Grit Blogs > Homesteading with Mrs D

Fruit of the Desert

By Robyn Dolan 

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Winter in Arizona

It's cold, snowy and muddy outside. The fire's been roaring since just before Christmas. Williams, Arizona, got 30 inches of snow in a week. We got a mere half that. It's been melting off too fast to make our snow people. What we have is alot of mud. We are blessed to live on a school bus route, which is regularly maintained. We also have a four wheel drive 3/4 ton pickup to get us out of almost anything we encounter. Several friends are not so lucky. They live on unmaintained roads that turn into mudbaths, and are frequently stuck for several days when we have wet weather. Unless, of course, they can get in or out while the mud is frozen.


During our cold snap over Christmas, we went to visit relatives in Phoenix, land of grapefruit trees. Oranges and lemons as well, but mostly grapefruit trees. Every yard has at least two. Why so many grapefruit trees? They're not like oranges, sweet eating, popular juice. Or lemons, which are great for lemonade hot and cold, lemon meringue pie, lemon curd. I grew up with a grapefruit tree in the back yard and never found much use for them until I moved away from it. I mean, face it, even the sweetest grapefruit have a tremendous amount of acid and a sour/bitter taste to them. One can gladly drink orange juice or lemonade every day, but one can only drink so much grapefruit juice.

So in the spirit of not letting anything go to waste, quite a few years ago I set out to find delectable ways to prepare and preserve grapefruit. One thing I learned from grandma is that grapefruit is full of good stuff that helps you get over whatever ails ya. She would strain the juice and drink it fresh and all the way through fermentation into wine and then vinegar. I tried a sip once, never again. One year I canned the sections in a light syrup, and all year enjoyed the very palateable treat. My big discovery came when I ate some during the midst of a very bad cold and that, along with some home grown turkey stock (not together!) knocked the cold right out. I know, a cold has to run its course, blah, blah, but it really had an amazing effect. I have also let the juice ferment into vinegar, and it makes an excellent cleaner.

Preserving grapefruit

A few years ago I was the lucky recipient of a Jack LaLanne juicer. I know, another electrical gadget, and I'm supposed to be moving backwards technologically. But like the Internet, some kitchen gadgets have their place. The great thing about this juicer is that you can put nearly any fruit or vegetable into it whole, thereby deriving the greatest amount of nutrients from your produce. And the pulp can usually be dried and used for other purposes: added into baking; snuck into meatloaf, etc., to get your picky eaters their veggies; in soups; fed back to the livestock. The neat thing with putting lemons and grapefruit in is that with the high pectin content in the white part of the peel, after the juice sits in the fridge for a few hours, it turns into kind of a curd. And because you've retained all the essential oils and fiber from the peels, said curd is not as bitter as the raw fruit. Not as sweet as jam, either, but that's what sugar's for. Also, the curd lasts a lot longer in the fridge with no further processing than just plain juice. My next project is to add some sugar to the lemon and grapefruit juice before it curds and see if it will make a nice jam-like spread. If it works, I will post the recipe in a future edition of this blog.