Cooking 101: Lemon

Lemon Turmeric Cake

From Italy and Greece to France, Turkey and the United States, lemon is an ingredient many chefs and home cooks trust to add bright, tangy flavor to a range of foods both sweet and savory. Different from other citrus fruits, lemons are rarely eaten raw – only their zest and juice are used to impart their flavor in a dish.


Nutritional Breakdown

lemon Tree

Full of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and antioxidants, lemons are an excellent part of a healthy diet. Filled particularly with vitamin C, folate, potassium, flavonoids and limonins, lemon juice is low in calories – just 13 in ¾ cup. Reap the benefits of lemon in addition to your cooking by adding lemons to your water!


History Of Lemons

Lemon Fresco in Rome
Lemon tree from the garden fresco of the Villa Livia, Rome, 1st century

While their origin has not yet been determined, science suspects northwestern India. When trade began, they made their way to the Middle East and Africa around 100 C.E., then southern Italy around 200 C.E. They were not food at first; mostly ornamental (as were tomatoes) until the 10th century. They hit Spain in the 11th century and were widely cultivated in the Mediterranean by 1150. Their culinary use did not gain traction until the 15th century. Christopher Columbus brought lemon seeds to the New World in 1493, with main cultivation beginning in California in 1751 and Florida in the 1800’s. Currently, lemons are primarily grown in California, Arizona and some in Florida.


Buying & Storage


Grown on trees as a crossbreed between a citron and lime, the best lemons have a bright yellow rind and a slight shine. Choose those that are heavy for their size as they will produce the most juice. Lemons with green tinged areas are not fully ripe and will be more acidic. Over mature lemons will have pale spots, blemishes, shriveled skin and soft spots or hard spots. These are less acidic, but will yield less juice.
To keep your lemons fresh, store at room temperature out of the sun for up to a week. Lemons kept in the refrigerator will stay fresh for 2-3 weeks. Leftover fresh juice can be stored in an airtight container or jar for up to 5 days, with lemon zest best stored frozen. You can keep fresh lemon juice on hand by freezing in ice cube trays until solid, then adding to a ziplock bag in your freezer.


Best Uses


Great for seafood, pasta or chicken, most lemon sauces are simple and satisfying. Made with common household ingredients, just mix on the stovetop and go to town!

Try This: Simple Lemon Sauce

Simple Lemon Sauce

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From bars and cakes to cookies and custard, lemon is amazing in a range of sweet treats. Not only is it great on its own, but it pairs incredibly well with strawberry, blueberry, blackberry, vanilla, graham cracker, lavender, poppy seeds and more.

Try This: Lemon Crumble Bars

Lemon Crumble Bars

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Another Good One: Lemon Turmeric Cakes

Lemon Turmeric Cake

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Lemon and garlic are a match made in foodie heaven. Commonly used with chicken, you can add chili flakes for some heat or herbs like parsley, dill, thyme or rosemary for layers of “Yum!” Note: the acidity of lemon can actually cook fish – so in most cases it is only added while cooking.

Try This: Greek Lemon Chicken

Greek Lemon Chicken

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Another Good One: Lemon Dijon Salmon

Lemon Dijon Salmon

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People of all ages enjoy lemon in a range of drinks – from tea and cocktails to the all-time classic lemonade.

Try This: Lemonade From Scratch

Scratch-Made Lemonade

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As mentioned above, acidic lemon can be a stellar replacement for vinegar in most dressings. Much like sauces, you can flavor your dressing with herbs, garlic, tahini, parmesan and more.

Try This: Lemon Dijon Vinaigrette

Lemon Dijon Dressing

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That’s right, you can candy-fy lemons, rind and all! You can eat them on their own or make a sweet edible garnish on cakes, pies and more. The process takes several hours, but is well worth the wait. The candying process removed a lot of the tart and bitter taste from the lemon and makes the lemon a thick, chewy and super sweet treat. All you need is water, sugar, lemon slices and lemon juice and access to a stove top.

Try This: Candied Lemon Slices

Candied Lemon

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Add some decoration to foods and drinks with a lemon peel!


Cooking Tips

Add at the end of cooking time to minimize the loss of vitamin C.
Squeeze lemon over fresh veggies to keep their color bright.
Dip foods that oxidize like apples or avocado in 1 cup of water with 1 tablespoon of lemon to slow browning.
One medium lemon = 2-3 tablespoons of juice, 2 teaspoons of zest and 7-10 slices.
To yield more juice from a lemon, roll the uncut lemon on a flat surface with slight pressure to burst the juice vessels inside.
For fluffy rice, add a teaspoon of lemon juice to cooking water.
Use lemon juice in place of vinegar in dressing.


Cleaning Tips

Remove stains on formica counters by letting fresh lemon juice soak for 30 – 45 minutes, then sprinkle the area with baking soda and scrub softly.
Shine copper with a sprinkling of salt then rubbing with a piece of cut lemon before rinsing and drying with a soft cloth.
Remove food stains and odors from hands by rubbing with a cut lemon.
Remove stains from white fabrics with 1 part lemon juice and 1 part cream of tartar on the area for a few minutes before washing.
Remove rust by soaking overnight in salt and lemon juice.


Health and Beauty Tips

Mix 1 part lemon and 2 parts honey as a natural cough suppressant.
Honey and lemon tea soothes sore throats, flu symptoms and coughs.
Lighten dark skin spots with lemon juice on the area.
Highlight hair by applying a ¼ cup lemon juice and ¾ cup water mixture to hair and sitting in the sun.

May 19, 2020