How to ripen lemons?

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Lemons Not Turning Yellow: Why Do My Lemons Stay Green

Lemon trees make attractive, ornamental specimens in containers or in the garden landscape. Like all citrus fruit trees, they require a bit of maintenance to produce ripe, flavorful fruit and without care can develop unsightly, bitter, juiceless fruit. So what happens if the lemon tree fruit does not turn yellow, and is there a “cure” for lemons that stay green?

Why Do My Lemons Stay Green?

Lemon trees need plenty of sunlight in a protected area with adequate moisture. The tree, like all citrus, should be pruned to allow the sunlight to penetrate and allow for adequate air circulation as well as to maintain the shape and make it easier to harvest lemons. A regular feeding schedule of an all purpose soluble food (18-18-18) should be applied to the tree. If you are doing all of this and still wonder, “Why do my lemons stay green?” read on.

Citrus trees do not ripen the way rock fruits or apples and pears do. They gradually mature and gain sweetness; in fact, the fruit may take as long as nine months to ripen. Once the fruit is mature, it can be left on the tree for a few weeks, but it does not ripen more. So first off, the lemons may not be turning yellow because they have not been ripening on the tree long enough. If this is the case, then patience is in order.

If, however, you have knocked this factor off your list, cultural conditions such as inadequate light or adverse weather conditions could be the reason that lemons stay green. In fact, the most common cause for citrus fruit in general to fail to ripen is lack of sunlight. The tree may be too shaded, or trees may be planted too close together. Weather conditions affect the fruiting of lemon trees and contribute to slow ripening.

Irregular amounts of irrigation will affect how the lemon tree fruits and matures. Drought conditions stress the tree, producing juiceless fruit or that which splits or fails to ripen. All citrus trees need consistent, even watering. This may depend on how hot the weather gets, the season, the soil, and whether the tree is container grown or in the garden. In very hot, dry weather conditions, citrus trees (depending upon the size) may need as much as 37 gallons of water per day!

Lastly, disease may be a factor in lemons that refuse to yellow. However, if a disease is afflicting the tree, there will be other more obvious signs of distress than just a lack of yellow fruit. Stressed trees are vulnerable to disease, so a regular watering schedule is paramount.

Finally, commercial citrus growers will sometimes use dyes to enhance the color of the fruit. In the home garden, yellow color is not a prediction for ripeness; in fact, the fruit may be ripe even if it appears green. The best bet is to taste the fruit for sweetness and juiciness to ascertain its ripeness.

Why are my Lemons Staying Green not Yellow?

Lemons are one of the most popular citrus trees to grow. Given their incredible health benefits, you may want to consider growing your own. Do you currently buy conventionally grown lemons rather than organic? If so, be aware that after harvest, they are routinely dipped in fungicide to prevent fungal diseases occurring during storage and when displayed at retailers.

Lemons are also waxed to improve appearance and retain the fungicide. Some are even ‘degreened’ to get them to market before they are naturally yellow. When you touch those lemons, the chemicals used may absorb into your skin. Not appetising thoughts are they?

Whilst citrus trees require higher maintenance than some fruits, if you want to harvest lots of delicious juicy ripe lemons, they’re worth the effort.

5 Reasons Why Lemons may not Ripen and Turn Yellow

If your lemons appear a reasonable size but are still green, rather than turning yellow, this could be due to a number of factors.

1. The Fruit may be Immature

You simply may need more patience! Your lemons may not yet be fully ripe. So just wait a bit longer. Depending on your climate and local conditions, lemons can take up to 9 months or longer to ripen!

Mature lemon trees with heavy crops of fruit require more water and nutrients to sustain growth

My trees often produce so much fruit, we’re still using them from last season while the tree is producing new season flowers.

2. The Tree’s Age and Health

Young lemon trees focus on establishing roots as a priority, so most of the energy is directed into root and leaf growth. It can put a considerable strain on 1-2 year old trees to produce fruit, particularly if they are lacking nutrients. Which brings me to how healthy your lemon tree is.

Is it well fed? Lemons are heavy feeders. They need seasonal nutrients added to the soil or potting mix to sustain healthy, robust growth and sustain fruit development. You can’t expect a starving tree to deliver you a box of luscious lemons quickly! A slightly acidic soil pH, slow release nitrogen-rich organic matter and mulch will all help boost growth.

Immature green lemons on a heavily shaded, nutrient-deficient lemon tree

3. Lack of Warmth and Sunlight

Your tree location may be too shaded. Or the weather conditions may have an impact. Long periods of cold or cloudy weather with little sun and heat can slow ripening down. Frost can severely damage your lemon tree. If your tree is in a pot, you may be able to move it to a sunnier warm spot with better results.

If your lemon tree is in the ground, you may be able to prune it back for better aeration and allow more light in. Or maybe you need to prune or remove neighbouring plants that are competing for sunlight!

During cooler months, lemons become dormant, so be realistic in your expectations too.

Inconsistent Watering

Like all citrus, lemons need regular soil moisture for sustained healthy growth and to produce juicy fruit. If your tree has been drought or heat stressed, in too small a pot with hydrophobic soil or isn’t watered sufficiently, this may be a contributing factor to green fruit.

Lemon trees need regular moisture but rain at fruit set may damage flowers

As your lemon tree grows, so does its need for water! Rain is full of nitrogen and you should see your lemon tree respond well afterwards. A couple of buckets of water might be sufficient for a pot grown lemon, but not a fully grown tree with a big root system.

5. Cultivar and Number of Fruit

Lastly, how long it takes for your lemon tree to ripen depends on the cultivar you’re growing and the rootstock it is grown on. Some varieties are large and others smaller, so they may mature more quickly.

The quantity of fruit on your tree will also have an impact on how quickly your lemons ripen. A heavily laden tree has to spread the nutrient and moisture resources across many more fruit than a small tree. It will also have a high demand for water and unless met, this may slow ripening and result in smaller fruit.

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When will Lemons Ripen?

This depends on your climate and variety. If you live in a cool climate, lemon trees generally form flowers in spring, as the weather warms up. Their fruit usually matures the following winter. Typically, there is one harvest a year and the growth is slower than warmer climates.

