This morning I carted two canvas bags in to work: A red Time Life Books/African Americans/Voices of Triumph bag and a blue Midwest Library Service 30th Anniversary ALA Dallas 1989 bag.
Sidebar: Anyone at Safeway or Andronico’s who pays attention can pretty well spot the two of us as library people. We use canvas bags for our groceries–and all of the canvas bags come from various state library conferences and the like. Who else would have that collection of bags?
Both bags were about three-quarters full of lemons. Meyer lemons. Huge Meyer lemons, mostly orange-size.
Another sidebar: If you don’t know about Meyer lemons, too bad–and, unless you’re in Santa Clara or San Mateo County in California or dine at certain hotshot restaurants, you may not know about them. They’re not really a commercial crop–they don’t ship worth a damn–and, in fact, the benighted California Department of Agriculture apparently tried to eradicate them because of some disease that Meyers carried, that didn’t hurt them but did hurt commercial lemons. Fortunately, the effort failed, at least some areas, although Meyers are still really not a commercial crop. What Meyers are are big, sweet, lower in acid, flavorful. Apparently they’re a centuries-old cross between lemons and either oranges or some other citrus fruit. Used in desserts by quite a few top chefs…
As usual, I set the red bag down on a counter in RLG’s “kitchen,” and sent out a general-staff junk mail noting that Meyer lemons are here. I’ll replenish the red bag from the blue bag (so people who don’t get here by 7:30 a.m. have a chance at them). This place is pretty deserted this week, but I’m guessing the hundred or so lemons will still be gone by the end of the day–and that “hundred or so” is at least 30 pounds worth of lemons.
That scene’s been repeated once a week for the past three weeks, and will be repeated weekly for most weeks over the next three months, give or take, although there may be only one bag some weeks. It’s an odd perk of working at RLG: Free, bright, shiny, clean, sweet, organic Meyer lemons (well, semi-organic: my wife fertilizes the Meyer shrub/tree but we’ve never used pesticides or other sprays on it).
What we have here is a supply:demand situation made possible by the odd soil and weather conditions in the Mountain View/Los Altos area (and some points north and south on the Peninsula): To wit, one Meyer shrub (I guess it’s a tree, but it looks more like a shrub) will produce better than a thousand lemons over a four-month period. Fortunately, the lemons really are good and people find lots of uses for them. (We keep three or four a week, but we really don’t use a lot of lemons.)
My wife does the picking (she knows which ones are ripe). We cooperate on the cleaning (she rinses, I dry): Presentation is part of assuring demand, and we’re not about to bring in a bunch of dirty lemons. I do the hauling, and since I get in to work a lot earlier I also send out the announcement.
This year’s unusual for two reasons, which probably interact. The summer was a little hotter than usual, and a few hundred immature lemons shriveled–having the effect of thinning the crop. Then the first sustained “cold” spell (that is, weather in the 50s dropping to 40s at night) didn’t hit until much later than usual–and lemons (at least Meyers) don’t fully ripen until it gets cold, but they keep growing. The result: Some lemons are almost the size of small grapefruit, and the smallest ones are two or three times the size of usual supermarket lemons.
No moral. We’re not touting our beneficence; it would be a shame to have all those lemons rot or thrown out, and we know the folks at work like them. (Other people bring in oranges at the right season; we’re not doing anything special.) Just a little story about big sweet lemons.