Fresh Organic Lemons
The pleasure of squeezing, juicing, peeling, zesting, cooking and preserving organic lemons!
Winter means citrus and the beautiful yellow lemon that brings sunshine, vitamin C and the crispy sour taste to various drinks and dishes is in season. The pulp, peel, rind and juice are edible but they are not eaten like oranges, grapefruits and mandarins. Like lime and some cumquat cultivars, the acidity level is very high so the sour taste makes it more of an ingredient than a fruit to snack on. The lemons' origins seem to be unknown but have been grown in Asia and Europe before being widely cultivated. Organic lemons growing in people's yards is something quite exotic for a Québécoise native like me. No citrus tree would survive our winters, but they do in the cool climate of Australia where we live. It’s still maybe too frosty for citrus to be cultivated commercially in the Snowys but it is possible to grow trees in the yard if well positioned and looked after while establishing. Lemons also have more purposes than just culinary, like for cleaning and ornamental use. I think lemons and all citrus are so photogenic, so they're definitely in my bag!
I feel grateful to be living in a place where lemons can be grown at home organically. Citrus are prone to many pests and diseases so the ones we purchase commercially have been sprayed with pesticides. It is best to rinse them under water even if not eating the peel to avoid any bacteria, dirt and chemicals on your cutting board. But if you have the chance to grow or find organic ones, that's the best, especially if using the peel and zest in preserves, marmalades and cakes. I have been given many bags of chemical-free lemons to play with so this is when I really started to explore various recipes. As mentioned, I did not grow up with such lemons in Québec, we only get the Californian varieties at the grocery shop… so I'd never seen or tasted many types previously. I discovered the Meyer varieties from my neighbours and they are much sweeter, I sometimes have a bite in the pulp, yum. Earlier this year we were sent a bag of bush lemons and I thought first that they were grapefruit as they were huge and some of them had a rounded shape… Ho that was an unpleasant surprise... I thought my insides were going to burn from that intense citric acid!
Cooking, drinking and preserving lemons • Photography © Bottle and Brush Studio 2020
GROWING & COOKING TIPS
Growing lemons and citrus require suitable conditions, rich soil, feeding, organic pest watch and of course enough sun and water. I nearly lost my new trees when I planted them at the front of our house which is in a frost pocket. So I moved them in pots under cover and they are doing much better and have been fruiting this year. Lemons are great to flavour dishes, marinades and salad. They are used in many dessert recipes like baked goods, lemon curd and meringue pies. They are essential ingredients for their acidic virtues to help succeed a cheese fondue, pestos, boiled artichokes, etc. They can also act as a preservative. I am now in love with the preserved lemons, which are simply wedges of lemon squished into jar with salt, softening and curing them to use in tajines and anything else you like! I just love them in BBQ marinades with fish and chicken, or even just in a vegetarian couscous salad. And of course, lemons are great for many types of drinks. I love them in tea, water and I also make a little batch of citrus cordials each year. As citrus season is in winter, I just squeeze the juice of some extra lemons and freeze them into an ice cube tray. The iced lemon cubes are just perfect to make iced teas in summer, What else? Well, apparently the leaves can be infused in tea and dehydrated slices can also flavour teas and cocktails. There is just so much to explore with lemons and all citrus, I will surely be back with more discoveries and recipes!
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