January 2019 Journal: Citrus Suns and Bread for Beginnings



Citrus brightens the darkest times of year with a vibrant flavor that cuts through the gloom of gray winter skies. Imagine citrus (plural and singular) as tiny suns on trees that never lose their leaves,  or as bright stars in a leafy canopy. Citrus hanging like grapefruit moons in the dark green branches. Citrus zest to enliven savory dishes, juice to drink in the morning, and marmalade to spread on toast; these are just the beginning. So many uses for these potent fruits, we decided to base an entire issue of the journal around them.

It is another kind of beginning, too, at least for those of us that conform to the Gregorian calendar. It’s January, and they tell us that a new year is begun. The earth is green in coastal California, where it isn’t muddy, and the air feels cool and clear. It is the same old lovely, messy world it has always been, but in these first days of the new year, when the weather is sometimes raw and sometimes perfect and sometimes terrible and sometimes unsettled, the idea of beginning anew has a certain appeal. As though storms could wash the debris to an away that was not merely downstream, or the clutter of our daily lives dissipate in the clarity of sky after rain. It is not so simple to begin again when you consider the long arc of lifetimes and habits and history…but then again, if we narrow the focus, the rising sun each morning is another chance to make small choices that add up to something larger.

You know I was trying to keep it grounded and earthy and unaffiliated there, but I might have crossed a line toward motivational-poster-speak. The rising sun, and all. The choices we make, every day, that add up to a life. It is difficult sometimes to talk about important things, without straying into cliche. So I step back from attempts at inspiration and imagine another kind of sunrise imagery. The glowing sun is bright as a Meyer Lemon and hot as a baking stone. Hotter, in fact, but it feels just right this time of year. Golden, bright, and welcome. 

Meyer Lemon Hearth Bread

meyer lemon hearth bread

If citrus is the sun in this picture I am painting then let this Farmhouse Ricotta be the clouds that drift. And let the citrus oil that adorns it in silky slathers be the sunlight when it hits your skin warm on some winter morning. 

Farmhouse Ricotta with Persian Lime Oil

farmhouse ricotta with lime oil

So good, you might want to savor the moment forever. But we cannot stop time. We can only make the most of it. I saw that on a motivational poster, once. Or maybe I dreamed it. Behind the motivational text was a sunset as bright as tangerines. It seemed to go on forever. Or maybe it was a sunrise. In either case, the desire to extend such beauty beyond the immediate moment is one of the chief joys of food preservation. Enter the Preserved Tangerine.

Preserved Tangerine

preserved tangerines

This sunrise that I keep conjuring up. I’m telling you. The air is like honey, thick and golden. It warms us from the inside out. It is potent and full of power. It is gentle and kind. It is preserved in memory, as history is passed down. It is preserved in the budding of flowers and the tending of trees and bees. The scent of it. The flavor of it on our tongues. Just a spoonful, to be savored and mulled over when we need it. I tell you. We can create that moment, over and over. 

Fermented Citron and Honey Tea

fermented citron honey

Sometimes sweetness on its own is too much. We need something to bite into or something that bites back. We want hardness to contrast softness, difficulty to overcome. This recipe will not quench the apparently innate longing for the difficulty that humans seem to require. It is, in fact, quite easy. But it is a nice balance of sweetness and spice, zest and crunch and snackability. For difficulty, you must attempt to change the world. You will get hungry and need a snack while you work at it. This is where the almonds come in.

Sweet Lime and Chili Salted Almonds

sweet lime and chili almonds

Those almonds would also make a nice snack for those who have been hard at work in the garden. Even in January, there is always something to keep us occupied in the little demo garden we tend. 

Garden Notes

Bare Root!

While we have no more room in the sidewalk garden for trees, we may make some more space at our various houses, and find space for just a few more fruit trees. After all, fruit trees sequester carbon, and as they bloom, generously provide pollen and nectar for foraging insects. Not to mention the loads of fruit that a home orchard can provide in just a few years. Every year around this time, our edible nursery is transformed, and we make room for bare root fruit trees. If you're considering planting or expanding a home orchard, this is absolutely the best time of year to do it; best selection, best prices, the best time to plant. Best of everything! Come on into the store, and take a walk through the bare root section of the nursery. The bare sticks might not look like much now, but they are full of potential! They will bear fruit and flowers for years to come as they mature. Many berries come in bare root form, too, so even if you're not planting trees, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, elderberries, and even gooseberries are also available in bare root form now. What will bear fruit for you in the coming year?  

Friends, the sun is rising and setting every day. Or it is burning far away in the vastness of space, and it is our own small dear planet that is spinning in the darkness, giving the illusion of rising and setting, day and night, seasons and generations and epochs. Whatever angle you choose to view it from, we are all here together, and it is a time called January 2019. It is a beginning and a place to stand. It is a circle within circles. It is home. Let us eat citrus, and plant bare root, and take care of the soil that grows our trees, the water that swells both seas and the tiny cells in each slice of citrus fruit. Breathe in this air so generously created by green and growing plants, and take comfort in the web of connections that surround and support us. May your new year be delicious and bright.

This journal and the articles in it were written by Jessica Tunis, unless otherwise noted.