Lemons are practically bursting with vitamin C. In fact, one cup of lemon juice provides more than 100 percent of the Reference Daily Intake (formerly known as the Recommended Dietary Allowance or RDA) for vitamin C. The juice of one lemon alone accounts for about 50 percent. Here are more tasty nutritional tidbits:
- Lemons are a good source of certain antioxidants, which may help reduce cell damage caused by inflammation.
- Lemons are fat-free, cholesterol-free and gluten-free.
- Lemons are very low in calories: only about 20 calories per average-sized fruit.
You can buy lemons any time of year. Most of those sold in U.S. supermarkets are grown in California or Arizona, where the growing season never really ends.
Lisbon and Eureka varieties are the most commonly grown lemons in the U.S. The biggest differences between the two are in the texture of their skin (Lisbon is smoother), and how many seeds they contain (the Eureka has more). The difference in taste is insignificant.
The Meyer lemon, on the other hand, is prized because of its lower acidity, which makes it taste sweeter than its sourpuss cousins. This is due to a little genetic diversity; most botanists believe the Meyer is a cross between a lemon and a mandarin.
Selecting and Storing
When choosing a lemon, first look for bright yellow color. Avoid green tinges, which suggest the fruit is not ripe; or brown ones, which suggest it's overly so. And a thinner rind is actually better. Pick up the lemon and hold it in your hand; it should feel heavy for its size. Give a gentle squeeze; if it's firm, it should be good to go.
Tempted to try bottled lemon juice? It may be convenient, but the bright, tart flavor of fresh lemons may be altered in its processing and preserving.
Lemons can be stored at room temperature for about a week; or in a refrigerator crisper for up to month.
The first thing you should do to a lemon before preparing it for a recipe is thoroughly wash the rind and scrub it with a vegetable brush. This helps prevent any pesticides, residues or bacteria from the outside from contaminating the inside when it's cut.
If you'll be extracting juice from your lemons, bring them to room temperature for easier squeezing. Also, just before cutting, roll them around on the counter a bit to help prime the pump, so to speak.
There's a wide range of kitchen gadgets that can be used to prepare lemons. Juicers, squeezers, pestles, reamers, zesters, microplanes, and more, covering all price ranges. Feel free to get as fancy as you can afford, but unless you're going to open up a lemonade stand, you can get by with a simple, wooden reamer and an all-purpose box grater.
- Substitute lemon juice for vinegar in salad dressings.
- Squeeze lemon juice on vegetables in place of salt.
- Add a squeeze of juice or a couple of slices to a glass of water or iced tea.
- Lemons are an ingredient in Hollandaise sauce, a staple of French cuisine.
- Lemon slices make a beautiful and fragrant garnish.
- A tablespoon of lemon juice stirred into a cup of milk can substitute
- A tablespoon of lemon juice added to a cup of hot water and a dollop of honey makes a soothing, all-natural sore-throat remedy.
- The citric acid in lemon juice acts as a natural food preservative. Squeeze lemon juice on apple slices or a sliced avocado to prevent them from turning brown.
- Erase the smell of onion or garlic from your hands by rubbing them in lemon juice.
- Toss lemon rinds into your sink's garbage disposal to clean and freshen it.
- Cut a lemon in half, dip the pulp side in salt, and scrub your pots and pans with it.
- Scrub a cutting board with a half a lemon to remove stains and deodorize.
- Decorate your table with a beautiful glass bowl filled with lemons.