I’m a marmalade lover, and make orange marmalade regularly every winter; but this year I harvested the first significant fruit from my hardy orange tree (Citrus trifoliata syn. Poncirus trifoliata) and it’s hard for gardeners and cooks to pass up an opportunity to experiment. So, even though I have about ten pounds of last year’s strawberries washed, prepared and deep frozen and waiting for jam jars and about two hours of my time (tough to admit), I instead gave those two hours to the pursuit of Poncirus marmalade.
The result: pretty good just as long as the peel is not involved. It’s just too bitter to be palatable. And just in case you think I’m being a baby about it (because I’d be suspicious if I were you), there are instructions for trying it yourself on my website – with and without peel. And growing instructions if you feel like adding Citrus trifoliata to the garden.
In future batches, I’ll add a little bit of orange peel just to give it more of the texture that I love.
Gardeners are naturally curious, and naturally frugal. And though I can’t recommend the taste of Poncirus marmalade over a big batch of traditional, peel-rich, sunshine-in-a-jar orange marmalade — what I can recommend is the ability to use pantry sugar and pantry pectin (and I probably could have skipped the latter as there is so much pectin in citrus), and ending up with twelve jars of a tangy, sweet spread for toast that would probably cost me $10 apiece – if I could even get hold of such a novelty. My marmalade-hating husband loved it (but that’s mostly because he hates the entire point of marmalade – the peel).
But will I ever taste my own homemade marmalade again, knowing that I can make a pretty good substitute from my own fruit? Making do with what you have can be addicting – especially when costs are getting higher at the grocery store. I’d hate to think of Florida oranges as a luxury; but they certainly used to be. And I can almost guarantee that I won’t be willing to pay the price for true bitter Seville oranges (which make the the world’s best marmalade) while there are luxuries like milk and gasoline to be afforded.
Will I be able to pick the fruits next October (they are notorious self-seeders when they hit the ground), and simply set them in a bowl to perfume the house for a few weeks of autumn? Perhaps.
Whether or not I continue to make preserves from the pulp, or cocktails from the juice of my hardy oranges, I’m fairly certain I will always grow this gorgeous deciduous specimen. My tree is a seedling of the cultivar ‘Flying Dragon’ and the look of it in the winter garden is hard to beat – rigid green stems twisted and thorny and exquisite when coated in ice. And it’s not just gorgeous naked — fragrant white flowers in the spring, soft green fruits in the summer, and yellow leaves in the fall, make it a four season wonder.
Just don’t get a vine within ten feet of it or you’ll bleed to death attempting to perform a conscious uncoupling. -MW