… or did I? A week ago, after a trip to Fatburger, I stopped at nearby Laitai Flower Market and bought a lemon tree. At least, the vendor said the fifteen fruits on it were lemons. He delivered the tree to my apartment two hours later and I thought they looked a bit, um, rounder and oranger (word?) than I remembered. Anyway, I picked a few and made some rounds to get the reactions of other people.
- At Fubar, manager Xiao Ming mixed it with Feijoa vodka, soda, and mint for a tasty cocktail. He said it looked like a combination orange-lemon — co-owner Chad agreed — and asked if I had a park in my house.[Hmm, maybe I could stick a few hundred of these trees in my apartment and be a citrus supplier for local bars: must investigate.]
- Outside, at Stadium Dog, I ran into Doctor O, handed a fruit to him, and waited for the verdict: Smells like an orange.
- At a Chinese restaurant around the corner, I gave it to Mr Hao and Ms Hao. They weren’t sure. One said: I think it is an overripe lemon.
- At Union, chef Zach looked at one and said: Lemon. Then he cut it open, smelled it, and said: Orange. Then he tasted it and said, with a grimace: More like a lemon.
- At Saddle, manager Gordon held it and said: The texture reminds me of a mango [!?]. No, wait, a tangerine. Then he smelled it: It’s a tangerine. Then he tasted it: What the…?
- And the one time I forgot to bring the fruit along, I had to describe it to my friend Li, a viticulturalist, and he said it could be a citrus fruit native to China.
I haven’t seen this much confusion over identity since Lady Gaga. Anyway, I gave one to Inspector Flint of bowenwang.com, the spinoff of the How Stuff Works Web site from the United States. Given he enjoys the occasional after-work martini, I figured he could test out the rinds for garnishes. He went one step further and did some online searching (yes, I could have done this, too, but then I wouldn’t have had all the fun of zipping about town having people try the fruit). His verdict: it is a Meyer lemon. Here is part of relevant the Wikipedia entry (my highlights):
The Meyer lemon (Citrus × meyeri) is a citrus fruit, native to China, thought to be a cross between a true lemon and a mandarin orange or sweet orange. The Meyer lemon was introduced to the United States in 1908 as S.P.I. #23028, by the agricultural explorer Frank Nicholas Meyer, an employee of the United States Department of Agriculture who collected a sample of the plant on a trip to China. It is commonly grown in China potted as an ornamental plant. It became popular as a food item in the United States after being rediscovered by chefs, such as Alice Waters at Chez Panisse, during the California Cuisine revolution. Popularity further climbed when Martha Stewart started featuring them in her recipes.
The tree, pictured below, cost RMB400 delivered, including the pot. The vendor told me it would bear fruit twice yearly — we shall see. These lemons are excellent squeezed into iced tea or water and work well with cocktails.