The lemon is a species of small evergreen tree in the flowering plant family Rutaceae, native to South Asia, primarily North eastern India.
The tree’s ellipsoidal yellow fruit is used for culinary and non-culinary purposes throughout the world, primarily for its juice, which has both culinary and cleaning uses. The pulp and rind (zest) are also used in cooking and baking. The juice of the lemon is about 5 – 6% citric acid, with a pH of around 2.2, giving it a sour taste. The distinctive sour taste of lemon juice makes it a key ingredient in drinks and foods such as lemonade and lemon meringue pie.
Common Lemon Varieties in Australia
In Australia the main lemon varieties grown commercially are Eureka, Lisbon, and Meyer.
- Eureka lemons – Eureka lemons are large, averaging 5 centimeters in diameter, with an oblong shape.
They have a vibrant yellow skin with sunken oil glands, resulting in a textured surface. The rind is full of volatile oils, providing an intense citrus aroma. Eureka lemons have a pronounced blossom-end knob (mammilla), and a medium-thick white pith. The juicy, yellow flesh contains few to no seeds and offers a tart and acidic flavour.
Eureka lemons are available year-round with a peak season in the late winter through early spring months. These lemons may be used in wide range of applications, from sweet to savoury. They can be made into marmalade or used in baked goods, such as lemon meringue pie, and their zest can be infused into oils. Both its zest and juice can be used in cocktails, syrups, marinades, and dressings. Pair with other citrus, poultry and seafood, tea, or fresh fruits and vegetables. Store at room temperature for up to one week, or refrigerate to extend shelf life up to one month.
- Lisbon lemons – Lisbon lemons are an Australian variety and are descended from a Portuguese gallego lemon.
They are medium-sized, oblong citrus fruits with a rounded stem end and very pronounced mammilla, or nipple, on the opposite end. The medium-thick rind is smooth and bright yellow when mature. It is finely pitted with oil glands that when scratched or rubbed offer a citrusy aroma. The pale-yellow flesh has few to no seed and is very juicy and acidic.
Lisbon lemons grow on both dwarf and tall-statured trees, hidden under dense, evergreen foliage. Lisbon lemons are available year-round with a peak season in the winter and early spring months. Lisbon lemons are one of the most widely-planted varieties of Citrus limon in the world and are not outwardly distinguishable from the Eureka variety; often, the two varieties are sold as “lemons” in markets.
Lisbon lemons are most often used fresh, for their juice and zest. Whole lemons can be sliced lengthwise into rounds or quartered and used as a garnish for beverages or dishes, or for topping poultry or fish before baking. The acidic juice is used to tenderise meats and fish, like in a ceviche. Use the juice for marinades or in place of vinegar in salad dressings. It can be used for desserts from custards to sorbets. Zest from the rind can be used for flavouring meats, sauces and desserts. Store Lisbon lemons at room temperature for up to a week; for longer storage, refrigerate for up to two weeks. Juice and zest can be frozen to preserve. Lisbon lemons are high in vitamin C, folate and potassium. The high amount of vitamin C, combined with naturally occurring flavonoids, give Lisbon lemons immune-boosting and antioxidant benefits.
- Meyer lemons easily differentiate themselves from a common lemon with their smaller size, smoother, thinner rind and less pronounced mammilla.
They are more round than ovate, measuring up to 8 centimetres in diameter. They are a deep, brilliant yellow colour. Meyer lemons are highly fragrant; the rinds are full of volatile oils. Their pulp is low in acid, aromatic, floral and sweet. Meyer lemons are only moderately seedy. Meyer lemons are available year-round, with a peak season in the winter through spring months. Meyer lemons are a good source of vitamin C, and a source of potassium, calcium and magnesium. The lemons get their flavour and an antioxidant boost from thymol and limonene, flavonoids that protect the immune system.Meyer lemons are used for their fragrant zest and juice, which is sweeter and more floral than a Eureka or Lisbon. Slice lemons thinly and add to pizza. Add zest to butter cookies, cranberry scones, cheesecake batter or macarons. Juice and combine with water and simple syrup for lemonade. Mix juice and zest with egg yolks and butter, then cook into lemon curd. Toss fresh pasta with lemon zest, basil and Parmesan. Combine olive oil with juice and zest and use as a marinade or vinaigrette for asparagus, broccoli, or fresh peas. Meyer lemons will keep in a cool, dry place for 2 to 3 weeks. Refrigerate for extended storage.
