Limes, I LOVE Limes but Why Are There No Lemons in Belize? Oh Yes, And One Albino Pumpkin
When Martha Stewart, American maven of all things crafty and beautiful, was released from white-collar prison, she was asked about her harrowing experience and how she felt. “I feel great”, the felon answered on her first day of freedom.
Next question: what did you miss most while you were locked-up? Martha’s answer (and this I am not making up): LEMONS. Martha missed lemons while doing hard time.
At the time (2005), this struck me as…well…EXTREMELY odd. YES, I know…Martha is extremely quirky and WAY out of touch with the real world. Suggesting that you might have time to hand stamp your own wrapping paper or sew your childrens’ lunch bags from home dipped oilcloth? Ridiculous.
BUT LEMONS MARTHA? Your first thought is not privacy? Fluffy pillows? Outfits that aren’t neon orange with elastic waistbands? Your dogs? YOUR KIDS? But stupid old, everyday lemons? The throw-away fruit slice on the side of most plates and almost every drink?
But after seven years in Belize (great years, years that I am in NO WAY likening to prison), I think I am almost starting to get it. Sure I miss things more than lemons. Like my best friend TIVO (I still press the imaginary pause button on my remote control) or magazines and newspapers or book stores but your mind has a way of fixating on things it can’t have and making you want them.
Mmmm…lemonade. Lemon squeezed on fish. Lemon bars…
And I’ve been missing the taste of lemons. Limes are everywhere in Belize. In almost every dish. Used for just about everything…from washing chicken to ceviche to the garnish on the side of your rum & Coke. And I’ve always loved them more than lemons.
But lemons are just not really sold on Ambergris Caye. And they have a different distinct taste that just fits in certain dishes. So when I spotted a rare bin of them in Greenhouse yesterday. 75 cents each I bought 2…to flavor water with. And I walked out hell-bent on finding out why there are no (well…not many) lemons in Belize.
Who best to ask to ask about lemons in this country? I called the National Citrus Growers Association in Stann, Creek Belize. Horrible disease that wiped out a crop? They don’t grow well in the soil down here? Nope. The super nice man I spoke to gave me a simple answer:
Traditionally, Belizeans just prefer limes. There hasn’t really been much demand for lemons. You can get some…but just not that many.
Interesting. Could I order trees? Yes. Is there any reason why I can’t grow lemons? No. Sunkist and Meyer lemons for the tourist industry that is growing daily? Hmmmm…this sounds like a good business idea.
So yes…I just typed 400 words to get to that boring answer about a boring citrus fruit. But MAYBE I can intrigue with an albino pumpkin? Let’s give it a go.
ALSO purchased at my favorite food store, The Greenhouse, was one pumpkin. 2 crates had recently arrived from Valley of Peace, Belize and they are $5bzd each. Small to huge. $5bzd.
As I stood on line with my medium sized gourd everyone asked me the same thing…”uhhhh…what are you going to do with that?”. Good question…though it would make a beautiful centerpiece.
Once home, I realized that this thing has INCREDIBLY hard skin. Almost as if made of pottery. Honestly, my sharpest knife left only a slight scar on the outside. Anymore hacking and I would probably lose a finger.
I took it outside to drop on the cement. 2 drops and nothing. From over my head. Are you supposed to eat this thing? Clearly it does not want to be opened. A machete? An axe?
Looking around to make sure there were no neighbors about, I took my pumpkin to my balcony for a second story drop. Only the iguanas around to witness how strange I really am.
So, cleaned, half went in the oven with some salt and cinnamon and the seed…OH THE SEEDS…I washed and roasted with a bit of olive oil and salt in a pan.
After about 10 minutes on a low-medium heat, they started popping (almost like Jiffy pop)…and were ready. Fat, nutty, fresh and delicious. Worth the $5bzd alone.
The pumpkin itself was in the oven for about 2 hours (anyone experience any brown outs yesterday?) and…while softened inside the rock hard shell, the meat was…kinda bitter. Not the gorgeous butternut squashy-ness I was hoping for.
Maybe today I’ll try doctoring it up with some sugar and spices but I’ll be honest. I’ve lost of bit of interesting in this pumpkin.
I would LOVE to know what this rock is used for locally and how it is really supposed to be opened. It’s as hard as a coconut! Please let me know.