The Beauty of Pennsylvania

4/2/2018 - 8:45:18 AM

Pennsylvania is a glorious state. Growing up in Oregon, that’s quite a thing to say. If you’ve been there, you know what I’m talking about. It’s natural beauty is everywhere. It doesn’t really matter what part of the state you’re in, you’re bound to experience natural beauty. Most states have their signature sights located in a particular spot, but in Oregon, beauty is just everywhere. And Pennsylvania comes awfully close to matching Oregon in the variety and scope of its natural wonders.

One of my favorite things about Pennsylvania is its trees. In the Poconos you see evergreens reminiscent of  Oregon. Or, how about this? Deep in Pennsylvania, on an ancient road, exiting a cozy hamlet, there before you an orchard undalates up and down the hillside, an old barn and house are tucked in a valley. Can’t you just feel that? Travel in PA enough, and it’s almost a certainty. Although “the majority of the [apple] production is centered in the south-central part of Pennsylvania,” apples grow in every county of our fair state.

As I was nosing around for ideas for this post, I found so much to celebrate. I wish I could write about it all. For now I’ll fill you in on one thing that I found to be especially unique: the hardy orange.

The Hardy Orange (trifoliate orange, Poncirus trifoliata) blooms in early spring. If you have a chance to see one in bloom, be sure to get close enough to smell it. Apparently, it’s an absolutely delicious scent! You may be asking, “Oranges? Oranges in Pennsylvania?” Being in the category of cold-hardy citrus, it can thrive in USDA zone 6 and tolerates moderate frost and snow. According to Citrus trifoliata Linnaeus “The species is unusual among citrus for having deciduous, compound leaves and [downy] fruit.”

A common cultivar of the hardy orange is the Flying Dragon. Its curving trunk and bone hard thorns give it an other worldly look. If you haven’t seen one in the wild or in your neighbor's yard, you can see one at Longwood Gardens. Unlike the Flying Dragon variety, you will find Longwood’s specimen to be more of a full grown tree. However, the thorns are still quite prominent. Or if you happen to be visiting the Barnes Foundation near Philadelphia, you might catch a glimpse of one there. Apparently, someone successfully grew a hardy orange tree from seeds he got from there while attending as a horticulture student.

In addition to a pleasant aroma, part of its unique beauty is its glossy leaves and substantial thorns. Its fruit, tasting a little like a cross between a lemon and grapefruit, is quite small and mostly seeds. Even so, there are various uses for the fruit, one of which is medicinal. European Journal of Pharmacology explains that “the fruits of Poncirus trifoliata (L.) are widely used in Oriental medicine as a remedy for allergic inflammation.” Given that the plant is also known as the Japanese bitter-orange or the Chinese bitter orange, this use is not surprising. Indeed, it is native to China and “was once grown in northern Europe where the fruit rind was candied and dried.”

I’m seriously thinking about adding the Hardy Orange to our landscape. Not only will it add unique flair, I’m also intrigued by its possible “ingestability.” Here’s a recipe I found on a website called Eat the Weeds.

Hosted by Green Deane, it’s a plethora of botanical information on foraging. It’s very interesting!

Why not plan an excursion to explore more of PA? See if you can score some Hardy Oranges and make the recipe below! And if you’re in the neighborhood, be sure to stop by and say, “Hi.” We love visitors and would be glad to provide any food or snacks you might need for your journey!

He calls his recipe Hardy Orange Marmalade:

“Use 30 to 50 fruit depending upon their size. Wash well.  Cut each one equatorially and twist the halves apart. Squeeze the pulp, seed and what juice there is into a bowl. Remove the seeds. This is helped by adding a little water. You can slice the peelings or leave them whole.

Add the peelings to a jar holding 2.5 cups of water and 1/8 teaspoon of baking soda. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Pour off about 2 cups of the water. Add the juice and pulp and simmer for 10 more minutes. Meanwhile put enough jars (lids and screw-caps) for eight cups of marmalade into a big pot of water and bring them to a boil. Continue to let them boil very gently until the marmalade is ready to can.

Measure 4 cups of sugar then take 1/4 cup of that sugar and mix it with one package of pectin in a small bowl.  In the large bowl add enough water to the juice/pulp mixture to bring the volume to 5.5 cups and put it in a gallon pot for cooking. Add the sugar/pectin mixture from the small bowl and a 1/2 tablespoon of oil. Bring  a full boil stirring constantly as it heats. Then add the rest of the sugar and heat this till it again reaches a full boil. Boil for one more minute only. Turn off the heat and quickly put the marmalade into the sterile jars. Fill each jar to within 1/4 inch of the top, wipe off any marmalade that touches the rim (adding a stick cinnamon is optional). Set the lid, tighten, then do the next jar. Sealed jars should keep for months.

If you want to reduce the bitterness of the peelings first you can parboil them in as many changes of water as you like until the water is not bitter or of a bitterness of your liking. Cooking will leave a resin on your utensils. Alcohol will remove it quickly.”

If this recipe puts you in the mood for marmalade right now, head on over to Kauffman’s to pick up some today. Or order it online!

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