In subtropical and tropical climates with mild winter temperatures, lemons tend to continually flower and can produce multiple crops throughout the year. For example, in QLD, NT, WA and northern/coastal NSW, Australia, lemons develop in around 6-7 months. It’s quite common for fruit year round. In southern growing areas of NSW, SA and VIC, fruit is slower to mature, and may take 8-9 months.

In my subtropical climate, I have overlapping harvests with different varieties. When they’re not fruiting, often my limes will be in abundance. Choosing your varieties carefully ensures you have fruit for the longest period possible.

New season buds forming and ripening lemons on the same tree

Colour Changes as Lemons Ripen

Once the baby fruit is ‘set’ after pollination occurs, the lemon will develop and grow over the warmer months.

As each lemon fills out, you will notice the colour start changing from fully green to yellow tinges and finally, full yellow for most varieties. In warmer climates, they may never turn 100% yellow when ripe.

Have you ever noticed the way nature provides us with all that vitamin C rich fruit during seasons when the body needs an immune boost?

How can you tell if Lemons are Ripe?

Lemons ripen best ON the tree, although you can ripen them after picking if needed. When fully ripe, the inner pulp will be filled with juice. As a lemon matures, it reaches optimum sugar content and flavour, as the acids inside decrease and sugars increase.

A mature lemon should have bright glossy skin and feel firm and heavy in your hand. This reflects the quantity of juice.

Healthy mature lemons taste juicy and sweet

A juicy lemon should yield you 40-60ml (1.3 – 2 fl oz) of juice and 2-3 teaspoons of peel. Picking a lemon and measuring these will give you an indication of ripeness too.

Lemons can stay on your tree for several weeks even when ripe, without deteriorating in quality. So, you can pace how quickly you use them. If they start to feel soft or flavour deteriorates, it’s time to pick and refrigerate or juice them. Freeze juice if you can’t use immediately.

Taste Test for Lemon Ripeness

If you’re still not sure whether your fruit is ripe and the skin is still a little green, what should you do? Simply pick a lemon and taste it! It should be flavoursome and juicy. If it’s hard, bitter or the skin is very thick, these are clues you need to pay more attention to the way you are growing your lemon tree.

Tasting the flavour of a lemon and juicing it can help you determine if it’s ripe

Well, I hope this has helped ‘colour in’ the reasons why your lemons may not be turning yellow, so you can make more informed decisions for juicy rewards.

If you need one-on-one help with your citrus trees, contact me for an onsite consultation or live chat and I’ll be happy to provide personalised advice.

  • Choosing Fruit Trees for Small Gardens

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Why are my lemons not turning yellow?

A contributing reader, (Marge Adams), recently asked a great question about citrus fruit ripeness. Like many, she would like to know why her lemons are not turning yellow. Since this issue may become a common dilemma for more people due to climate change, I thought it would be useful to write a short article about it.

Paraphrased reader question:

‘I have a healthy looking Meyer Lemon tree but the fruit is NOT turning yellow. Any ideas as to why my lemons look like large limes and do not turn yellow?’

Color for ripeness:

Fruit color is usually a great indicator for ripeness. Crops ranging from peaches to guava typically develop beautiful-rich appealing colors when they are ready to eat. However, there are some fruits, such as citrus, that may not always change color as expected.

Half yellow lemons at bottom of the picture and flowers at top of picture

Warm weather green:

As it turns out, many citrus require a temperature dip to stimulate the fruit to change color. Therefore, when the weather is persistently warm, your lemons may not turn yellow as you would expect.

To complicate things, sometimes only part of the fruit changes color. This finding may be an indicator that it is on it way to ripeness… or that something else is going on. If the partial color change is sharply demarcated, it might be a sign of sunburn. Sunburn is often (though not always) also associated with areas of browning on the fruit surface. Sunburn can result from sudden intense sun exposure to previously shaded areas after tree trimming or from spraying chemicals such as oils at the wrong time of day. For more info about appropriately spraying your citrus trees check out my article titled, Citrus Leafminer: Diagnosis and Treatment.

This warm weather green citrus fruit phenomenon is actually a common in some parts of the world. For example, in the tropics, it is expected that some citrus fruit varieties will never lose their green color the way they would in subtropical climates such as California. Of course on the other hand, Limes are expected to be green when ripe even in subtropical areas. For more info on growing limes check out my article titled Bearss Lime Tree Care

Even more surprisingly, sometimes citrus fruit will turn their expected yellow/orange color and then later turn back to green. This may happen if the weather becomes persistently warm again. I know, that is crazy right?

Developing Kumquat fruit showing signs of sunburn.

So now how do you determine ripeness?

When your citrus fruit do not turn their characteristic yellow or orange, you need to utilize other indicators for ripeness. I use 3 additional signs of citrus fruit ripeness when my citrus don’t change color on schedule.

Note: Citrus are not known to ripen off the tree like many other fruits. Therefore, once picked, they are not going to get any sweeter. This can be a bit confusing because many citrus that are picked green will also change to their expected bright yellow/orange color as they sit on the kitchen counter.

Meyer lemon fruit dropped before turning yellow

One of the best indicators:

One of the best indicators of citrus ripeness for me is the firmness of the fruit. This is because citrus fruit typically soften a bit to the touch when they are ripe. Different types of citrus soften to different degrees, so the firmness indicator takes some experience for a particular variety of fruit.

Overall, if your citrus fruit are not turning yellow/green as expected, then it is time to, ahem… to start fondling them. If the fruit is the softness of ripeness, (the way you remember from experience), pick one and try it out.

Squeeze a few of your overdue green lemons

Another indicator of ripeness: the drops:

Another indicator of ripeness is that citrus fruit will drop off the tree on their own when ripe (or over ripe). Now sure, sometimes fruit will drop off a plant on its own when if the plant is stressed or diseased. Therefore, this indicator is not perfect.

Better still, to identify fruit that will fall off the branch with a gentle tug. Sometimes just looking at the stalk (where the fruit attaches to the branch) will let you know its time. A stalk will sometimes look markedly angulated or start to pull away at the edges when a fruit is extra ready.

In addition, when you allow the fruit to ripen to the point of dropping on its own you run the very real risk of waiting too long. Since citrus sweeten and lose their acidic tang over time, waiting to this point may also change the flavor profile.

None the less, if everything else looks good and healthy, when your tree starts to drop the fruit you should pay attention because you might be missing the boat… or your tree might be sick.

