Of Swarming bees and Lemon trees
It was a Monday morning one spring day at about 11.00am when the phone rang, as it usually did around that time of day, to report yet another bee swarm. In Garran.
“Be there in thirty minutes!” I said.
It was a big swarm. I caught it in my box and stashed it in the back of the car.
“Thank you so much!” said the elderly lady. “Do you have a lemon tree?”
“Do I have a lemon tree? Um.. ah, yes, I have two, in fact.”
“Then you won’t need any lemons.”
“Why is that?” I couldn’t figure out what lemons had in common with bees.
“Because you’ll have plenty of your own.”
“Lemons? Indeed not! My lemon trees are very tiny and neither of them has even yet had a flower, let alone a lemon.”
“Would you like some lemons?”
“Why, certainly, if you have a few to spare.”
She led me around the back. There were two of the biggest lemon trees I’d seen in my life, and they were absolutely loaded with fruit. One branch had already broken under the weight.
“Help yourself to as many as youâ€™d like because I can’t use them all! Do you have a bag?”
I threw all the things out of the bag I use for carrying my bee-swarm catching gear and soon had it stuffed with lemons. I emptied it into the boot of the car with the bees, and refilled it. I eyed the big box full of bees. It would hold lemons much better than the plastic bag! But you can’t put bees in a bag. Finally, having not made much of a dent in the crop, but with a boot full of lemons and bees, I came rolling and buzzing and home.
I made lemon wine. It was extraordinarily good. As clear and clean as a glass of water, with a fabulous fresh lemon taste and an alcohol level to prime a party. Ten litres were spritzig, the other fifteen were still wines. The spritzig ones beat the pants off lemonade. We giggled our way through the twelve bottles of them in record time. I wished very much to make some more, but despite collecting many bee swarms, I’ve never found as bounteous a crop of lemons ever since!
PS. Since that story was published in the Stony Creek Gazette some years ago, I’ve never been short of lemons to make wine. People bring me great bags of them every year! However, in the last two years my two trees have finally come into full production, and I can make Lemon Wine from my own lemons at any time. But it shall always be that bees and lemon wine go together for me.
When you have finished with your first batch of Mead, why not put the fermenter bottle back into commission brewing up some of this wonderful plonk!
10 small lemons
1.5 kg. sugar
5 1itres water
Thinly peel or grate the skins of 5 lemons, and place the rind in a bucket. Cut each of the 10 lemons in half and squeeze the juice onto the rind. Add the sugar and boiling water, stir well, cover, and when cool add nutrient and yeast. Stir twice daily for four days, then strain into a 1-gallon (5-litre) jar and fit a fermentation lock. When fermentation has finished, you may bottle your wine.
Serve well chilled! If you have been too hasty and bottled your wine too early (before fermentation has finished) it will continue to ferment in the bottles and your bottles will blow their corks. If this happens, put the whole lot in the fridge to chill, and throw a party!