Thursday, February 09, 2006

All about Meyer Lemons


If you like the tang of lemons, but not the pucker, Meyer lemons are for you. They are not nearly as tart as conventional lemons, and their peel is slightly sweet. Like a regular lemon perfected, the color and juice are amped up and the peel is thinned down. We are at the peak of Meyer lemon season here in the Bay Area and they can be found perking up markets, backyards and fruit bowls everywhere. Look how neon bright they are!

Like so much citrus fruit, the Meyer lemon was originally found in China. In 1905 the US Department of Agriculture hired Frank Meyer as a plant hunter and in 1908 he "discovered" the Meyer lemon in Peking (now Beijing). It is believed that the Meyer lemon is a hybrid between Citrus limon, the lemon, and Citrus reticulata, the mandarin orange. It is a very hardy plant and bears fruit from November through April.

I get very excited about Meyer lemons, because they are as versatile and easy to use as they are beautiful. Meyer lemons are great in many recipes where I would normally use regular lemons like souffle, lemon curd and with seafood, but I also do so much more with them. The easiest way I use them might be in salad dressing. Because they aren't as tart as regular lemons they make a fruitier more complex vinaigrette. The peel is also very desirable so I recommend using it in recipes like marmalade or candied peel. If you end up with more than you can use, consider making Moroccan preserved lemons or freezing the juice in ice cube trays to use later.

Other ideas for Meyer lemon:

* Make a fresh salsa to top grilled fish or bread, add lemon chunks (with rind) to chopped oil-cured olives and green onions and a splash of olive oil

* Use in gremolata, using 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley, one large garlic clove, minced and the freshly grated zest from one lemon

* Whip up a vinaigrette using one part juice to three to four parts olive oil for vegetable salads, especially good with cooked or raw carrots, brussels sprouts, radishes, asparagus, baby artichokes (if raw, shaved in slivers) or spinach

* In sauces replace part of the vinegar with juice in beurre blanc, mayonnaise or aioli or use in traditional lemon sauces like lemon butter or hollandaise

* Marinate chicken or pork with 1/2 cup juice, 3 tablespoons honey, a splash of olive oil, a chopped clove of garlic and handful of chopped fresh herbs, parsley, thyme, rosemary or oregano

* Use the juice in a lemony risotto and top with a bit of the grated peel

* Roast lemon quarters with potatoes to serve as side dish

* Make lemonade using 2/3 cup juice to 1/4 cup sugar and 2 cups water

* Bake a Meyer lemon pound cake or Meyer lemon pudding cake

* Mix with honey to make a dressing for fruit, especially good with blueberries and bananas

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