A half yellow Meyer Lemon. The stalk is bent and pulling away. It just looks like it wants to be plucked.

The moving on indicator, flowering:

Another useful indicator that I have noticed is that many citrus trees start to flower when the hanging fruit is ready or near ready to pick.

This indicator is not perfect either, but it is another one of those things to pay attention to. If your citrus is flowering massively then it might be cycling through to the next round of fruit.

Ripe Meyer Lemon and flower buds.

Wonderful Meyer Lemon flowers

Overall strategy:

Overall, in these warm weather conditions, I tend to utilize all of these markers for ripeness. It is also important to sample the fruit conservatively because once picked, your citrus fruit will stop ripening.

More Meyer Lemon info:

For great info about how to grow Meyer lemons, check out my article titled Growing Meyer Lemons

You like lemonade? You will love Meyer Lemon Lemonade. Here’s a link to an article I wrote about how to make it yourself at home Meyer Lemonade Recipe

10 things to do with lemons

The sweet, tangy flavour of a lemon works in both sweet and savoury dishes and even just a squeeze can bring all of the flavours in a dish to life. A good cook will always have a few lemons on hand. Here are 10 great ways to indulge in the winter lemon abundance.

1. Get baking

Lemons bring just the right amount of sweetness and tart to baking. Create delicious loaves, muffins, biscuits, slices and cakes and, in some instances, you can take things up a notch with a drizzle of lemon syrup or a sprinkling of zest.

2. Tart it up

Sweet pastry and a creamy, citrusy filling come together to make lemon tart – a dessert-lovers delight. There are many variations of this classic dessert and Peter Gordon has some tips on how to achieve the perfect lemon tart filling.

3. Hot puddings

Infusing winter puds with the tangy flavour of lemons cuts through the richness and gets tastebuds tingling with anticipation.

4. Make marmalade

Peter Gordon recommends making a lemon marmalade with any excess lemons. Like other citrus favourites (orange and grapefruit), lemon marmalade can be used in a variety of baking recipes such as steamed puddings and cakes, although nothing beats a slather on hot-buttered toast or scones.

5. Bottle them up

Bottling allows you to enjoy lemons well beyond their season. It’s a simple and satisfying process. Jo Elwin has perfected the art of preserving lemons, and Peter Gordon has some handy tips to add. Angela Casley’s recipe for pickled lemon lamb tackles the process also.

6. Curd, and 3 ways to enjoy it

Making your own homemade lemon curd is easy and cost-effective. You’ll get the best results by taking Nigel Slater’s advice and using top quality ingredients… fresh butter, organic free-range eggs and juicy lemons from the tree.

  • Plum trifle with Stolen rum and lemon curd
  • Lemon roulade with lemon curd cream
  • Lemon curd trifle

7. Cool treats

No need for fancy ice-cream machines with these three quick and simple frozen lemony desserts.

  • Lemon and yoghurt ice-cream
  • Lemon frozen parfait
  • Lemon gelato with caramelised mandarins

8. Drink it up

Lemons are nutritional powerhouses and a great way to enjoy them is as a quenching drink. The kids will enjoy homemade lemonade, or make classic lemon cordial. If you’re in need of an immunity boost, Warren Elwin’s therapeutic lemon-aid will help you sleep better, flush out toxins and improve your general wellbeing. For cocktail hour try homemade limoncello.

9. Pair it with chicken

Lemon and chicken are great mates. Try one or two of these for dinner this week.

  • Lemon chicken with olives
  • Rosemary and lemon chicken
  • Easy lemon chicken
  • Butterflied lemon chicken
  • Pan-roasted lemon chicken

10. Oils and dressings

Lemon juice delivers the acidic component to citrus vinaigrettes commonly used to dress a green or tomato salad, as well as seafood. Drizzle an easy lemon mayonnaise over fish, potatoes or eggs for a little creaminess. Aaron Brunet’s cashew aioli dip (served with baked parsnips in this recipe), is a refreshing contrast to dairy-based dips, and here’s a simple way to make lemon-infused olve oil

10 Ways to Use Up All Those Lemons

Ah, lemons. They’re such flexible culinary players, adding oomph to savory and sweet dishes alike, that it’s no wonder of us buy them by the armful or bagful. But sometimes that crisper drawer is so packed that one must take a moment to figure out how to use all its bounty. Here are ways to use both the fruit’s zest and its juice, from cocktails to baked goods to entrées.

1. Lemon Squares

You can use Meyer lemons or regular ones for this delightful (and delightfully easy) treat. A full three-quarter cup of lemon juice, or about five lemons, comprises its silky lemon curd base. It’s a great recipe to have up your sleeve to help put a dent in a citrus overflow. Though it’s a simple recipe, with about 45 minutes of hands-on time, it’s helpful to have a citrus thermometer, and you’ll want to leave three hours for the lemon curd to set.

2. Preserved Lemons

Salt-cured preserved lemons are essential for many Moroccan and Middle Eastern dishes, and they’re a snap to make. All you need are lemons, Kosher salt and a canning jar, and you’re off to the races. Consider nestling these savory treats next to chicken or salmon for easy, more brightly flavored dinners.

3. Oleo Saccharum (Lemon-Oil Sugar)

Spirits historian David Wondrich identified the term oleo saccharum, Latin for “oil sugar,” to explain a technique that’s been around since the 1600’s. Its odd name belies its super-simple technique. Just zest a lemon, avoiding the white pith, and add it to a large glass jar. For each lemon, add 2 oz of white sugar. Tighten the jar’s top and shake it thoroughly, leaving it in the sun, for a few hours, shaking it periodically. After a while, the citrus oil will begin to permeate the sugar. Add lemon juice. Shake again. Strain, and add the super-citrusy, sweet mixture to seltzer, bourbon for sours, or any other favorite cocktail. The delicate oil in the rind packs a booming bouquet, and is just delightful. Tip: This technique also works wonderfully with grapefruit and orange.

4. Punch

Using the zest of lemons and limes before squeezing them for juice is such a smart way of getting the most out of your purchase and reducing food waste. Once you’ve used the peel, turn to the juice for lemonade and cocktails. We love this Aperol-white wine punch, but you could also try a more tropical rum punch garnished with a tropical edible flower.

