floral than other lemons.” Biting into a wedge, you can taste the difference—not quite as puckery.

Ripe Meyer lemons are golden yellow with a slight orange tint. With thin, smooth skin, they must be handled carefully. Karen and four neighborhood kids give the lemons plenty of TLC as they harvest, wash and ship about 300 pounds each week November through April.

Farmer-Come-Lately

“Hello, Amelia,” Karen says, parting thick foliage that hides clusters of lemons. “I named each tree after a woman who inspired me or helped me achieve my goals in life—hence my orchard’s name.” Amelia’s namesake is aviator Earhart. Karen became a pilot after working 20 years in the software industry. She met husband Dave, a test pilot and air racer, and bought and operated a flight school for five years.

She’d planned to subdivide this property to help finance her retirement, but the irregular shape made that unworkable. “That’s when I got the crazy idea to plant Meyer lemons,” she recalls, even though “all I knew about them was the fabulous fruit we got from one little tree planted outside our kitchen door.”

In 2004, Karen put in a drip irrigation system and planted 2-year-old dwarf Meyer lemon trees. It’s best not to harvest for the first few years, so she hired two neighbor girls to help her pick off all the blossoms, directing all the trees’ energy into growth. Her patience paid off in the 2007-2008 harvest—a whopping 6,000 pounds!

Home-Based Operation

The lemons get washed in Karen’s living room. She squirts organic dishwashing liquid into a plastic tub half-full of cool water and dumps Meyer lemons in by the bucketful. (Karen’s orchard is Certified Naturally Grown and uses no synthetic chemicals).

Karen and her crew clean each lemon with small soft brushes that fit over the hand, using light diagonal strokes to avoid scraping the skin and releasing the essential oil. Stems get trimmed close and flat so they won’t puncture other lemons when packed.

The small team works fast, washing 300 pounds of lemons in about two hours. Then they spread the rinsed lemons on the towel-covered dining room table to air-dry—a sunshine-bright still life!

A Sweeter Pucker

Of course, some of those lemons make their way into Karen’s kitchen. “You can use Meyers in any recipes calling for lemon,” she says. “Since they’re sweeter, I cut back a little on any added sugar.”

Her lemonade is perfectly sweet-tart. She shares other recipes, including mouth-watering marmalade and sweet limoncello, on her website, lemonladies.com. (You can also order her Meyer lemons there.) Karen is convinced that the lemons from her orchard are so sweet because each of her “lemon ladies” has a special name and gets lots of love and sunshine.

Nina 1 February 19, 2016 at 2:20 pm

I love Meyer lemons but cannot grow them on my small patio as it does not get enough sunlight. Fortunately I have friends who givecmecbags of their lemons when they harvest. I zest them after washing and freeze the zest for use later. I also juice them and freeze the juice in ice cube trays. Once frozen, I put that in zip log bags in the freezer and thaw what I need for recipes. I smile as I pass up buying the thick skinned, less juicy and nat as sweet lemons in the store.

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Nancy Leonard 2 February 19, 2016 at 3:15 pm

Hello,
Please send information about purchasing your Meyers Lemons.
Thank you!

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Yolanda Mowad 3 February 19, 2016 at 9:53 pm

Fabulous!! Love how you named your trees. I too love Meyer lemons but I have only one 30 year old dwarf tree (not so dwarf now). It produces lemons almost year round – yes, I live in Ventura, California. I give my lemons to my family and friends and some friends say the Meyer lemon is their adult lemonade drink in the evening – the famous lemon drop martini! Thank you for sharing such a wonderful life!

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Bonnie Baldwin 4 February 20, 2016 at 7:58 am

I read the recent Country Woman magazine article about the Meyer lemon production while I was waiting in a doctor office about 2-3 weeks ago. I looked through the whole magazine and was impressed with the whole mag and went home and subscribed to it. It has just now started arriving. Thank you so much for producing a great magazine that has so much good reading and useful ideas.

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Shirley Myers 5 February 22, 2016 at 11:09 pm

Would love to purchase Meyers lemons if I can afford them. Please send prices.

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Toni Costenbader 6 March 20, 2016 at 5:57 am

Can you buy these trees for planting ? I live in SC and I believe these would grow here
How can I purchase ? thanks!

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