Bright, floral citrus fruits come into season right at the height of holidays. They add freshness and color to the traditional belly-warming flavors of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, and allspice. Meyer lemons have a unique sweetness all their own that sets them well apart from the rest.
Meyer lemons are ready for harvest early in the holiday season — Mid-November — and can be found through January in typical Northeast grocery stores. They are a cross between a lemon and a mandarin orange, lending it a more rounded shape, darker yellow color, and richer fragrance than other lemons.
Citrus fruits have a distinctive nutrition profile, and Meyer lemons are no exception! They are high in vitamin C, folate, and phytonutrients called flavanones, which have antioxidant and anticancer properties.
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Ways to Use Meyer Lemons and the Benefits
Spotlight on Vitamin C
Like any other citrus fruit, Meyer lemons are an excellent source of vitamin C. Our recommended daily allowance is 75mg for women and 90mg for men. A quarter-cup of lemon juice contains 23mg or approximately 31% of that!
Beyond keeping our immune system in great shape, Vitamin C also plays critical roles in:
– Production of proteins related to our bones, skin, tendons, and cartilage.
– Breaking down our dietary fats for storage and energy production.
– Creation and breakdown of amino acids necessary for building proteins.
– Communication of brain hormones like serotonin and norepinephrine.
Save Those Peels
The majority of the phytonutrient content in citrus fruits is stored in the white pith of the peel. When using Meyer lemons for zesting or as part of a dressing, try grating right to the inside peel to unlock some of that antioxidant potential. The slightly bitter note will serve to balance the flavor profile of your recipe.
Zesting citrus peels into holiday desserts is a longstanding tradition and can brighten up the flavor of a sugar cookie or pie crust. Meyer lemons can be preserved whole or grated to create herbed salts. Peels can be candied and eaten whole — I recommend using organic products if possible, as citrus is typically preserved in a food-grade wax and organic selections may reduce exposure to unknown preserving products.
Due to the unique aromatic quality of Meyer lemons, they lend a particular beauty to a cup of herbal tea: squeeze a wedge and then drop it in, add peels into the steeping bag, or zest directly into a nice hot cup!
Culinary uses aside, Meyer lemons are also wonderful for table centerpieces, dried decorations, and herbal satchels. Dried seeds can be saved and planted to grow small jars of lemongrass to brighten up a workspace.
Selection and Storage
The darkest colored Meyer lemons will have the highest nutrient content. Tree-bearing fruits produce nutrients in reaction to sunlight, and a darker, evenly colored fruit indicates more exposure to sunlight. Avoid fruits that appear wrinkled or have soft spots: it’s a sign that they have begun to turn. Nutrient content and flavor profile of turned fruits won’t be as good.
Meyer lemons will keep about a week at room temperature, and longer if kept open in the fridge (a closed bag will produce humidity that expedites molding). Freezing the juice or zest will preserve nutrient content and flavor.