5. Lemon Chiffon Cake

Though it is truly a fool’s errand to try to choose a favorite lemon recipe, any citrus cake certainly gives the competition a run for its money. This one is powered by four to five whole lemons, plus their zest. Even more lemon juice makes a cameo in that gorgeous glaze. With a texture somewhere between a sponge cake and a butter cake, it is simply divine.

6. Chicken With Lemon, Garlic and Spring Onions

A whole chicken nestled into a Dutch oven alongside lemon slices, a head of garlic and tiny spring onions sure is tough to beat, looks-wise. The key to this recipe is a compound herb butter slathered between the skin and the meat. Plus, there’s that lemon, adding brightness in two ways: lemon slices, roasting alongside the meat, and the piquant zest, tucked into the fresh herb butter.

7. Asparagus With Lemon Zest

Thank goodness you saved all that lemon zest. You’ll need it for all the fabulous vegetarian recipes that call for it, such as this springy asparagus. Butter, olive oil, garlic and panko are the only other staples you need to make this marvelous side dish. (Bonus: You don’t even need to preheat that oven, but can make it on the stovetop and under the broiler.)

8. Salmon With Lemon and Fennel

Isn’t the sight of salmon without lemon a terribly sad sight? We are always happy to see it sliced or quartered on the table, but this roasted fennel-salmon dish is next-level. Lemon juice makes its way both into the bevy of veggies beneath the fish and on top of the fillets themselves. You’ve got an instant side for your entrée without breaking a sweat.

9. Lemon Curd Pie

There’s almost no wrong move when it comes to lemon pies. Whether you’re craving chiffon, meringue, curd, zest, juice, or whipped cream, there’s a lemon pie for you. We’re particularly fond of this showstopper of a lemon curd meringue pie, though. The trick to that killer meringue crust? A quick spin under the broiler.

10. Lemon Tart

For those who really like to taste all the lemon that goes into a dessert, this is the tart for you. It calls for a lovely Meyer lemon curd (which you can buy or make), but a regular lemon curd will do, in a pinch. Nine graham crackers blitzed in a food processor make up its super-simple crust. And the whole thing is ready in just 30 minutes. Lemons: saving you time in every course.

It seems like I’ve written a lot about lemons over the years, but I just can’t help myself! Not only do I love the flavor of lemon in food and desserts, but I’ve found that lemons are incredibly useful too! Lemons are an ingredient in many of my homemade cleaning solutions, because they can naturally sanitize, deodorize, whiten, and brighten all sorts of objects and surfaces around your house. So in order to help spread the word about this highly useful fruit, I’ve put together a list of 20 of my favorite ways to use lemons. By the end of this list, you’ll see just how much this little citrus fruit can do!

20 Brilliant Ways To Use Lemons

1. Make Dried Lemon Peels

Dried lemon peels are easy to make at home! Use them in recipes, or to make cleaners and homemade beauty products. The peel of the lemon contains oils that are packed with lemon scent and flavor, and you can keep dried lemon peels in your fridge to use for up to a year!

Related: How To Make And Use Dried Lemon Peel

2. Fade Age Spots

Use a lemon to whip up a homemade treatment for skin discolorations! Lemon juice has natural lightening properties which can help reduce the appearance of age spots and sun spots. Get the full recipe at the link below.

Related: How To Fade Age Spots With Just 4 Natural Ingredients

3. Make Your Shower Door Shine

Glass shower doors are like magnets for hard water stains and stubborn soap scum. Use a lemon to help you scrub them clean! Dip half a lemon into a small dish of kosher salt, and get scrubbing. Then stand back and admire the shine!

4. Dust Your House

Gather some lemon peels and some white vinegar, and whip up a batch of your own reusable dusting cloths. You’ll love the way they cut through dust and grime, as well as the invigorating lemon scent they leave behind! Get the super simple instructions below.

Related: How To Make Your Own Reusable Lemon Dust Cloths

5. Make Cleaning Vinegar

Vinegar is one of my favorite natural cleaners, but I know a lot of people don’t like the smell. So I created a scented cleaning vinegar that you can use to clean almost anything! Just grab some lemons and a jug of vinegar, and follow the easy steps below.

Related: How To Make Scented Cleaning Vinegar

6. Eliminate Fridge Odors

Use a lemon to absorb lingering odors in your refrigerator. Soak a sponge or cotton ball in some fresh lemon juice, and place it in your fridge for several hours to absorb those odors.

7. Remove Permanent Marker Stains

With the help of lemons, it IS possible to remove permanent marker stains! You can use a mixture of lemon juice and cream of tartar to remove treat permanent marker stains on fabric or upholstery. (Get more tips on removing permanent markers stains by reading the post below.)

Related: 19 Surprising Ways To Remove Permanent Marker And Save The Day

8. Whiten Your Clothes

Lemon juice and hydrogen peroxide are the two main components in the recipe for my homemade bleach alternative. This all-natural mixture is great for whitening whites and removing stains. Get the full recipe below!

Related: How To Make A Simple, Natural Alternative To Bleach

9. Keep Bugs Out

Use lemon juice to repel pesky insects in your home! Squeeze some lemon juice into holes and cracks where you see ants coming in, and they’ll avoid the area in the future.

10. Clean Your Kitchen

Use lemons to make two homemade cleaners at once – an enzyme cleaning spray and a scrub! I use this enzyme scrub all the time on my sink, and it works like a charm! My sink is left looking clean and sparkling, and it smells so fresh, too! Get all the details and plenty of photos at the link below.

Related: Homemade Citrus Enzyme Cleaner And Scrub

11. Freshen Your Garbage Disposal

If your garbage disposal is smelling a little funky, there’s a super simple way to clean it! Just pour white vinegar into an ice cube mold, and drop a small chunk of lemon into each section. Freeze the tray, then drop a few of the frozen vinegar cubes into your running garbage disposal. The ice will help keep the blades sharp and clean, and the lemon helps to deodorize the disposal. Repeat the process once a week or so to keep things smelling fresh.

Related: How To Naturally Clean And Sanitize Your Garbage Disposal

12. Wash Your Veggies

Use lemon juice to clean your fresh fruits and vegetables. Just add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice to 8 ounces of water, and pour it into a spray bottle. Spray your fruits and veggies, let them sit for a few minutes, and then rinse them thoroughly with cold water.

