Le Voov! Fruit: Meyer Lemons ? ? ?
We are blessed to have not one, but two Meyer lemon trees in our yard. As the days grow shorter in late autumn, the yellow orbs begin to deepen in color and look like bright seasonal ornaments stealthfully hiding among the deep green foliage. With the passing of each winter day, the lemons grow sweeter, and knowing this makes me feel warm right down to my toes.
Mid-February is the perfect time to begin harvesting the succulent Meyer lemons grown in our region. Meyer’s are sought after in the culinary world, particularly their home-turf in the San Francisco Bay Area. By late February, these fragrant, thin-skinned wonders are popping up in all the foodie hot spots. My local hero, world renowned chief Alice Waters at Chez Penisse has created a winter culinary revolution around Meyer lemons, as well as many other locally grown heirloom fruits and vegetables. (See Jan. 2015 article covering the Black Truffle Event at Chez Penisse, which we had the pleasure of attending this year.)
Why are these lemons so Voovacious you ask? The Meyer is sweeter and less acidic or tart than the ubiquitous supermarket varietals like the Lisbon or Eureka. Both the skin and the pulp possess a lovely, deep yellow hue similar to that of a summer sunflower, making them not only pleasing to the eye, but a culinary winner to the palate as well. I must say, the Meyer lemon is the perfect blend of sweet lemon flavor, divinely mixed with a strong hint of mandarin orange.
Early each spring, we set up shop on the back porch for our family lemon-squeezing gathering. We juice to our hearts content, then freeze the fresh juice in ice trays. Once frozen solid, we place them into zip-lock freezer bags, pulling a few cubes to add to pasta, stir fries, desserts or the cocktail shaker. Meyer lemons are absolutely perfect for making a smooth, sweet lemonade requiring less sugar, or mixed into a zesty lemon mojito. (See our Raspberry Mojito recipe under Le Voov Party Drinks! in the Recipe section.) Meyer lemons are also beautifully paired with fish, Indian dishes or desserts such as Meyer Lemon Pound Cake.
On the nutrition side of things, lemons contain unique flavonoid compounds that have antioxidant and anti-cancer properties. They hold a very low glycemic load, and are an excellent source of B-complex vitamins such as pantothenic acid, pyridoxine, and folates. Further, they carry a healthy quantity of minerals like iron, copper, calcium and potassium. Potassium is a necessary component in controlling a healthy heart rate and proper blood pressure.
Lemons are also an excellent source of vitamin C, which travels through the body neutralizing any harmful, pro-inflammatory free radicals in the blood. Believe it or not, humans and guinea pigs are the only mammals that cannot create their own vitamin C. So, the body requires regular ingestion from external sources like citrus to replenish supplies on a daily basis. Vitamin C is one of many vitamins responsible for supporting a healthy, happy immune system. Helpful hint: Stock up on citrus during cold & flu season! 🙂
As a result of the Meyer’s thin skin, they are quite delicate and perishable. If you don’t have the good fortune of having a tree in your yard, farmers markets are your best bet for a fresh source. Look for shiny, firm, brightly colored orange-yellow skin with strong aromatic qualities to find the most succulent, juicy fruit.
A word of caution, conventionally grown lemons available at supermarkets may be waxed to prevent spoilage or bruising during shipping. Since it’s difficult to determine the source of the wax (animal, insect or petroleum-based), this is yet another reason to look for organically grown, locally sourced lemons, particularly if you plan to zest them.
Citrus season is finally here. Keep an eye out for more recipes and healthy tips concerning these multicolored, juicy spheres in the coming months at Le Voov!. We look forward to exploring and sharing what we learn about this diverse selection of sweet citrus juiciness throughout the season. Stay tuned!