LEMON TREE

LEMON TREE
Will Holt

When I was just a lad of ten, my father said to me,
“Come here and take a lesson from the lovely lemon tree.”
“Don’t put your faith in love, my boy”, my father said to me,
“I fear you’ll find that love is like the lovely lemon tree.”

Lemon tree very pretty and the lemon flower is sweet
but the fruit of the poor lemon is impossible to eat.
Lemon tree very pretty and the lemon flower is sweet
but the fruit of the poor lemon is impossible to eat.

One day beneath the lemon tree, my love and I did lie
A girl so sweet that when she smiled the stars rose in the sky.
We passed that summer lost in love beneath the lemon tree
the music of her laughter hid my father’s words from me:

Lemon tree very pretty and the lemon flower is sweet
but the fruit of the poor lemon is impossible to eat.
Lemon tree very pretty and the lemon flower is sweet
but the fruit of the poor lemon is impossible to eat.

One day she left without a word. She took away the sun.
And in the dark she left behind, I knew what she had done.
She’d left me for another, it’s a common tale but true.
A sadder man but wiser now I sing these words to you:

Lemon tree very pretty and the lemon flower is sweet
but the fruit of the poor lemon is impossible to eat.
Lemon tree very pretty and the lemon flower is sweet
but the fruit of the poor lemon is impossible to eat.

This popular song of the late 1950s was aired so often on the radio that I knew all the words and would sometimes sing it quietly to myself while sitting in the enormous lemon tree in the garden of my childhood. I often escaped into its leafy stillness and hid among the canopy of leaves to read a book while eating the large rough-skinned lemons – skin and all!

Planting a lemon tree has been a priority in every garden I have ever lived in. I was thus delighted to find a reasonably mature smooth-skinned lemon tree when we settled here. It has survived – and changed shape – through the drought years and grown lopsidedly during the wet. Nonetheless, every season I am rewarded by an abundance of fruit.

An abiding memory I have is of the many bottles of lemon syrup my mother used to make during the lemon seasons. These were lined up in the pantry for us to use, diluted with water, whenever we were thirsty during the summer. She also used to encourage us to gargle with salt and lemon juice whenever we had sore throats. We lived miles away from the nearest doctors then and this remedy satisfied our needs.

Little did we consider then that lemons contain citric acid, calcium, magnesium, vitamin C, bioflavonoids, and limonene that apparently help fight infection. We didn’t have the Internet then and simply trusted what had worked since the dawn of time.

More recently, while feeling flattened by a head cold, M encouraged me to make a hot toddy of lemon juice, a little brown sugar, hot water and a tot of whisky – quite an upgrade!

As a teenager growing up in the bundu, lemons had more personal benefits for me: I rinsed my hair in freshly squeezed lemon juice and would sit in the sun until it had dried with a crispy feel. Then I would rinse it and enjoy the benefits of natural highlights and a glorious shine whenever I was home for the holidays.

It was then too that I benefited from drinking lemon juice to help clear my spotty skin. I still drink warm water with lemon juice during the fruiting season, while waiting for the kettle to boil for tea. Not only is it meant to kick-start the digestion process, but it tastes refreshingly delicious.

I find lemons are most useful in the kitchen and generally have several brightening up the fruit bowl. Seldom are lemons squeezed for any purpose without the skins being used as well before being tossed into the compost bowl: rub cut skins over the kitchen taps, rinse and rub them dry for a beautiful shine. I rub them over the cutting boards to rid them of stains and odours and like to think they are being sanitised too. Heating lemon juice and water in a microwave is a well-established method of cleaning these useful ovens that now form an indispensable part of most kitchens. It is not for nothing that so many household cleansers purport to contain the ‘cleaning power of lemon juice’!

A squeeze of lemon juice in the pot can help prevent cauliflower from turning brown while cooking – although that may be because I seldom more than blanch them anyway. I also use freshly squeezed lemon juice over sliced bananas and avocado pears for the same reason.
While I disagree that the fruit of the poor lemon is impossible to eat, I could never do without lemons and feel they enrich our lives enormously.

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