I saw two things this weekend in Maine that I thought I'd never see. This first was the fishmonger, down on one knee. (Yes, I agreed! Anyone with a bake ahead cake recipe, or some idea of how many whole pigs it takes to feed two hundred hungry guests, please report immediately.)
The second surprise, more startling still, was a Myer lemon tree, hidden from the fog and wind by a subtle layer of plastic, and in full bloom nonetheless. Tucked into the eaves of a Down East greenhouse, it sat warmed by a woodstove and the gentle hum of the sun.
It was on the grounds of Eliot Coleman and Barbara Damrosch's famous Four Season Farm that we found the tree, on a tour through their greenhouses after a noontime meal. I was there to interview the year-round gardeners, to learn how they kept their plates so green in the months of white and gray.
The farm was beautiful, full, laid out in a clearing that once belonged to the estate of Helen and Scott Nearing, the back-to-the-lander legends. The Nearings hadn't touched the land when Eliot came looking exactly forty years ago, and so they sold it to him at the price they'd paid: $33 an acre.
His thrift is as inspiring as theirs. Together with Barbara, he runs the farm from January through December with very little waste, changing crops with the season and working with the weather rather than against. On that gray November noon, she served us a hearty meal of whole wheat pasta, fresh cauliflower and peppers, Tuscan kale and carrots, and a warming sauce of Tahini and lemon. I never guessed the lemons could have been local—until I walked into the greenhouse, that is.
As it turns out, the Myer lemons do just fine over the winter. So long as they're potted and moved into a greenhouse or sunny room for the duration, they'll likely keep fruiting for months to come. Just be sure to re-pot the plant periodically, keep its soil moist, and feed it from time to time. It may be a labor of love, but the promise of Florida sunshine on a winter's day ought to chase any doubts away.