Lemons


Season for Lemons Available Year Round


Lemons Described

Lemons – quintessentially refreshing, a beloved dessert accoutrement and the stuff of childhood lemonade-stand nostalgia. All year round, lemons are a chef’s secret tool. A lemon’s notable tang and aromatic oils make for a strong flavoring that livens dishes both sweet and savory. While you’re most likely to come across the Eureka variety – which are super acidic with a juicy pulp and only a few seeds – it’s worth seeking out other varieties like Meyer. They are like lemons that have been infused with a little bit of orange, giving them a deeper color and sweet edge, and are prized for their subtle acidity and sweet fragrance, adding a double-edged depth to your recipes. 


How to Buy and Store Lemons

Choose your lemons for their heaviness which indicates they will be fleshy and juicy with a thin skin. Avoid lemons that are very hard with any green which means they are unripe and will be even more acidic than a fully ripe specimen, carrying less health benefits. Soft spots, shriveling and a dulling color are signs your lemons are overly mature. The perfect lemon is a bright, glossy yellow and firm but not hard. Lemons will keep at room temperature for a week or in your crisper from 2 weeks to a month. 

If need be, you also have the option to store your lemon juice and zest for later use. Squeeze your lemons into ice cube trays in your freezer until frozen, after which you can place them in plastic bags in the freezer – a vastly better option than bottled lemon juice bought from the grocery store. Dried lemon zest can be stored with your spices in an airtight glass container.


How to Cook Lemons

Always wash lemons thoroughly before using, even if you’re not grating them for zest. You can always keep the shells and freeze them for zesting at a later date anyhow. When grating, only remove the colored part of the peel with a citrus zester, vegetable parer or grater, as the pith (or white part) is terribly bitter.

Now, you can juice them. If you’ve been storing your lemons in the fridge, it’s best to let them come to room temperature before use, that way you garner the most juice possible. Roll that room-temperature fruit on a counter, pressing firmly with your palm until it feels softened in order to free up the juice. Cut your lemon in half crosswise, then squeeze using your fingers to hold back the seeds. Lemon juice can be used atop any raw or cooked veggies to much flavorful and healthy delight, for homemade lemonade, in cocktails, as a household cleaner – among its versatile uses in every facet of cooking. 


Health Benefits of Lemons

Lemons have been revered for their medicinal use since the Romans used them to fight poisons of all kinds and  they were seriously prized by miners during the gold rush to prevent scurvy. We know them as an excellent source of vitamin C, which keeps our immunity in check. But they are also full of antioxidants that are believed to have a ton of health benefits which include protection against heart disease, cancer and the aging process in general. That’s enough to make anyone squeeze a lemon into their water. Add to it, lemons keep you cool, calm and collected while purifying your stomach, and we’re convinced! 


Why Buy Natural and Organic Lemons

Most important if your recipe calls for lemon zest, be sure to purchase lemons that have been grown organically, as most conventionally grown fruits will have pesticide residues on their skin. Though a good washing can help remove the pesticides, it’s never fool proof, and the only way to be confident in the quality of your fruit is to go the organic route. Plus, you send the message that you support sustainable farming practices with every organic purchase you make.

As to bottled lemon juice, it is both a far cry from fresh squeezed lemon juice in taste and quality, but also lacks a lot of the vitamin C associated with this refreshing fruit.  

image: Anna Oates