Culinary Uses of Lemons
Lemon juice, rind, and peel are used in a wide variety of foods and drinks. The whole lemon is used to make marmalade, lemon curd and lemon liqueur. Lemon slices and lemon rind are used as a garnish for food and drinks. Lemon zest, the grated outer rind of the fruit, is used to add flavour to baked goods, puddings, rice, and other dishes.
Lemon juice is used to make lemonade, soft drinks, and cocktails. It is used in marinades for fish, where its acid neutralises amines in fish by converting them into nonvolatile ammonium salts. In meat, the acid partially hydrolyzes tough collagen fibres, tenderizing the meat, but the low pH denatures the proteins, causing them to dry out when cooked. Lemon juice is frequently added to pancakes, especially on Shrove Tuesday.
Lemon juice is also used as a short-term preservative on certain foods that tend to oxidise and turn brown after being sliced (enzymatic browning), such as apples, bananas, and avocados, where its acid denatures the enzymes.
Many people also use lemons to make lemon water. If you use the juice from half of a lemon and mix with water, one 200 ml glass of lemon water contains approximately: 6 calories ; 2 grams carbohydrates ; 0.1 gram protein ; 0 gram fat ; 0.1 gram dietary fibre ; 10.8 milligrams vitamin C (18% DV) . Each glass of lemon water also contains a bit of potassium and folate as well.
In Morocco, lemons are preserved in jars or barrels of salt. The salt penetrates the peel and rind, softening them, and curing them so that they last almost indefinitely. The preserved lemon is used in a wide variety of dishes. Preserved lemons can also be found in Sicilian, Italian, Greek, and French dishes.
A major industry use of the peel is manufacturing of pectin – a polysaccharide used as a gelling agent, thickening agent and stabilizer in food and other products.
The leaves of the lemon tree are used to make a tea and for preparing cooked meats and seafoods.
Lemons are an absolute powerhouse of nutrients and consuming lemon juice every day is beneficial for the body.
Here are some nutritional facts:
- Carbohydrates In Lemons: Lemons are a low-calorie and a low-carb fruits. A 100 gram serving of lemon pulp contains just 9 grams of carbohydrates. A major portion of the carbs is dietary fibre.
- Proteins In Lemons: Despite their numerous and varied health benefits, lemons are not what you would call ‘protein-dense fruits’. A 100 gram serving of lemon pulp contains a mere 1.1 grams of protein. However, you can squeeze lemons on a variety of protein-rich foods like chicken, smoked fish, etc.
- Vitamins And Minerals In Lemons: Apart from vitamin C, lemons also contain vitamins B5, B6, B1 and B2, as well as calcium, copper, iron and potassium. Lemons contain high levels of dietary fibre and this property of the fruit, combined with its low-calorie nature, make it ideal for anyone wanting to lose weight. As mentioned earlier, a majority of lemon’s benefits are present due to high levels of vitamin C in it. Due to this vitamin, lemons may help reduce symptoms of rheumatism and arthritis. Due to the presence of vitamin B5, lemons may also help in quicker metabolic processing of food as well as proper formation of hormones. Vitamin B5 also helps in raising levels of good cholesterol in blood.
Health Benefits of Lemons
A lot of people think of lemons as nothing more than a simple garnish served alongside water at restaurants or a popular flavour for confectionery and desserts. But did you know that the lemon is actually loaded with vitamin C, antioxidants and health benefits? It’s true — lemon nutrition benefits range from reducing the risk of kidney stones to killing off cancer cells, whether we’re talking lemon water, lemon essential oil or just the tart fruit itself.
