Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Bearss lime is bearing fruit! (Plus: the perfect margarita.)

For the first time since we planted it in the spring of 2007, our Bearss lime tree is bearing fruit! She's given us a couple of dozen fruits so far, give or take a lime. For some odd reason, we couldn't find any lime trees that spring at the local nurseries, so I ordered a Bearss lime (also known as a Persian lime or a Tahiti lime) and a Mexican key lime from Thompson Citrus Nursery in Weslaco, TX. April 16, 2007, says the receipt, making this tree three years and four months old. David Thompson's nursery has since closed, but he still grows and sells Rio Pride citrus fruit. [UPDATE: Thompson citrus nursery is once again selling Texas citrus trees at http://thompsoncitrus.com/Order.asp and can ship anywhere except AR, CA and FL.]

Bearss lime bearing fruit

Neither Jack nor I relished the idea of hauling a heavy potted lime tree in and out of the garage several times each winter, and we all know how quickly planted containers can dry out during our hot Texas summers, so we decided early on to plant the limes in the ground. The downside is, in-ground citrus trees need a bit of babying when the temperatures dip below freezing. Niceties like frost cloth, rope lights, and clip lights keep tender limbs from getting nipped. Because citrus trees are grafted onto hardy and well-adapted rootstock, winter protection is crucial; a tree that dies back to the ground won't return true. Thompson grafted his limes onto sour orange rootstock, known for its ability to enhance fruit flavor and color and the tree's tolerance to drought, cold and alkaline soils. (Unfortunately, sour orange rootstock is highly susceptible to the dreaded citrus tristeza virus or CTV, which has wiped out millions of citrus groves worldwide. Shudder!)

Bearss lime tree

We've yet to have a large enough key lime harvest for pie, but we have enjoyed a large enough Persian lime harvest this year to make several batches of what I consider to be the perfect margarita. Anyone that knows us knows that we are a bit, hmm, what's a nice way to put it, particular about our margaritas. (Those less charitable might find the term "utter elitist pricks" to be a more apt description.) For this, we have the esteemed Wes Marshall of the Austin Chronicle to thank (blame?), as Wes' favorite margarita recipe was the inspiration for our own homemade 'ritas.

What's in our "house margarita"?

Now, Wes prefers tequila blanco, while we prefer reposado; specifically, Cazadores Reposado, which we discovered on a 2006 trip to Mexico. Wes prefers Cointreau or Controy orange liqueur, while we prefer locally-produced Paula's Texas Orange liqueur. Wes prefers key limes, while we find both our homegrown Mexican and Bearss limes equally appealing. Wes likes salt; we skip it (although if I were to use salt, I'd get some-a that fancy pink Himalayan sea salt). Wes likes his margaritas James-Bond-style (shaken, not stirred), strained into a martini glass; we prefer ours stirred and poured over ice in double old-fashioned glasses. We do agree on many points: namely, that the tequila must be 100% blue agave; the liqueur must be of high quality (no cheap triple sec) and absolutely, positively no sweet and sour mix: only fresh lime juice will do.

Two tools that we find essential for margarita-making are a measuring glass and a citrus squeezer. The measuring glass ensures consistency, and the citrus squeezer makes juicing the limes quick and easy.

Step three: squeeze the lime juice into the measuring glass.

So enough chit-chat already: here's our 'house margarita' recipe.
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 ounce Paula's Texas Orange liqueur
1 1/2 ounces Cazadores Reposado tequila
A healthy squirt of agave nectar
Stir and pour over ice. Makes one very potent, intensely flavorful margarita. Unlike most orange liqueurs, Paula's Texas Orange is 80 proof, so use that measuring glass, and take care not to overserve your guests! You can add a splash of water if you must, or nurse your drink and let the melting ice mellow its kick.

We think they're good to the very last drop.

Good to the last drop!

For step-by-step instructions (I warned you we were particular!) and more pictures of glorious homegrown limes, visit my Perfect Margarita photo set at Flickr. Cheers!

Words and photos © 2009-2010 Caroline Homer for "The Shovel-Ready Garden". Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Foliage Follow-Up for August 2010

I'm so proud of my baby American beautyberry -- it's just starting to form berries.
American beautyberry
Question: Does a foliage plant with immature berries still count as foliage? Enquiring minds want to know, so let's head over to Digging, Pam Penick's blog and the hostess of Foliage Follow-Up; I bet she'll know!

Words and photos © 2009-2010 Caroline Homer for "The Shovel-Ready Garden". Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day-August 2010

Nothing's looking too perky or fresh this August Bloom Day, least of all the gardeners, but we're surviving.

It's good to be a shade plant in a Central Texas summer, like this white Turk's cap.
White turk's cap

The flame acanthus is broiling in the very hottest part of the backyard, and blooming away. Hummingbirds love this shrub.
Flame acanthus

The 'Bright Lights' cosmos is way behind schedule. Not sure what's behind the delay, whether it was our unusually hard freezes this past winter or the the spring rains. Bees and butterflies adore it, so I'm hoping it revs up soon.
'Bright Lights' cosmos

I moved this baby esperanza last month from a too-shady spot in the backyard to a very bright spot in the front. I think it appreciated the move.
Tecoma stans

Butterfly weed is aptly named, although bees like it, too.
Butterfly weed

The blackfoot daisies are hanging on; the rains have helped keep them going.
Blackfoot daisies

The rock rose is rockin' on, too.
Rock rose

Thanks to Carol of May Dreams Gardens for hosting Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day on the 15th of each month. Visit her site and let the world know what's surviving your summer!

Words and photos © 2009-2010 Caroline Homer for "The Shovel-Ready Garden". Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Gardening Gone Wild Photo Contest for August-"On the Road"

East Texas Piney Woods exhibit

Here is my entry for this month's Picture This Photo Contest. The theme is "On the Road". I took this photo of the East Piney Woods Exhibit at the San Antonio Botanical Gardens last fall, during a field trip with a group of fellow Austin garden bloggers. For more about our trip, click here. For more about the GGW photo contest (and to enter your own photo), click here. Good luck to all who enter!

Words and photos © 2009-2010 Caroline Homer for "The Shovel-Ready Garden". Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.