Nova Scotia

When life gives you lemons: How a N.S. bakery got — and got rid of — a heap of sour fruit

Laura Mulrooney, who owns a bakery in Chester, N.S., recently received more than 2,000 unwanted lemons from a local grocery store.

Laura Mulrooney, who owns Julien's Bakery in Chester, N.S., recently had more than 2,000 lemons on her hands

Laura Mulrooney, left, is seen next to the trunk of a Volkswagen car filled with bags of lemons. She gave the bags of lemons to her friend, right, who is a farmer. (Matty Julien)

When life literally gives you thousands of lemons, what do you do with them? A lot more than just make lemonade, apparently.

At least that's what Laura Mulrooney discovered last week.

Mulrooney, who owns Julien's Bakery in Chester, N.S., said early Wednesday morning, she received a text from the produce manager at the local grocery store about some "extra" lemons that had come in.

He wanted to know if she could use some at her bakery. Mulrooney sells her bread at the store so this wasn't an unusual offer. She said she was expecting maybe 10 dozen lemons.

Little did she know she was accepting about 2,000. The store presented her with cases upon cases of citrus.

"He took me into the back room, where there were at least four pallets full of cases of lemons, taking up all their storage room," Mulrooney told CBC Radio's Mainstreet on Monday.

"They knew with the holidays coming and the store being closed — and they're very good about that — they don't want to throw things out."

What do you do when life gives you lemons? A lot, apparently. Laura Mulrooney, who owns a bakery in Chester, N.S., recently received thousands of lemons from a local grocery store after an ordering error. Host Jeff Douglas spoke with Mulrooney about how she managed to distribute and use the lemons over the holidays.

Mulrooney said the lemons came from two different places, South Africa and California, but she's not sure how exactly the grocery store ended up with them.

"I don't think there was any intention — I'm not going to throw anyone under the bus — but I'm pretty sure they didn't intend on receiving that many lemons," she said with a laugh.

"I was just glad that they planned to divert them because even getting rid of them would have been a ton of work if they had to chuck them, for example."

Shady lemon drops

Now on a mission to distribute and use literally thousands of lemons just before the new year, she called up her friend who owns a nearby organic farm. 

"We've been friends forever and they like the challenge, so I said, 'Would you like a few lemons?' 'Oh, sure, I'll stop by' … and we laughed and laughed and laughed." 

They loaded up her friend's Volkswagen car, which didn't even hold one-tenth of the lemons.

Mulrooney joked that was the first of many lemon "drug" deals in her area.

"I was pulled over in a few carpool lots, backed up to other vehicles, and it was looking a bit shady," she said.

She said some lemons have even made it to Bridgewater where they're going to Moshers Island by boat for the local goats. 

Mulrooney said they've also been "giving them away to everyone who stops by."

When life gives you lemons … make everything

Mulrooney said over the past week, the bakery has burned out their juicer by making dozens of lemon squares, lemon loaf, lemon curd, lemon water, lemonade, and of course, gin and tonics.

"I feel an obligation to have a gin and tonic now and then to use up those lemons," she said. 

Although she's been having a field day getting creative with the lemons, it was her farmer friend who actually took most of the lemons.

She's said her friend has been salting them, curing them and freezing them, but it appears she's finally out of ideas.

Dozens of boxes filled with lemons are seen loaded into Mulrooney's van to be used by the bakery. (Submitted by Laura Mulrooney)

"I've made lemon shaker pie, lemon squares, icebox pie, lemon duck, lemon shrimp, preserved lemons, pickled lemon, lemon juice, frozen lemons," the friend wrote in a note to Mulrooney. "Every neighbour has lemon. I'm lemoned out. Thanks, but no thanks."

Mulrooney said within one week, most of the lemons have been used or are being processed. 

"But the best part about this whole thing is that it brought a lot of people, a lot of fun," she said. 

"[Lemons are] really healthy. They have so many benefits and it was just a fun distraction over New Year's when people need a little bit of fun."

With files from CBC Radio's Mainstreet

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