Ever since I discovered them early last year, I’ve fallen head over heels in love with them. They are without a doubt, a thing of beauty in themselves, in their vibrant color, dainty ambrosial aroma and a sweeter, quaint citrus taste.
An infinitesimal inhalation of their fragrance is enough to freshen one up. I am confessing my love (yet again) for none other than the golden offspring of lemon and (presumably) mandarin orange, the exotic sunshine fruit of california, Meyer Lemons.
If you give them a tiny chance in your kitchen, surely, you will too!
Be forewarned though, once you are hooked on to their ethereal perfume and resplendent looks, don’t blame me, if you start looking down upon the regular “run off the mill” lemons for which I will only respond with “I told you so..”
I’d say, when life hands you Meyer Lemons, life is beautiful..
Though these lemony beauties peak in winter, sometimes if you are lucky, you might find them in Whole Foods up until end of April or early May, like I did last year.
So, lose no time to revel in their goodness now.. So, if you have a backyard, a tiny garden, or even a balcony, just spare the much ignored corner for a meyer lemon tree for a long lasting gratification..
With spring gone in the first couple of weeks of its arrival, April afternoons already feel more like a trailer of blazing summer from June, where I live in Texas. Don’t even get me thinking on what August might have in store!
While making lemonade out of Meyer Lemons was the most fool proof idea to cool off, like I made Meyer Lemon Paanaka in Indian style last summer, this time, it seemed fascinating to combine it with the natural pink of raspberries and some fun textured Tukmaria (sabja seeds) for an almost dreamy, amber colored cooling drink I could ever imagine.
Forget herbs or spices to flavor, if you allow the perfumania of meyer lemons to steal the show!
My discovery of Tukmaria (pronounced “Took-maria”) was through my mom-in-law when she came to visit us last year. While we walked the aisles of the Indian grocery store in exploration of new spices, I was intrigued by its strange sounding name. And it was from her, I learnt that it is used most commonly in Falooda (a persian dessert, introduced to India by the Mughals) and that it is a natural coolant as well.
They are more commonly known as Sabja seeds.
After some time consuming research (aka googling), I also learnt that, Tukmaria (in Hindi) is the seed of the Sweet Basil plant also known as St. John’s wort in European countries. It is not the same as Holy basil or Tulsi, though it looks similar.
And, through a friend, I realized that sweet basil is the same as “Kaama Kasturi” (kannada) – the sweet clove scented fragrant sprig many-a-times inter sewn in jasmine (mallige) or jaaji floral strings and garlands. Those of you from Karnataka might recognize instantly. I don’t recollect any culinary use for it though, I’ve heard it to be a medicinal herb.
And, they are sold under many a names like sabja, subja, tukmaria, takmaria and falooda seeds
This site has some detailed information about the plant.
Sweet basil seeds resemble black sesame seeds in color and tear drop shape, but are clearly distinguishable as they are a wee bit smaller and plumper too. When soaked in water, they swell up and appear to be frog spawn look-a-likes. Pardon my choice for analogy, being a vegetarian! They can be compared to tiny tapioca pearls, if it gives you a better idea.
They do not have any distinct taste of their own, but their slimy jelly exterior and the nutty bite of the interior make them quite fun in a mouthful!
If you can’t find Tukamaria/Sweet basil seeds, Chia seeds make a great substitute. Why, they swell in water very much like basil seeds and they are an antioxidant powerhouse as we know it, which makes me wonder if Sweet basil seeds must be equally potent too?
Have you heard of Tukmaria / sabja seeds before? How do you like to use them in your recipes?
- 4 meyer lemons
- 12 raspberries
- 1 tbsp tukmaria/ sweet basil seeds
- 6-7 tbsp brown sugar
- 3 cups water
- a pinch of salt
Soak the takmaria/sabja seeds in 1/2 cup water for about 30 mins.
In the meanwhile, wash, cut and squeeze the meyer lemons. Gently rolling the lemons wrapped in a tissue under the feet puts the right amount of pressure and makes most of the juice available for squeezing. If you aren't comfortable, do so with your palm. Wash the lemons well before using.
It will be nothing short of a blunder if you discard the meyer lemon peels. If you'll take my words, find a clean, dry jar (glass or porcelain, canning, anything), quarter the used peels and toss them in. layer them with sea salt and preserve to be used as is or pickled later.
Strain the seeds. Transfer the juice to a sauce pan or microwave safe bowl and add brown sugar to the juice. Add a pinch of salt. Either microwave for 30 secs or heat on stove top on sim for a few minutes until sugar dissolves. This will be quick. Stir well with a spoon to dissolve any remaining sugar.
Add 2-1/2 cups of water to the sugar syrup and stir to mix well. Taste the juice to adjust the sugar. I listed 6-7 tbsp sugar, so you can suit to your taste. 6 tbsp leaves a quaint tartness, while 7 tbsp makes it sweeter.
Wash the raspberries and pat dry. In a small bowl, crush them with the back of a spoon or with your fingers. Add some juice to this and wash off the crushed raspberries into the juice bowl. Add some juice to the soaked tukmaria and wash it off into the juice bowl. Stir to mix well.
Refrigrate and serve chilled.
Tukmaria /sabja seeds are available in most Indian grocery stores, persian food stores and world food markets.
The amber color of the lemonade is mainly due to the use of brown sugar. White sugar might result in a faint pink lemonade.
For those of you who can't access tukmaria locally, it is available at myspicesage.com
Don't see why strawberries can't be substituted for raspberries. Puree strawberries before mixing.
If you decide to preserve the meyer lemon peels, it is preferable to sit the jars in boiling water for sterilization and let them dry completely before use.