13. Get Silky Smooth Legs

Lemon juice is a component in my homemade exfoliating scrub for super soft legs. It’s great to use right before you shave, and it will help combat dry and itchy skin during the winter. If you’ve never tried this before, I highly recommend it! You won’t believe how silky smooth your legs feel. 🙂

Related: How To Make A Simple Exfoliating Scrub For Your Smoothes Legs Ever

14. Clear Up Blackheads

Lemon juice can help you get rid of pesky blackheads, and even out your skin tone in the process! Apply a simple mixture of lemon juice, baking soda, and honey and give your pores a good steam, then gently remove the remaining blackheads for clear, glowing skin. Get the full details on this treatment below!

Related: How To Use 3 Simple Ingredients To Banish Your Blackheads

15. Eliminate Garbage Can Odors

Save leftover lemon peels to eliminate odors from your garbage can! After you take a full bag out of the trash, place a handful of lemon peels at the bottom of the can, then put your new trash bag in. The lemon peels will help keep your garbage can smelling fresh and clean.

16. Heal Cracked Heels

If you struggle with dry, cracked heels, a lemon can provide relief! Just remove the flesh out of one half of a lemon, then place the empty “shell” on your heel. Put a sock on to hold the lemon in place, and leave it for 30 minutes. The acid in the lemon juice will help slough off dead skin cells, leaving softer, smoother skin behind. Get more details below.

Related: A Simple Solution For Cracked Heels

17. Make Your House Smell Amazing

During the cold winter months, I love mixing up potpourri to make my house smell warm and inviting. It’s an easy way to fill your house with the scents of the season! Check out the link below to get the recipe for a lemon-rosemary potpourri… mmm!

Related: My Favorite Simmering Potpourri Recipes

18. Keep Guacamole Fresh

Lemon juice can help you keep avocado fresh for a couple of days in the fridge. Squeeze half a lemon over guacamole or smashed avocado, then press a sheet of plastic wrap onto the surface. It’ll stay green and fresh, at least for a day or two!

19. Clean A Stained Cutting Board

I thought my stained plastic cutting boards were beyond saving, until I found this amazing trick! Using lemon and good old fashioned sunshine, you can lift those unsightly stains right out of your white cutting boards. Get the details below!

Related: How To Remove Stubborn Stains From Plastic Cutting Boards

20. Treat Dandruff

Treat annoying dandruff with the help of fresh lemon juice. Massage 2 tablespoons of lemon juice into your scalp, then rinse. Repeat the process daily until your dandruff disappears.

21. Bonus Tip! – Storing Lemons

I’ll leave you with one last lemon tip. Ever wondered how to prolong the life of your lemons? A reader suggested storing them in a jar of water in your fridge! We gave it a try, and it kept our lemons good for about a week longer than storing them on the counter. Smart!

Related: “Why Didn’t I Think Of That?” – Part Six

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© Denzil Green

There are many varieties of Lemon Trees. They are thorny evergreen trees with narrow, oval light green leaves that will grow up to 20 feet tall (6 metres.) The trees are more scraggly than orange trees, and their purple tinged flowers aren’t as fragrant. The trees will start producing fruit after their third year, and enough to be commercially viable after their fifth year. Each tree will produce about 1,500 Lemons a year. They will flower almost continuously, and will have fruit at all stages during the year, though most Lemons ripen in the fall.

Some types of Lemon Trees, such as Meyers and “Rough Lemon”, will grow true to seed.

If left to ripen on trees, Lemons can get a bit sweet. Picking them green makes them a little more sour. Unlike other citrus fruits, Lemons will ripen after being picked and become fully yellow in storage (as bananas will.) Consequently, the fruit is often picked green, particularly in the fall, and stored in warehouses until needed for sale.

Lemons are a fruit that you don’t eat per se: we use them for their juice and their rind.

Smooth-skinned Lemons have more juice than rougher skinned ones. As they get older, they lose some of their juice, which makes the skin rougher. Smaller Lemons are often proportionately more juicy than larger ones.

When buying Lemons, choose ones that are heavy for their size, shiny and lemon yellow coloured. Don’t worry about small amounts of brown scarring on a lemon’s skin: as things get more and more organic, you’re going to see more of it, but it doesn’t affect the juice.

Leading Lemon producers are Argentina, Greece, Italy, Spain, Turkey and the United States.

Cooking Tips

Thicker skinned varieties are better for making candied Lemon peel with.

Lemons can deal with some cooking odours that you don’t want hanging around. To freshen up the inside of a particularly rank microwave, pop Lemon slices in a bowl of water, place the bowl in the microwave, and zap on high for a few minutes. If your kitchen has a distinctive pong to it after cooking fish or cabbage, boil Lemon slices in a pot of water on top the stove.

To extract only a few drops of juice from a lemon, leave Lemon whole, prick with a fork, and squeeze out what you need through the holes. The rest of the lemon will store better longer this way.

Nutrition

Lemon peel contains proportionately about 5 times more vitamin C than the actual fruit inside does.

Nutrition Facts

Per 1 medium lemon

Amount
Calories 38
Carbohydrate 11.5 g
Protein 2.16 g
Vitamin C 83.2 mg

Equivalents

6 Lemons = 1 cup of juice / 8 oz / 250 ml

1 medium lemon = 2 – 3 teaspoons zest = 3 tablespoons of juice = 1 1/2 oz = 45 ml
1 pound (450g) Lemons = 5 medium = 3 large

Storage Hints

Lemons will keep for a week at room temperature, or store in refrigerator for up to 3 weeks in a plastic bag. Wrap cut Lemons in plastic wrap, keep up to 3 days.

When you have half a Lemon or lime left over, cut it into slices and freeze, then use as ice cubes in drinks, or to cook alongside fish, or to stuff inside a chicken.

History Notes

Lemons on tree
Isola Bella
Italy
– © Leclaire & Schenk

Lemons probably originated in Northern India. They were being grown in the Middle East by 100 AD. Lemons in Rome were mainly for the rich as they were expensive; in the Second Century AD, Libya was an important supplier of Lemons to Rome. There are Lemons in frescoes at Pompeii. Plantings were done in Southern Italy, but they may or may not have survived the Dark Ages: some feel that they didn’t, and that it was the Crusaders who reintroduced them. They were growing in Southern Italy by 1150 AD.

