AgEBB-MU CAFNR Extension

David Burton
Civic Communications Specialist
2400 S. Scenic Ave.
Springfield, MO 65807

December 15, 2017

Holiday Fruitcake is a
Celebration of Horticulture

MARSHFIELD, Mo. — The much maligned holiday fruitcake is a celebration of horticulture according to Patrick Byers, horticulture specialist with University of Missouri Extension.

"Take a moment to investigate the contribution of horticulture to the ingredients in my mother's famous fruitcake," said Byers. "It is a great example of the importance of horticulture to our life in both our everyday and unusual ways."

For starters, the Byer's fruitcake requires cherries. Candied cherries (from Washington State) are prepared from sweet cherries, specially harvested and processed to make the firm, sweet fruit used in the fruitcake.

A second ingredient is candied citrus peel. "Most of us are familiar with candied lemon and orange peel from Florida, but the candied citron peel comes from Asia," said Byers.

The citron is a citrus fruit, from three and one-half to nine inches or even one foot long. The peel is yellow when fully ripe and is usually rough and bumpy. The most important part of the citron is the peel which is a fairly important article in international trade.

The fruits are halved, depulped, immersed in seawater or ordinary salt water to ferment for about 40 days, the brine being changed every two weeks; rinsed, put in denser brine in wooden barrels for storage and export. After partial desalting and boiling to soften the peel, it is candied in a strong sucrose/glucose solution.

An important third ingredient is nuts. "My mother uses walnuts (from Missouri), pecans (from Kansas), and hazelnuts (from Oregon) in her recipe," said Byers.

Then finally, dried raisins from California make the Byers fruitcake complete.

"I must say that my mother's fruitcake is eagerly anticipated by those lucky enough to be on her list," said Byers. "But just think about what would be missing if it was not for horticulture."

For more information, contact one of MU Extension's horticulture specialists or educators in southwest Missouri: Patrick Byers in Webster County at (417) 859-2044, Kelly McGowan in Greene County at (417) 881-8909 or Robert Balek in Jasper County at (417) 358-2158. Or, call the gardening hotline operated by the Master Gardeners of Greene County at 417-874-2963.

Source: Patrick Byers, (417) 859-2044

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