Cooking with Kids: Too Many Lemons and Cans


Photo by Liz West, via Wikimedia Commons

Photo by Liz West, via Wikimedia Commons


It seems that we are always trying to find projects that we do with our children, but if we can just include them in our regular activities, we can often play Tom Sawyer painting the fence. We can make our everyday activities fun instead of a chore. We had a very prolific lemon tree. Although we used lemons for salad dressings, in cooking, in lemonade, it seemed that we had a million lemons. I knew that if we did not pick them all and save them, we would start to lose them. My two boys had their friends over all the time, so I organized them into two teams. They had to pick all of the lemons – carefully to avoid the thorns – and the team that won, would get to drink their lemonade before the other team. In short order we had picked all of the lemons.

I gave each of the boys some way to juice the lemons. They used reamers, a press, and an electric reamer. I set about halving the lemons as the boys juiced happily all around the kitchen, juicing over bowls, emptying their juicers into larger vessels.  I had the most dexterous child using a funnel to fill up individual water bottles that I had been saving. We capped them and I put them into the freezer. I also made some lemonade, giving each child a glass – the winning team first – and they drank while they continued to juice. In short order there were no lemons left (I had set aside some so that each boy could take a few home with them). All we had was a pile of mashed lemon halves.

I cannot bear to throw out the lemons, even by composting them. So I reserved some to chop for making a lemon marmalade later and a few for preserving in salt. The rest went into plastic bags in the freezer. When serving lemonade or iced tea, a frozen lemon half cools the drink and flavors it at the same time. Only then is it suitable for composting.

At this same gathering, the children were ready for more. I was ready for them. We had been collecting aluminum cans from our drinking. I wanted to recycle them, but also to reduce their bulk. We created an individual contest and asked the children to stamp on the aluminum cans. Whoever had flattened  the most when we ran out of cans won. The winner could take home one of the bottles of lemon juice.  My own children scoffed at my prizes, but they had lemons and juice in abundance.  The other children were happy to take these things home with them that we products of their labor.  In short order we had flattened all of the cans, the kids had had a great time, and they had learned about the garden and its bounty, that we have to work for our food, and that it is connected to the land. They had also helped recycle. They saw for themselves that three garbage bags full of cans could fit into one when they were flattened.

I do not know if this taught profound lessons, and my children were a bit suspicious of my motivations, but I know that we all had fun.  I had fun too.

A boy sells lemonade in the 1970s or 80s in Georgia. Photo by NARA via Wikimedia Commons

A boy sells lemonade in the 1970s or 80s in Georgia. Photo by NARA via Wikimedia Commons

Easy Lemonade

  • 1 cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • ¾ cup of sugar
  • 2 quarts of water
  • Mint sprigs (optional)

Mix all ingredients together.  Add a teaspoon of maraschino syrup to each glass to make pink lemonade. Serve over ice. Garnish with a sprig of mint.

Image: André Karwath, via Wikimedia Commons

Image: André Karwath, via Wikimedia Commons


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