Arabs introduced Lemons to Spain, planting them there in the 700s and 800s. The Spanish in turn brought Lemons to Florida in the mid 1500s and to California in the mid 1700s.

French women during the time of Louis XIV would redden their lips with Lemons.

Many people were involved in the realisation that citrus fruit prevented scurvy, but it was a man named Gilbert Blaine who was able to summarize all the theories into a spoonful of lemon juice a day. By the end of the 1700s, the Royal Navy was ordering 50,000 Imperial gallons of lemon juice a year (230,000 litres).

Literature & Lore

“We are living in a world today where lemonade is made from artificial flavors and furniture polish is made from real Lemons.”

— Alfred E. Newman (MAD Magazine).

Language Notes

Lemon comes from the Latin Limonum, which came from the Arabic “limun”.

How do I ripen unripe oranges and grapefruits?

I agree with the suggestion that it is best to buy ripe citrus fruits. I respectfully disagree with the assertion that they don’t ripen after picking.

I stumbled across this ancient question today and looked at it because I have a lot of very immature oranges that I thinned off my orange tree a few weeks ago, and I wondered what gems of wisdom might have been suggested in the past for hastening their ripening, and was surprised that the answer was quite definitely wrong, at least, for untreated citrus. It is possible that a wax coating might affect this.

I’d like to clarify what happens to the citrus I have picked unripe and left to ripen (generally when pruning the tree). My experience is mostly with lemons and oranges, but it should carry over to other citrus. My experience is mostly with fruit from my own trees but also fruit from local farmers markets that have no wax coatings.

They do continue to ripen.

  • The skin will continue to develop color from green through mottled green-yellow on to the final color.
  • The scent and flavor of the skin and oils will change from a very “green”, slightly bitter, citrusy smell and flavor (very generic, the lemons and the oranges at this stage smell and taste nearly the same) to a fruitier smell/flavor. The lemons will start to smell more lemony, the oranges will start to smell and taste like oranges.

  • They will eventually lose a lot of moisture, unless they have been waxed. Citrus fruits have a porous, moist, spongy skin and they are full of water. Unripe citrus tends to be dryer to begin with in my experience — they continue to fill up with water as they ripen and grow on the tree.

  • They can ripen faster if kept with ripe apples and pears, but they also can become moldy if there isn’t good air circulation. Check them periodically, remove any that are becoming squishier — those are spoiling, not ripening.

In summary, as the unripe citrus ripens, the flavors and colors of the flesh will develop, but it will also dry out. It’s a bit of a race, will they ripen enough to be pleasing before they dry out too much to be used?

Here’s a picture of some unripe oranges before I picked them, tiny and green:

And here they are now, several weeks later, in a box next to where I’m sitting:

Unfortunately I don’t have any really green ones left on the tree (and the green ones I picked ripened) so I can’t show that comparison. But for oranges, they start off green outside and in, then go through yellow and on to orange or even red. I just cut some open and the ones that have been ripening in the house are mostly a little less juicy than the green and yellow ones I just picked, but they look the same.

Front-right are picked a few weeks ago and ripened in the house (I chose the most ripe and the least ripe I could find in my box). Back-left are picked today from the tree (I chose ones that were splitting and needed to be picked anyway, but cut and photographed the most and least ripe again).

When I picked them, I tasted the skin and found it to be too bitter on the ones that were still fully green, although the ones that were a bit yellow were edible. Tasting now, the same is true. For the fruit picked today vs the fruit picked a few weeks ago, it really just follows the color scale. You can see the difference here between the paler (not quite as ripe) skin and the one that was pretty much ripe that I picked today. Both taste nearly identical, with the riper one tasting just that shade riper, but essentially both taste like the skin of a reasonably ripe, fresh orange.

On the left is the Washington navel orange from One Green World. On the right is the Gurney’s dwarf key lime. I ordered and planted both last spring.

There have been a lot of searches for citrus information lately on the blog, so I thought I’d give you an update on the dwarf lemon, lime, and orange trees I planted in pots last spring.

They’ve been doing a lot of growing! The Washington navel orange and Meyer lemon arrived from One Green World basically as two-foot sticks, with a few leaves and blossoms clinging to them. They’ve expanded on all sides and are going to need pruning next spring to keep them shapely. The key lime from Gurney’s started off quite a bit smaller, but it’s grown a lot, too. Its foliage (after this spring’s fertilization with a lime-free mixture) is lush and green as well.

There are more differences between the One Green World trees and the Gurney’s tree than just size, however. Which is what I would hope, given that I paid $6.50 for the Gurney’s key lime and $24.95 for each of the One Green World trees. The Gurney’s tree is still less than half the size of the others, and it hasn’t bloomed at all. The others have not only bloomed but actually begun to set fruit.

Here’s a fruit set by the Meyer lemon.

Now, young citrus trees will often set tiny fruits that subsequently dry up and fall off, because the tree doesn’t feel it yet has the resources to bring any fruit to term. They did a lot of that last year. And the Washington navel orange still seems to be of that mindset, but this spring the Meyer lemon has some fruits that have swelled to over an inch in diameter and seem like keepers.

Citrus requires patience, though. Because the process of ripening doesn’t take weeks, as with most fruit I’ve grown. It takes months. Meyer lemons, from blossom to ripe fruit, take at least six. Which is why winter is citrus season. The fruit starts growing in the spring and it ripens all summer and fall to produce a wonderful Christmas treat.

Come to think of it, I remember getting oranges in my Christmas stocking as a child. I had no idea then that it had something to do with the seasons!

  • Citrus in Virginia? You bet!
  • Caring for Potted Citrus Trees
  • November Is Lemonade Season

Claim

Lemons are not naturally occurring, and are actually a hybrid between a bitter orange and citron.

Rating

Unknown

Reporting

On July 29 2019, the Facebook page “Absurd Memes for a Better Tomorrow” shared a claim that lemons are not naturally occurring:

Underneath a “what’s on your mind” tweet in a screenshot, another account responds with a purported fact (that lemons do not occur naturally in nature) and a quip:

So I just found out that apparently a lemon isn’t naturally occurring and is a hybrid by cross breeding a bitter orange and a citron. Which means life never actually gave us lemons; we invented them all by ourselves.

