With the higher temperatures, which seem to have come now to stay, lemonade is my drink of choice. I like to make mine, because I can control the amount of sugar I add. And I particularly like lavender lemonade, because lavender is one of my favorite aromas, and I like lemon on just about everything, so putting the two together seems very logical to me. The lavender comes from my garden; the lemons —I wish.
At El Taroncheral, the house where I grew up, there were many kinds of fruit trees. Originally, the land had been an orange tree orchard, where hundreds and hundreds of the trees grew. Many were cut to build the houses, ours and my uncles and aunts, three houses altogether that shared the grounds, the pool, the land. Eventually many of the remaining orange trees were replaced with plum trees, and hundreds and hundreds of them were planted. And then, there were the other trees. The ones that we only had a few of, the olive trees and peach trees, the apricot trees, the pomegranate trees, the fig trees, the loquat trees, the almond trees. The three fig trees, my favorite, where enormous. They were planted in a row, very close to the pool. Two of them produced purple figs, the third green figs. When my sisters and cousins and I were young, they were our favorite trees to climb, with their huge, thick branches, so easy to climb, so easy to make a fort in them. As I grew older, a teenager and then a young woman, I mostly enjoyed their fruit. Their peak was in August, and I’d eat the figs straight from the tree, while at the pool, one after another, with the sound of my mom’s advice not to eat hot fruit straight from the tree. But they were heavenly, and I don’t remember ever getting a stomach ache from eating too many of them, or for eating hot figs. I took them for granted, not knowing that never again in my future life I would be able to stand under the branches of a fig tree and eat as many as I wished. Now, when I see figs at the store in Fort Wayne, they are small, a fourth of the size of what I remember eating at home in Spain, and they are expensive.
Memories travel with you wherever you go, and I’ve never forgotten the fig trees of El Taroncheral, or the olive trees, or the orange and lemon trees. Last year I found some small fig trees being sold at a nursery in Fort Wayne. I couldn’t believe my eyes! I snatched one right away, not caring that it was summer in the Midwest, and winter would come, and fig trees like Mediterranean weather. I planted it outside, and built a fortress around it early in the winter, with stakes and burlap. The structure survived, but when I uncovered the tree a few weeks ago, only a bare stem remained. But to my delight, leaves have started to sprout at its base. It’s alive! Soon after this discovery, I found small olive trees at the same nursery where I found the fig tree last summer. Needless to say, I bought three. I haven’t planted them outdoors, I know better now. They’ll stay in pots and will be replanted into bigger pots as they grow. I’ll do the same thing with the fig tree.
Another dream of mine was to have my own vegetable garden, something I hadn’t thought about seriously, considering that I spend part of the summer in Spain. But this year, the pieces fell together, and I decided it was time: the play sandbox my husband had built for our youngest son was not going to be used anymore. That gave me the perfect small plot of land to justify trying to grow a vegetable garden. I did some research on the soil that I needed, and the plants that would grow better, and set to work. Dave and our sons were kind enough to build a fence around it to protect it from rabbits and deer, and even built a path out of bricks for me to walk on (and I was too busy baking to remember snapping a few photos of the four men at work 🙁 ). Yesterday I chose the vegetables: four kinds of tomatoes, from purple mini tomatoes to heirloom tomatoes, big Bertha peppers, green beans, three kinds of zucchini, and strawberries, because I needed to have a fruit. In pots, my herb garden: basil, flat leaf parsley, oregano, German thyme, rosemary and lavender, and also onions, peppers and two kinds of lettuce —no citrus trees, but knowing me, if I see one, I might buy it, no matter that I live in the Midwest.
Today, I planted my vegetable garden, on a beautiful, glorious, sunny day, that I spent outdoors, happy to be wearing garden gloves instead of my usual apron for cooking. Sipping the refreshing lavender lemonade made it all the more enjoyable, if that was even possible.
Now I just have to keep my fingers crossed.
Limonada de Lavanda
1 1/4 cups freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 1/4 cups lavender syrup (recipe follows)
4 cups water
Fresh lavender sprigs
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
Fresh lavender leaves, about 2 Tbs
Make the lavender syrup
In a small saucepan, bring the water to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer. Add the lavender leaves and remove from the heat source. Cover and steep for 10 minutes. Add the sugar and stir until it dissolves completely. Strain and let cool.
Make the lemonade
In a large pitcher, combine the lemon juice, the lavender syrup and the water. Stir to mix. Slice the lemon in thin slices and add to the pitcher. Add ice and garnish with the lavender springs.