Once referred to as the “golden apple,” lemons have been treasured across the world and throughout history. A little lemon zest or juice can serve as a natural condiment with any meal.
History of the Lemon
We know very little about the origins of the lemon other than that it came to Europe from the Middle East. Its first mention in literature was in the early 10th century by an Arabic farmer. However, historians believe that it originated in Southeast Asia, probably in China or India, as a cross between the lime and the citron.
The lemon was likely introduced to Spain and North Africa between 1000 and 1200 AD. It continued to spread through Europe with the Crusaders, who found it growing in Palestine, and then made its way to Haiti with Christopher Columbus. There is evidence that, by 1494, the lemon was being cultivated in the Azores and from there shipped to England.
Exactly how and when the lemon came to the United States is unclear, but historians believe lemons were brought to Florida by early explorers between 1513, when Ponce de Leon first arrived there, and 1565, when Florida’s first colony, St. Augustine, was established.
Did You Know?
In all its travels, the lemon became known for its usefulness as a cure for scurvy (a disease caused by a lack of vitamin C), which was common among sailors, soldiers and pirates as well as miners during the California Gold Rush.
Choosing Your Lemons: Add a Little Zest to Your Life
- Select a lemon that is heavy for its size and has a thinner skin. A heavier lemon will have more inner flesh, and a thinner-skinned lemon will have more juice
- Look for a bright yellow color.
- Look for firm lemons and avoid ones that are wrinkling or have particularly soft or hard patches.
How to Care For and Store
If kept at room temperature and away from direct sunlight, lemons can stay fresh for up to one week. If refrigerated, they can be kept for up to four weeks.
How to Enjoy: When Life Gives Us Lemons …
Though primarily used for juice, the flesh and zest of a lemon are also prized culinary ingredients.
- Freshly squeezed lemonade is a very refreshing drink. Mix 1 cup of sugar, 1 cup of water and 1 cup of lemon juice to make this delicious beverage.
- Zest a lemon into your dishes to enhance the flavor of your food.
- Marinate meat and fish with lemons – it acts as a natural tenderizer.
- Add lemon slices to water, tea, a martini or beer for extra flavor and vitamin C.
- Use lemon instead of vinegar in salad dressing.
- Lemon juice is a great addition to sauces, marinades and preserves.
- If you are on a low-sodium diet, use lemon on foods – the tartness is a great salt substitute.
- Sprinkle lemon juice over fresh fruits to keep them from turning brown.
- Zest your lemons before you use them and keep dried lemon zest for later use in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.
- When added to most potted plants, lemonade keeps the flowers fresher.
- A lemon at room temperature will yield more juice than a cold lemon, but a cold lemon yields the most zest.
- Use lemon juice as a natural stain remover! Or use a slice of lemon dipped in salt to clean copper-bottomed pots and pans.
- Rub lemon onto your hands to remove the smell of garlic.
- 1 medium lemon = 2 to 3 tablespoons of juice; 5-6 lemons will yield 1 cup of juice
- 1 medium lemon = 2 to 3 teaspoons of zest
- Juice lemons into ice cube trays, then store the frozen cubes in a freezer bag for later use.