We were unable to find either of the original purported tweets, but an extremely popular August 2018 tweet from the account @TheWeirdWorld (Shower Thoughts) made a similar assertion:

Apparently, a lemon is not naturally occurring and is a hybrid developed by cross breeding a bitter orange and a citron. Life never gave us lemons; we invented them all by ourselves.

— Shower Thoughts (@TheWeirdWorld) August 3, 2018

A commenter on that tweet disputed its claims, saying that lemons are in fact native to India:

— Mukund Madhav (@mukundmadhav02) August 3, 2018

A Google search for “are lemons naturally occurring” returns a top tweet that seemed to suggest the claim was accurate — however, it was “pinned” with an image of a similarly-worded claim, suggesting that the source was recursive:

In some respects, it seemed as if the built-in joke was driving a factoid across the internet — claims that lemons o not naturally occur are almost always accompanied by the same punchline about life not “actually giving us lemons.” And one of the first Google results was a blog post carrying the phrasing later seen in tweets and on social media:

Starting with citrus fruit, we look at the common types, oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruits. Guess what? Not one of them is naturally occurring. They’re all hybrids. Oranges are a hybrid of the pomelo and mandarin. Lemons are a hybrid of bitter orange and citron.

Claims about non-naturally occurring lemons also appeared in a thread shared to Reddit’s r/NoStupidQuestions in August 2018:

Why do people think Lemons are man made? from NoStupidQuestions

Beneath the joke that the world does not not give humanity lemons was a secondary claim: that lemons are manmade, or cultivars. According to a 1987 paper about lemon genetics, the location from which the citrus first emerged is actually unknown:

The true home of the lemon is unknown, though some have linked it to northwestern India. It is supposed to have been introduced into southern Italy in 200 A.D. and to have been cultivated in Iraq and Egypt by 700 A.D. It reached Sicily before 1000 and China between 760 and 1297 A.D. Arabs distributed it widely in the Mediterranean region between 1000 and 1150 A.D. It was prized for its medicinal virtues in the palace of the Sultan of Egypt and Syria in the period 1174-1193 A.D. Christopher Columbus carried lemon seeds to Hispaniola in 1493. The Spaniards may have included lemons among the fruits they introduced to St. Augustine. They were grown in California in the years 1751-1768.

That paper makes no mention of original lemons being a hybrid of citrons and bitter oranges, although it does identify several varieties of lemon as hybrids. One example is the Meyer lemon, thought to be a cross of lemons and a variety of orange. However, the proliferation of hybrids does not necessarily imply that humans are responsible:

Plants hybridize much more frequently and successfully than animals do. Pollen from flowering plants disperses widely and may land on flowers of other species. Chromosomal doubling (polyploidy) occurs more frequently in plants and facilitates the fertility of the hybrid offspring. Finally, plant forms are less stringently controlled than animal forms, and so the intermediate form of a plant hybrid is more likely to be physiologically successful.

A February 2017 National Geographic observed during a deep dive into the genetics of all citrus fruit that high compatibility between cultivars meant hybrids occur naturally and with ease:

Citrus, in many ways, stands alone. So many cultivated species have come from so few primary ancestors. Just three, in fact: citrons, pomelos, and mandarins, all native to South and East Asia before they started their journeys west, to places like Florida, California, and Brazil that built entire economies around fruits from the other side of the world.

Such simple lineage is the result of impressive commonality. Almost all citrus has the rare genetic combination of being sexually compatible and highly prone to mutation. Such traits allow their genes to mix, for thousands of years on their own, and eventually, at the hands of humans. The product of so much natural crossing in the wild and selective breeding at research farms and in fields is every orange, lemon, lime, and grapefruit you’ve ever eaten.

A chart with the article listed both ordinary and Meyer lemons as possible mutations of citrons, the origins of which remain uncertain. Prior research by the American Society for Horticultural Science, published in 2011, described genetic testing on various citrus varietals to determine their origin. That testing found evidence linking lemon to citron and sour orange:

The results proved that bergamot and lemon were derived from citron and sour orange, and grapefruit was a hybrid that originated from a cross between pummelo and sweet orange. The data demonstrated that sweet orange and sour orange were hybrids of mandarin and pummelo, while rough lemon was a cross between citron and mandarin. The evidence also confirmed that bergamot was a hybrid of sour orange and citron, with sour orange as the maternal parent and citron as the paternal parent.

However, research published in the Annals of Botany in 2016 noted that the “origin of limes and lemons has been a source of conflicting taxonomic opinions.” That research found a steady link to citron in both lemons and limes; other relationships were not seemingly as well-defined:

All lime- and lemon-like accessions analysed displayed a contribution from the C. medica genome. Citrons appeared mainly as a direct parent for the 12 identified clusters and independent sub-clusters and six of the unclustered MLGs. However, none of the lime and lemon accessions analysed had a C. medica maternal phylogeny. We therefore conclude that citron was the male parent. Our results extend the hypothesis proposed by several early taxonomists on the relationship between citron, limes and lemons to many more lime and lemon accessions than previous studies.

Researchers continued testing the genetic lineage of lemons and limes, noting that the “fossil record of citrus fruits is poor.” A February 2018 BBC article about that study reports that “today’s citrus fruits are the result of millions of years of evolution, followed by thousands of years of human plant breeding.” When and how lemons as we know them came into that mix is unclear.

A long-running internet rumor about the origin of lemons predicated on the adage about life “giving us” lemons asserted that lemons were “not naturally occurring” or were “man made.” Genetic research into the origins of lemons have identified citron as a possible parent plant, but scientists continue that inquiry and the exact origin of lemons remains a mystery. If lemons truly originated with citrons, citrus breeding traits indicate it was possibly an accident of nature — not necessarily a human-engineered event.

The sacred fruit

The Temoni esrog, a variety originally grown in Yemen

One of the lemon’s main ancestors is the citron or esrog (or etrog, depending on your pronunciation preference). Citron is one of the three naturally occurring wild species of citrus (the others are pomelo and mandarin). That means that even lemon is a hybrid — an ancient and naturally occurring hybrid which draws most of its genetic heritage from the citron.

