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Lemons

Information about Lemons plus Lemon Recipe Collection

 

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June

2005

 

 

 

 

Lemons c.limon belong to the plant family Rutaceae (citrus family) which also includes fruit such as oranges and limes. They are similar to limes with the same refreshing smell and tart flavour but are generally larger and have a yellow skin when eaten. The whole of the fruit can be  used for culinary purposes i.e. the juice, skin (pericarp) and less often the pulp.

 

 

 

 

 

Origin and History of Lemons

 

The exact origin of the lemon is unclear but it is thought to have originated in Southeast Asia where they have been cultivated for around 4,000 years as some old Oriental writings would testify. The citron was carried to the Middle East between 400 and 600 BC but it was the Arab traders in Asia who introduced lemons to eastern Africa and the Middle East between 100 and 700 A.D..

Although lemons are widely associated with Italian/Mediterranean cooking, they weren’t much used in that region until 1096-1271 A.D. by which time they had been more widely distributed by the Arabs primarily in Spain and thereafter to much of the rest of Western Europe with the aid of the Crusaders. By 1193 they were prized for their medicinal qualities in the palace of the Sultan of Egypt and by the mid fifteenth Century were being cultivated in Italy and other parts of the Mediterranean.

By the late 1800’s the British Navy also appreciated the virtues of citrus fruit to combat scurvy and all sailors were given rations of citrus whilst on long voyages. Although this gave rise to the British being given the nickname “limeys”, some believe that in fact they were using lemons which they believed to be overripe limes. Perhaps then we should be called “lemonys”?

Good old Christopher Columbus carried lemon seeds from Europe to the New World in 1493 and now about one quarter of the worlds lemons are grown in the USA, primarily in California with other leading producers being, Italy, Spain, Argentina, Greece, and Turkey.


 

Cultivation of Lemons

 

Lemon trees are a relatively small evergreen tree which grow between 10 to 20 feet high. They can be grown in both dry and humid atmospheres, although humid conditions do have disadvantages mainly in the processes of curing and storing but are very sensitive to low temperatures so require a sub tropical climate to thrive well.

Commercially lemon trees are grown in orchards or groves there the trees are spaced about 25 ft apart as over crowded trees produce less fruit. The trees are pruned early in their development and kept below 10 or 12 ft (3-3.6 m) in height and they are often replaced or cut back severely after 12 years. Lemon trees begin to bear fruit from three to six years after planting.

The trees flower continuously which means they bear fruit in all stages of development for most of the year and this can lead to one tree producing 3,000 fruit in a year. Despite this, a lot of the fruit tends to naturally ripen in autumn and winter so most of the fruit are picked whilst they are still green and then ripened (cured) in storehouses ready for sale in the spring and summer. Lemons required to be sold whole are generally hand picked due to the damage which can be caused to the fruit by mechanical harvesting. Once picked the fruit is stored for varying amounts of time depending on the degree of ripeness during which time they shrink a bit and the skin becomes thinner, tougher and yellow. They are often treated with fungicide as a precaution against stem-end rot . Once cured they are washed, dried and sometimes wrapped or waxed at which point they can be kept for many months.

 

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It is also possible to grown lemons in containers in the greenhouse or conservatory. Although you can grow them from seeds which is fun, it is possibly best to buy a specimen which has been grated onto a dwarf root stock to ensure the tree doesn't outgrow its allotted space.
 

 

Buying and Storing Lemons


Go for brightly coloured firm fruits which feel heavy for their size. Avoid any which look shrivelled or have with blemishes or decayed spots and those that feel soft.

 

Whole lemons will keep for up  to ten days in a plastic bag in the fridge although they may well last much longer. You can usually tell when a lemon is reaching the end of its storage life as the skin becomes more pitted and it starts to shrivel.

 

You can freeze lemon juice and the zest but if you freeze the whole fruit once it has thawed it will probably only be suitable for dishes where it is chopped or pureed. Bear in mind that you will probably only use smaller quantities of lemon juice in most recipes, so it's a good idea to freeze the juice is usable amounts. Ice cube trays are very useful for this purpose.

 

 

Lemons in Cooking 

 

Lemons are used in many many cuisines worldwide. In South America the juice is used in salsas and in the preparation of Cebiche,  in Africa (particularly North Africa)  the whole fruit is pickled and sometimes dried and added to savoury dishes and in North America and Europe the juice is often added to marinades,  salad dressings, fish dishes and many other  savoury and sweet dishes as well as many a cocktail. It also gives an extra lift to steamed or boiled vegetables especially when tempered with a little melted butter.

 

 

CLICK HERE FOR LOTS OF RECIPES USING LEMONS

 

 

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