Lemonaia at Ashton Park

Italy, Lemons and Moss Vale Lemoncello

Any of us who have visited Italy and sat in a romantic piazza watching the world go with a Lemoncello on ice, or a cold fizzy Chinotto drink in hand, will know how glorious the fragrant taste of Mediterranean citrus can be.

In search of the perfect lemoncello recipe

Back at Ashton Park at Moss Vale, a book on lemons changed my life! – well, at least sent me along a new and fascinating path.

The Land Where Lemons Grow

Our daughter gave us renowned garden-specialist Helena Atlee’s book ‘The Land Where Lemons Grow’ for a recent Xmas, and I devoured it (and some of the fantastic historic recipes in it) in a couple of sittings – and promptly started to search for Bergamots, Chinottos, troyo and yuzu limes, blood oranges, and anything else I could find now I understood the history of each historic and ancient variety.

I wanted to make my own lemoncello and chinotto, and to try to recreate some of the artisanal products described in the book.

Problem is, our frosty days in winter are a bit tough on citrus.

So having acquired my first rare citrus plants and potted them in pretty terracotta citrus pots, it was a race against time to find somewhere undercover for winter. So I got to drawing my idea.

Ashton Park Lemonaia concept

Paving, tree trunks and Xmas cricket

For 10 years we have been staring out of our elegantly but completely collapso woodshed and it dawned on us that this should become a lemonaia – a small version of the types Helena Atlee describes are built in northern Italy to protect delicate citrus in the cold months.

We had two large trees with artistically matched forks in their upper lengths that had fallen over in a storm in our back paddock. With our wonderful builder John Howard (from Robbo), and our bob-cat and chain-saw guru Willie Nicholls, we drew up a plan to restore the woodshed as a lemonaia.

We found a palette of wooden spindles at the local second-hand building yard, and I bought some century old bricks and Unity and I spent Boxing Day to New Year making a paved floor while we listed to the cricket. (Bliss)

I wasn’t around for the day John and Willie put the posts up, but I gather it was colourful. But worth it – they did a spectacular job on framing the space of what is now a loggia with a three sided bench, perfect for relaxing in the summer shade, and a cosy place for the citrus in our minus 5 degree mornings.

Unravelling Lemoncello secrets

I have been making Lemoncello, and now Bergamot-cello (yes, I’ve made it a ‘thing’) for a couple of years and finding my own Moss Vale version. Sometimes I use our own citrus, but I’ve loved using Gillian Kozicki’s lemons from warmer Ourimba this year.

I’ve felt a connection with my Tasmanian forebears by using suitcases full of lemons from recent visits to our old Launceston family kitchen garden.

Last year I had about 20 chinottos on my tree – this year I’m up to 100!  So they are the basis for my new batches of Chinotto syrup.

Most people don’t realise the fizzy soft drink is actually citrus! – invented after World War 2 as an alternative to Coca Cola. (Again, thanks to Helena Atlee for that gem).

Chinottos ready for workshops
Ashton Park Moss Vale sign

Ashton Park

6077 Illawarra Highway
Moss Vale NSW 2577
+ 61 427 203 402

Directions to Ashton Park Moss Vale