In antiquity several religions chose the citron as a religious symbol, but none did so more intensely–even obsessively– than the Jews. The esrog is an essential symbol of the Jewish harvest festival, Sukkos, which in biblical times was considered the most important holiday of the year. Observant Jews all over the world demanded a perfect, unblemished fruit — grown according to very rigid ritual standards–for the seven-day holiday. My Russian Jewish grandparents brought a special silver container with them to America which was used to keep the esrog fresh during Sukkos. (For more on this subject, see my 2003 article in Reform Judaism Magazine).

Each baby esrog is protected in a nylon bag as it grows. And the whole orchard is protected under a net.

Some years ago, doing research for Lemon: A Global History, I went to the San Joaquin Valley in California and met John Kirkpatrick, who has been the only significant U.S. grower of esrog citrons for religious use (under rabbinical supervision) for more than 30 years. The growing and marketing of this fruit for the Orthodox Jewish community is fascinating and extremely demanding. (You’d think it would be even more difficult for someone who isn’t Jewish, but John, a Presbyterian, is extremely knowledgeable about Jewish agricultural law and religious stipulations.)

The esrog and lulav (a palm branch bound with myrtle and willow branches) are used in the central prayer of the Jewish harvest festival

Every year before Sukkos, John and his wife Shirley send me an esrog for the holiday. It’s always such a special event for me to open the box and smell the heavenly fragrance of the fruit — and to hold it in my hand for the Sukkos prayer.

The box with the Temoni esrog arrives in the mail

This year it was especially thrilling to receive the box pictured above. John wrote that it is a Temoni esrog, originally from Yemen. The Yemenite refugees who came to Israel on Operation Magic Carpet in 1949 and 1950 brought this type of esrog with them, he wrote.

I recently wrote an article for Tablet Magazine about what you could do with your esrog after the holiday — such as make a liqueur or a marmalade. Traditionally, once the holiday was over and the esrog was no longer sacred, women used it in a variety of ways, many of which purported to influence or ease pregnancy and birth.

Another interesting thing is that the white cushion-y fiber under the skin — the albedo or pith — of the citron is very thick and can be sweet rather than bitter as it often is with the lemon. John writes that the albedo of the Temoni variety is the nearest of all to being sweet — so I will be sure to try it!

Why Do Most Lemons Have Seeds, While Most Limes Do Not?

Lemons and limes are both citrus fruits, and their juice and zest are often used interchangeably in recipes. So why do lemons (and most fruits) have seeds while limes don’t?

The majority of limes sold in the U.S. are Persian limes (Citrus latifolia). While often thought to be its own species, the Los Angeles Times says this fruit is “a natural hybrid of true lime and citron.” Also called Tahiti or Bearss limes, these limes are parthenocarpic, meaning they’re produced without fertilization and are thus seedless. On the other hand, true limes (Citrus aurantifolia, but known commonly as Mexican, Key, or West Indian limes) do have seeds. Because Persian limes are bigger, have a thicker skin, and are more resistant to diseases than true limes, Persian limes have a longer shelf life. But where do they come from if they don’t have seeds?

Speaking to Scientific American, two biologists at Brookhaven National Laboratory explain that normal fruit starts to develop when a flower’s egg cell is fertilized by pollen. Parthenocarpic fruit, in contrast, develops without fertilization. Fruit can be parthenocarpic for a variety of reasons, such as problems with the eggs or sperm, problems with pollination, or chromosomal imbalances.

Seedless or “large-fruited” limes have three sets of chromosomes rather than two. While some parthenocarpic fruits occur naturally, this genetic abnormality makes wild reproduction extremely rare for Persian limes. To overcome this, farmers use a technique called grafting, where part of a seedless lime tree is removed and inserted into a new tree. This essentially clones the original tree, ensuring that more seedless limes will be produced. (Farmers can also use grafting to fix fruit trees that have been injured.) Grafting allows farmers to produce seedless fruits on a commercial scale.

While most limes you see in the supermarket are probably seedless, some varieties of lime do indeed have seeds. And although most lemons have seeds, some lemons are actually seedless. You may find an occasional seed even in “seedless” lemons due to cross-pollination if the lemons were grown near other fruits. Lemons without seeds are more difficult to find in grocery stores than regular ones, just as limes with seeds are harder to find in stores than their seedless counterparts.

A yellow lemon is illuminated by green light. What color does the lemon appear?

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Amber Eureka lemon

Citrus limon L. Burm.f.

CRC 2429

PI 539316

Photos by Toni Siebert and David Karp, CVC. Photo rights.

Source: Received as budwood from Detweiler grove, Alta Loma, Ca, 1932.

Parentage/origins: Buds from A.D. Shamel, No. 12005. Apparently entire tree in 20 year old Eureka orchard yields this type of fruit.

Rootstocks of accession: Yuma Ponderosa lemon

Season of ripeness at Riverside: Crop well distributed throughout year, but mainly in late winter, spring, and early summer.

Notes and observations:

1986, EMN: Flesh and juice amber or orange colored, flowers white, mild taste.

12/04/1987, EMN: One fruit only. Flesh color more orange than amber. Color is strikingly different from ordinary lemons.

11/11/1988, EMN: Good crop this year. Trees appear typically lemon. Fruits appear fairly typically lemon though may be slightly fatter and less elongate. Orangish flesh is considerably less sour than normal lemons. Should try for lemonade later in season.

1/20/1989, EMN: Definitely less acid than ordinary lemons, but not sweet enough for lemonade without sugar. Anyway, this would probably make weird colored lemonade- is the world ready for this yet?

1/20/2009, TJS: Flesh color is a light to medium orange, flavor is definitely sub-acid. I think it has a pleasant flavor, and flavorists enjoy the intermediate acid flavor of this lemon too. Flowers are white. Shape is like a fat lemon with sweet orange-like rind texture. When selecting fruit from this tree, usually half of what you pick is completely granulated. So far, there is no way to know from the external appearance of the fruit if the inside will be granulated or not.

4/1/2016, TJS: Update–Claire Federici noticed that this tree now has branches that have reverted back to a standard Eureka type lemon. Is Amber another lemon in the collection that has chimeras (see Faris lemon)? Note photographs below. Tree now has both flowers that are all white and some that are purple on the outside. Fruits on the branches with purple flowers have yellow flesh and are sour like a standard lemon (fruit on the left). Fruits on the branches with white flowers have orange flesh and are sub-acid (fruit on the right). More to follow.

Availability: Not commercially available in California.

USDA Germplasm Resources Information Network page for Amber Eureka lemon

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