IS THIS THE MOST VERSATILE FRUIT IN THE WORLD?
When we think of this everyday fruit most people consider a lemon to be a lemon. Growing up in most cultures lemons are yellow, round and thats about it. The reality is that many varieties exist of this incredibly common and useful fruit. The Rutaceae family is extensive. It unites the lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit and pomelo plus a whole lot more.
Native to Asia the original lemon was reportedly a hybrid between bitter orange and citron. It is a small evergreen tree that grows really well in anywhere vaguely warm and sub tropical. India, Mexico, Argentina and Brazil are among the leading producers and accordingly lemons feature consistently in each cuisine of these countries.
Almost everywhere a lemon is considered to be yellow or green in colour. Confusion exists between the lemon and lime in many countries especially in Latin America where often the distinction between the two is not that important. A lemon can become a lime depending on who you talk to.
Many varieties exist including:
Bush Lemon (Subtropical Australia)
Eureka (Similar to the Lisbon and grown year round)
Sorrento (Native to Italy)
Jambiri (Rootstock in South Asia)
Meyer (Cross between a lemon and an orange – Chinese in origin)
Ponderosa (Hybrid of lemon and citron – US in origin)
THE FLAVOUR PROFILE
When we think of a lemon the sourness immediately comes to mind. It is what makes most of us absolutely love this fruit. It goes with pretty much everything. Add a lemon and your drink tastes better (especially if it cuts through the sweetness of it). No matter how much you look every lemon has a distinct sourness to it no matter how ripe it gets. It’s fragrance when the rind is disturbed is unmistakeable. It really is a super fruit in terms of its flavour profile and versatility.
SCIENCE OF LEMONS
Most lemons contain between 5-8% citric acid. One of its properties allows it to be used for marinading fish. It neutralises amines and converts them to non-volatile ammonium salts. In meat it hydrolyses tough collagen fibres by lowering the ph and denaturing the proteins. Another quality is that it can be used as a short-term preservative like stopping other fruits going brown or keeping a salad that bit more fresh.
It is in low in calories, rich in dietary fibre, excellent source of ascorbic acid and contains a variety of phytochemicals.
When you come across a pile of lemons at the market look out for those with vibrant colour (either yellow or green), a firm fragrant texture when scratched and no mould. Lemons that are going bad will be soft and even will start to have bacteria growing on it.
HOW DO WE USE IT?
The pulp, juice and rind are all edible. Even the pith can be of use when heated and strained to give a fragrance to other ingredients.
Some exciting uses for the lemon are in cocktails, fresh lemonade, the Italian classic liquor Limoncello, drizzled over the top of a freshly prepared pancake or squeezed over an Argentine milanesa.
One of the most unusual and ingenious uses for the lemon is showcased throughout Morocco. Preserved lemons are fantastic additions to the Moroccan classic tajine. Lemons preserved in salt and water for several months. Gooey, rich and melt in the mouth soft. What is there not to like about them?
FLAVOUR COMBINATION SUGGESTIONS
When it comes to combining lemon with other ingredients the options are limitless. We could feature over 100 flavour combinations with ease. It really is that good with most things. Here are 20 to get you started. Butter, garlic, olive oil, sugar, soy sauce, chicken, celery, pasta, onion, basil, orange, cinnamon, paprika chili pepper, lime, tomato, rum, vodka, thyme and carrot.
Choose lemons that feel heavy for their size, with firm skin and an aromatic citrus fragrance when scratched.