Homegrown with Heart Column

To me, a bright sunshine-infused lemon is much more a sign of hospitality than the traditional pineapple. How many times do folks drop by and you offer them a glass of lemonade, a lemon bar, or maybe even a slice of lemon meringue pie? Also, how cheerful is a heaping bowl of lemons on your kitchen counter? It is sheer happiness.

Growing a lemon tree is simple no matter where you live.  I happen to live on the gulf coast of Florida and am currently growing a Meyer lemon and a pink variegated lemon in my yard.  They are both very easy to grow.

Further north, you can grow most citrus indoors.  Buy one that is a few years old, otherwise it will take forever to fruit and they have a better chance if they are not seedlings. Buying a dwarf variety is preferable. Use a premixed potting soil made for citrus and put the pot in a south facing window, where the temperature stays above 60 degrees. Regular watering is essential, but not too wet. Fertilize according to directions. As the temperatures warm up, feel free to move your tree outside.  Just make sure you ease it into the bright sunlight over the first few days.

For lovely hostess gifts, I like to make my own lemon infused oils, vinegars, and salts.  Each item is incredibly easy to make and looks very luxurious.  Put all of them together in a pretty basket tied up with a charming ribbon and you have a terrific inexpensive, but meaningful and consumable gift that feels very precious.  Oooh…and maybe fabulous as an upcoming Mother’s Day gift!

I don’t use lemons as only a food source, I use them for crafts, too. Several years ago, my children gifted me a food dehydrator for Christmas.  I love to use dried lemon slices in my homemade potpourri and for hanging on my Christmas tree. They also look pretty on a holiday wreath and smell good, too! You don’t have to use a dehydrator, you can simply use your oven. Preheat oven to 200 degrees, place the lemon slices in a single layer on a wire rack on a baking sheet, wait 2 – 3 hours and voila – you have dried lemon slices.

Lemons are perfect to add to non-toxic cleaners. Add a bit of lemon to vinegar and water and it makes a terrific all-purpose cleaner. There are tons of recipes for this on Pinterest – believe me, I know!  You can also make it part of laundry detergent or put it in your garbage disposal.  You will be surprised at all its uses when you start researching.

If you are an advanced DYI-er, many facial products can be made with lemons, too.  The lemon’s uses seem to be endless. Maybe you should be growing several trees!

Wow!  I think lemons are one of the most useful fruits in my edible landscape. I use them for everything – drinks, desserts, main dishes, salad dressings, marmalades, crafts, and cleaning house and body – the whole kit and caboodle! How do you use your lemons?



Lemon blueberry pound cake 


1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar, divided
4 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1/3 cup grated lemon zest (6 to 8 large lemons)
3 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, divided
3/4 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1 cup fresh blueberries tossed in flour so it doesn’t sink in the cake
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the glaze:

2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
3 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice



  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour 2 (8 1/2 by 4 1/4 by 2 1/2-inch) loaf pans. You may also line the bottom with parchment paper, if desired.
  2. Cream the butter and 2 cups granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. With the mixer on medium speed, add the eggs, 1 at a time, and the lemon zest.
  3. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. In another bowl, combine 1/4 cup lemon juice, the buttermilk, and vanilla. Add the flour and buttermilk mixtures alternately to the batter, beginning and ending with the flour. Divide the batter evenly between the pans, smooth the tops, and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until a cake tester comes out clean.
  4. Combine 1/2 cup granulated sugar with 1/2 cup lemon juice in a small saucepan and cook over low heat until the sugar dissolves. When the cakes are done, allow to cool for 10 minutes. Remove the cakes from the pans and set them on a rack set over a tray or sheet pan; spoon the lemon syrup over them. Allow the cakes to cool completely.
  5. for the glaze, combine the confectioners’ sugar and the lemon juice in a bowl, mixing with a wire whisk until smooth. Pour over the tops of the cakes and allow the glaze to drizzle down the sides.


Preserved lemons


2 to 3 lemons

2 tablespoons kosher salt

  1. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.
  2. Cut the lemons into sixths, lengthwise, sprinkle with the salt and place in a non-corrosive dish (glass is good). Cover the lemons with water and cook in the oven for 3 hours. Allow to cool and then refrigerate. Keep in refrigerator for up to 6 months.


DIY Lemon Face Scrub

Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 cup granulated sugar


Mix together and store up to two weeks in an airtight container.

To use dampen face with water, then use about one tablespoon and gently rub on your face in circular motions for one to two minutes avoiding eye area.  Rinse with warm water and pat face dry. Its best to use just before bedtime because you want to avoid exposure to sunlight for a few hours after use.

TIP:  If your skin is especially dry, try applying a teaspoon of olive oil directly to your skin before using the scrub.



A Midwesterner by birth, but a Floridian for the past almost 40 years, Debbi Benedict has been a longtime magazine columnist and an even longer edible landscaping enthusiast. Her definition of an edible landscape is, “Food for myself; the birds, bees, and butterflies; and most importantly, for my soul.” As a young girl, her love of the lore and accessibility of herbs started her on her gardening journey. Upon her move to Florida, her gardening world exploded as she was introduced to the magical tastes of tropical fruit trees and the value of native plants. Now her quarter acre yard, known as Benhaven Farm, flourishes with over 100 fruit trees, shrubs, and vines, and an unknown number of native flowering plants.
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