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Lemon trees like full sun, moist soil

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Question: I recently purchased a Meyer-lemon tree and would like to know more about it. Will it keep blooming into winter? — Elaine Cook, Houston, Texas

Answer: Meyer-lemon trees produce scented white flowers and unusually fragrant and thin-skinned fruit. Like other citrus trees, they thrive in warmer areas, such as California, Texas and Florida, where they're grown commercially. They like full sun and soil that's moist, well-drained and neutral to slightly acidic. Water the trees freely and feed them monthly with a balanced, liquid fertilizer.

As a general rule, citrus trees flower in late winter or early spring, and their fruit ripens nine to 18 months later. Typically, as one citrus crop ripens, the plant is already producing blossoms for the next. This is most pronounced in varieties such as Meyer and Eureka lemons and Bearss limes, which bear flowers, then fruit almost continuously in a year-round cycle.

Even those who don't live in a warm climate can enjoy citrus plants: These sturdy trees will grow just about anywhere in pots as long as they're moved indoors for overwintering before outdoor temperatures dip below freezing. Citrus varieties such as Meyer lemons, Bearss limes and Satsuma mandarins are especially suited to container growing because of their compact shape.

If you're planting in a container, choose one with drainage holes, and make sure it's at least 8 inches wider and deeper than the plant's root ball.

Question: When I make fresh whipped cream at home, it eventually falls. How do I stabilize it? — Kim, via e-mail

Answer: Whipped cream is a bit temperamental. Sometimes it forms perfect peaks, while other times it refuses to hold its shape. Here are a few tips that should help.

When you whip any liquid, you incorporate air into it, forming foamy bubbles. With most liquids, the bubbles will dissipate almost instantly because there's nothing to support them. But with cream, the bubbles are lined with fat, which gives the foam structure, keeping it fluffy and stable. That's why you should use cream with the highest fat content possible. Look for heavy or whipping cream, as opposed to light cream or half-and-half.

It is essential that the cream be well chilled; if it's not, the fat will be too soft to support the bubbles. Don't remove the cream from the refrigerator until you're ready to whip it. Use a chilled metal bowl and beaters or balloon whisk to beat the cream (place them in the freezer for 10 to 15 minutes). Working in a cool kitchen will also help.

When it comes to actually whipping the cream, just beat it, by hand or with an electric mixer, until soft peaks form. If you wish, add a little confectioners' sugar (2 or 3 tablespoons to a cup of cream) and flavorings such as pure vanilla extract (about 1/2 teaspoon) at this point, then continue whipping the cream to the consistency you desire. The confectioners' sugar will sweeten the cream and help to stabilize it after it's whipped. You can also add gelatin to stabilize it: Follow manufacturer's instructions to dissolve the gelatin, let it cool to room temperature, then gradually add it to cream while beating.

And make sure that you don't overwhip the cream, which will result in little flecks of butter in the cream.

Question: Can you give me some advice on how to care for wood furniture? How often should I dust and wax? — Jalyn Sternadel, Sugar Land, Texas

Answer: Dust thoroughly, about once or twice a month. Use a good dust cloth made from either soft cotton or flannel. Most wood furniture should be waxed once or twice a year.


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