Saturday, February 01, 2014

When Is a Lime Tree Not a Lime Tree?

My parents came over for midday dinner today (the part that the kids made -- Travis's pesto chicken and Katie's dessert -- was wonderful; my pasta was a disaster), and afterwards we discussed our current book club book -- Barchester Towers. We're all only partway through (Katie is farthest along and I am bringing up the rear), but all of us but Katie have read it before, so we discussed the first half. Anyway, I happened to comment on how surprising I found it that there are so many lime tree avenues in Victorian novels. All the best houses have them! Trollope describes them at Ullathorne house; Mr. Casaubon has them at his house, in Middlemarch; and Mr. Knightly has them at his house in Emma. And those are just the ones I remember. England is awash in limes, which is not at all a bad thing. But it has seemed strange to me, since I think of citrus as being incompatible with freezing weather. In fact, that is why I don't have a lime avenue myself. But the English are supposed to be good with plants, and I thought maybe there was a variety which was cold hardy. But my daddy laughed at me! (Actually, he laughs at me all the time, but mostly it is completely unjustified!) Apparently all these "lime trees" are not actually lime trees. They are linden trees, which I've heard of, or basswood trees, which I haven't, but which I still wouldn't suppose produced citrus fruits. And, while we were at it, my dad kindly mentioned that "plane" trees, which also come up regularly in English books, are really sycamores. Huh. Actually, it is a nice thing to know, since all these "avenues" seem more majestic now that I can picture them with tall elegant trees instead of short, round little citrus trees. And that's what I learned about horticultural nomenclature today!

*This picture is from You don't suppose that people who post luscious recipes for gin and tonics would begrudge me the use of a picture, do you? They point out the importance of fresh limes, a piece of advice I always follow, although they also recommend something other than "cheapest gin the store carries," which is my approach (because with a really superior lime, you hardly notice the cheap gin!)

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