Lemon Alternatives and Substitutions
- Lime Juice ; This is the most common and successful replacement for lemon juice, considering that limes and lemons are very closely related and have a somewhat similar flavour. Lemons tend to be slightly sweeter, but depending on the use it can be difficult to truly taste the difference. Lime juice is also rich in vitamin C and many of the same minerals, thus providing a similar health boost.
- if your reason for avoiding lemon juice is a sensitivity to citrus, try replacing the juice with another sweet juice, such as apple juice.
- For medicinal purposes, lime juice or another citrus juice is recommended as a substitution.
- Orange Juice ; Not always used for its particular flavour, lemon juice may also be used for the acid content that it contains. That particular acidity gives a certain flavour to many sauces and salsas.
- Other highly acidic fruits can often replace lemon juice in the cooking regard, as they all contain citric acid and can create that tartness in a dish.
- Orange juice is also similarly high in vitamin C, calcium and potassium, and can provide similar benefits.
- White Wine ; Another very good option for replacing lemon juice is white wine, due to the acidity present in the liquid.
- For the majority of dishes, particularly savoury ones, a given amount of lemon juice can typically be replaced by half that amount of white wine. If you use an equal ratio, there will be too much acidity in the meal.
- Using white wine as a replacement for this juice is typically best in small amounts or else the taste will change drastically.
- Vinegar ; There is no sweetness in vinegar, but there is a decent level of acidity, making it an appropriate substitute when cooking savoury dishes, as you aren’t necessarily looking for the sweetness, but rather the acidic bite.
- Vinegar should also be used in limited quantities to prevent it from overpowering the other flavours.
- Half as much vinegar (or less) should be used to replace a given amount of lemon juice.
- Lemon Zest ; If you’ve used up all the juice from your lemons, but still need a bit more of its flavour, simply use the lemon zest that you have on the rinds of the lemons. It contains higher concentrations of many nutrients and releases the same smell and flavour when used in cocktails and other beverages.
- Lemon zest can even be purchased in dried form in most grocery stores.
- As mentioned, it has the same nutritional makeup as lemon juice, only in a more concentrated form.
Many plants taste or smell similar to lemons.
- Limes, another common sour citrus fruit, used similarly to lemons
- Kaffir lime leaves: popular in east Asian cuisine
- Certain cultivars of basil
- Cymbopogon (lemongrass)
- Lemon balm, a mint-like herbaceous perennial in the Lamiaceae family
- Two varieties of scented geranium: Pelargonium crispum (lemon geranium) and Pelargonium x melissinum (lemon balm)
- Lemon thyme
- Lemon verbena
- Certain cultivars of mint
- Magnolia grandiflora tree flowers
Other Citrus called “Lemons”
- Flat lemon, a mandarin hybrid
- Meyer lemon, a cross between a citron and a mandarin/pomelo hybrid distinct from sour or sweet orange, named after Frank N. Meyer, who first introduced it to the United States in 1908. Thin-skinned and slightly less acidic than the Lisbon and Eureka lemons, Meyer lemons require more care when shipping and are not widely grown on a commercial basis. Meyer lemons often mature to a yellow-orange colour. They are slightly more frost-tolerant.
- Ponderosa lemon, more cold-sensitive than true lemons, the fruit are thick-skinned and very large. Genetic analysis showed it to be a complex hybrid of citron and pomelo.
- Rough lemon, a citron-mandarin cross, cold-hardy and often used as a citrus rootstock
- Sweet lemons or sweet limes, a mixed group including the lumia (pear lemon), limetta, and Palestinian sweet lime. Among them is the Jaffa lemon, a pomelo-citron hybrid.
- Volkamer lemon, like the rough lemon, a citron-mandarin cross
Lemon, raw, without peel
- Serving Size100
- Amount per serving
- % Daily Value*
- Total Fat0.3 g0.38%
- Total Carbohydrate9.32 g3.39%
- Dietary Fiber2.8 g10%
- Total Sugars2.5 g
- Protein1.1 g2.2%
- Calcium26 mg2%
- Iron0.6 mg3.33%