While rarely consumed on their own, lemons
make a major contribution to the flavours of many foods we eat.
Although you wouldn't choose this tart citrus fruit for a snack,
you might well squeeze some lemon juice over fresh fish and
seafood, add a wedge of lemon to your tea, or grate some l lemon
zest into your favorite cake mix. These fruits are packed with
vitamin C, a vitamin whose deficiency can cause scurvy. Aside
from supplying substantial amounts of vitamin C, the main benefits
of lemons relate to their seasoning potential. By adding tart
fresh lemon juice and lemon zest to recipes can reduce the amount
of salt needed to enhance the flavours in rice, potatoes, salads,
and cooked vegetables, while adding no fat and negligible calories.
Lemons probably originated on the Indian
subcontinent, and depictions of lemons were found in 2nd and
3rd century Roman mosaics. It's likely that lemons were popularised
in Europe at the time of the Crusades, and Columbus may have
taken the seeds of the fruit to the New World (along with lime
seeds) on one of his voyages. Citrus fruits, including lemons
and limes, were established in what is now Florida by the 16th
These fruits should be firm, glossy, and bright, beautiful enough
to be treated as ornaments in your kitchen. Lemons should be
a very bright yellow, not greenish. A very coarse exterior may
indicate an excessively thick skin, which in turn may mean less
flesh and juice (large lemons are likely to be thick skinned);
heavy fruits with fine-grained skin are juiciest. Avoid both
hard, shriveled lemons as well as spongy, soft ones.
If you are planning to use lemons quickly, you can leave them
in a basket at room temperature; they will keep for about two
weeks without refrigeration. Lemons stored in a plastic bag
in the refrigerator will keep for up to six weeks.
To get the most juice from a lemon, the fruit should be at room
temperature or warmer.Or place it in hot water or a low oven
for a few minutes to warm it, or microwave it for 15 to 30 seconds.
Then roll the fruit under your palm on the worktop until it
There are lots of gadgets for juicing citrus
fruits, juicers onto which you press the fruit, reamers you
twist into the fruit, but it's simplest to halve the fruit and
squeeze it in your hand, using your fingers to hold back the
seeds. If you don't need all the juice at once, you can pierce
the fruit with a toothpick or cocktail stick and squeeze the
juice from the opening; "reseal" the fruit by reinserting
the toothpick or stick.
Recipes often call for lemon zest, the yellow
part of the peel. Wash and dry the lemon (a lot of lemons sold
in the UK are waxed with chemicals to prevent post harvest disease
during transport and storage). Use the fine side of a hand grater,
a special zesting tool, a sharp paring knife, or a vegetable
peeler to remove the zest carefully so as not to include any
of the bitter white pith. A large lemon will yield about 3 to
4 tablespoons of juice and 2 to 3 teaspoons of zest.