We’ve had a rough time with Chinese exports over the last few years: melamine in pet food, drug residues in seafood, lead in children’s toys and poisonous chemicals in toothpaste.

But we can thank China and her neighbors for a beloved American fruit: the lemon, whose seeds were first introduced to us by Christopher Columbus. They were later planted by Catholic missionaries in Arizona and California, states that now produce 95% of the lemons we consume.

If you enjoy cooking, it’s hard to live without Citrus limon. The versatile fruit adds a pleasing pungency to teas and other beverages, fish and poultry entrees, vegetable dishes, salad dressings and marinades, and baked goods and other desserts. For future culinary reference: One medium lemon contains approximately 3 tablespoons of juice and 3 tablespoons of grated peel.

Available year-round, lemons have only 30 calories per 1/2 cup (sectioned and peeled). This serving size offers 90% of your daily vitamin C requirement and 3 g dietary fiber (about 10% of your daily requirement).

When choosing an organic lemon, look for a firm fruit with a bright yellow color. Pass on lemons that are soft, shriveled or have spots. A juicy lemon will feel heavy and have a thin skin. If the skin is green-tinged, expect a more acidic fruit.

I mix fresh lemon juice with water when I freeze ice cubes—a great way to add extra flavor to cold beverages. Before squeezing, roll a whole lemon along your kitchen countertop; this trick helps you produce more juice.

Lemons can be stored at room temperature for roughly 2 weeks. You may also refrigerate them for up to 6 weeks.

Tune in tomorrow for our weekend recipe: an Asian variation on traditional lemonade.

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