By Emily Paster
Obviously I'm talking about a Florida farmers' market. You wouldn't be likely to find Rangpur limes at an Illinois farmers' market even in good weather, which it's not right now. No, today's farmers' market find is courtesy of the Saturday morning Old Naples Farmers' Market, which is a must on all of our Naples trips. The Old Naples Farmers' Market is less strictly a farmers' market than our Oak Park market: in addition to the vendors selling fresh produce, meat and seafood -- another thing we don't find at most Illinois markets -- there are prepared foods, flowers, jewelry, handmade baskets, soap and candles and other decorative items. Although I prefer more food-focused markets, the Old Naples Farmers' Market is good fun. Zuzu likes the jewelry and my mom likes the baskets. We all like the kettle corn and fresh crêpes -- made on the spot. It's a worthwhile way to spend a Saturday morning in Naples. If one is so inclined, one can wander from the market to the beloved Naples Pier.
My favorite stand at the Old Naples farmers' market is the one operated by David and Jenny Burd. David is a master gardener and grows many exotic tropical fruits, which he sells at the market. The Burds also sell homemade jams and jellies, dried fruits and local honey. Both David and Jenny are as personable as can be and will happily answer questions about their products, many of which are unfamiliar to Americans. When we were there last time, in addition to many varieties of citrus, such as Meyer lemons, Rangpur limes and variegated lemons, the Burds were selling such exotic fare as jackfruit, Black Sapote and Canistel or egg fruit. As fun as these unusual fruit are to look at, I can't say I've ever been tempted to buy any of them.
Indeed I was at the Burds' stand for one thing: Rangpur limes. I even made the whole family get up earlier than usual because when we visited the market over Thanksgiving, the Burds were sold out of Rangpur limes and I had to console myself with Key limes. Rangpur limes look like orange limes but they aren't even limes at all. They are a cross between a mandarin and a lemon. The zest and juice of the Rangpur lime are wonderfully flavorful and tart. Some even say that the juice has a smoky flavor. (They are seedy as hell, so it's a chore to juice them.) Those people who are familiar with Rangpur limes associate them with Indian cuisine; in fact, the fruit originated on the subcontinent and did not arrive in the US until the 19th century.
Rangpur lime juice is a favorite in cocktails, especially with gin. Tanqueray even makes a special Rangpur lime-infused version of its iconic gin. You can use them as you would any citrus fruit, which is to say in marmalade, in jam, in a curd or even in baked goods. I had carried my dozen Rangpur limes, which set me back $10, all the way from Naples to Chicago and I wanted to make the most of them. I zested and juiced the lot and ended up with 1.5 cups of juice and a lot of zest. After much hemming and hawing, I decided to make a curd with 1/2 a cup of the juice and a syrup with the remaining cup of juice. The curd ended up tasting much more like an orange curd than a lime curd and it is quite sweet. I'm reserving judgment on it. The syrup, on the other hand, is pure heaven to drink. I mixed it with some sparkling water and it tasted like the most delicious fruity, floral orange soda on the planet. Plus, it's extremely easy to make.
You can buy Rangpur lime syrup, but a 5 oz. bottle will cost you $15. I spent $10 on the limes and got three 4 oz. jars of Rangpur lime curd in addition to my three quarts of Rangpur lime syrup. Seems like the better deal.
Rangpur Lime Syrup
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 cup Rangpur lime juice (about 8 large limes)
Zest from the juiced limes
Place the sugar and water in a small saucepan and heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. (This is just a simple syrup). When the sugar is dissolved, remove the pan from the heat and allow the syrup to cool. Add the Rangpur lime juice and zest to the simple syrup and whisk together. Place syrup in a jar or bottle and refrigerate. Serve with sparkling water, sparkling wine or gin. Yum!
Now that I have used up my precious Rangpur limes, I'm going to tackle the two pomelos I bought at the Meijer on North Ave. -- a great store, by the way.