November 18, 2005

backyard harvest

The peak of summer usually brings a bountiful harvest from our backyard. These calamansi, lemongrass stalks, jalapenos and kaffir lime leaves, main ingredients in thai cooking, I’m happy and proud to say were all harvested right from our backyard. Grown in pots, the calamansi and jalapeno plants are both doing well and thriving for three years now. When the temperature drops to below 20 degrees or near freezing, they need to be taken indoors, otherwise, it's okay to leave them outdoors. It’s very handy to have ingredients like these fresh and readily available for picking. I use the calamansi a lot, most of the time in marinades and for flavoring. In the summertime, they produce so much fruit that I don't even have to buy lemons or limes from the grocery.

The cross section photo (above) shows how juicy they are. They have a fresh citrusy aroma when sliced. Called "calamondine" here in the US, you can sometimes find them in garden section of these big store chains. They're easy to grow and they love the sun. Good amount of watering is crucial so they don't dry out or the fruits will not get as juicy and plump. Calamansi is a popular citrus variety in Manila, the yellow lemons which are common here don't grow there and may only be available in the produce sections of bigger supermarkets but not in the palengke or open markets. Although quite a common variety, calamansi can be seasonal too. They're cheap in the summer but can get very pricey, "parang ginto" or precious as gold as we say, around Christmastime. I remember my mother, would buy them in bulk in the summer when they're cheap and she would preserve them as a syrup, which she referred to as "calamansi nip" and has the same consistency as karo syrup. It can then be used to make calamansi juice drink by mixing a few parts of the syrup with water and ice cubes. This same concoction, I happened to see it sold online, is available in clear plastic containers, marketed and exported by a local company.

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