The Meyer Lemon

Meyer lemons / Photo by E. A. Wright
Meyer lemons / Photo by E. A. Wright

Comparing a Meyer lemon to the lemons typically sold in supermarkets is a bit like comparing an apple to a bunch of oranges. Everything is different: the taste, the color, the shape — even the thickness of the skin.

Conventional grocery store lemons are typically a variety called the Eureka lemon. These lemons have thick, dimpled rinds, very tart juice and a distinctly pointed end. They taste the way most of us expect a lemon to taste: sour and acidic.

Meyer lemons are milder, sweeter, rounder and more fragile. While the tough, firm skins of the Eureka make it a good commercial fruit, a ripe Meyer lemon has a soft, thin rind. A Meyer lemon will split open after falling to the ground, and the lemons are easy to smush and crush.

As with anything rare and delicate, Meyer lemons are highly sought after. They are worth effort of finding — not for their cachet, but for their their unique flavor.

Meyer lemons in the California winter / Photo by E. A. Wright
Meyer lemons in the California winter / Photo by E. A. Wright
Meyer lemons have a softer skin and more spherical shape than conventional lemons / Photo by E. A. Wright
Meyer lemons have a softer skin and more spherical shape than conventional lemons / Photo by E. A. Wright
Meyer lemon trees will produce fruit throughout the year / Photo by E. A. Wright
Meyer lemon trees will produce fruit throughout the year / Photo by E. A. Wright
Conventional lemons only have this deep yellow color in afternoon light / Photo by E. A. Wright
Conventional lemons only have this deep yellow color in afternoon light / Photo by E. A. Wright

LEMON POLL

Which kind of lemon do you prefer?

  • Eureka
  • Meyer
  • Other
See results without voting

TASTE

It would be impossible to call a lemon sweet and have it still be a lemon, but the Meyer lemon comes close. Its sourness isn't overpowering. The juice tastes more like a mild stew of citrus blossoms than like a mixture made of liquid acid.

HISTORY

The Meyer lemon's American history began in 1908, when the first tree was brought here from China, according to the UC Riverside Citrus Variety Collection. A variety called the Improved Meyer Lemon was introduced half a century later after the original Meyer lemon was found to be spreading disease to other citrus plants.

AVAILABILITY

Meyer lemons are a common backyard tree in California, but they have traditionally been hard to find in many parts of the United States.

SEASONALITY

In parts of California, a Meyer lemon tree will produce lemons throughout the year. In cold weather areas, Meyer lemons can be grown in pots indoors, but with varying degrees of success.

BLOSSOMS

The buds of the Meyer lemon flower are a pink magenta color. The flowers open up as white blossoms and have a strong, sweet citrus scent. The blossoms are edible.

A flowering lemon tree is a major attraction for bees.

MEYER LEMONADE

For those who have grown up with conventional lemons and lemonade mixes, the juice of a fresh-squeezed Meyer lemon will have an unfamiliar flavor. While still sour, Meyer lemons have less acidic bite to them than conventional lemons. Squeeze a dash of Meyer lemon juice into a glass of ice water, and the sugar is almost optional.

ZEST

The soft, thin skin of the Meyer lemon makes it difficult to grate with a lemon zester. Compared with a conventional lemon, Meyer lemon zest will be juicier and pulpier.

COOKING WITH MEYER LEMONS

The possibilities for using Meyer lemons are endless, but here are a few ways to put this mild citrus to good use:

  • Squeeze a bit of lemon juice into strawberry sorbet for added punch
  • Pour lemon juice over a fruit salad of to keep apples and pears from browning
  • Mix lemon juice with powdered sugar to make cookie frosting
  • Use lemon juice to flavor green beans
  • Toss a salad in lemon juice and fresh herbs
  • Grate lemon zest into pie dough, biscuits or cookies

LEMONY RECIPES

If you need even more ideas, have at a look at these suggestions for cooking with Meyer lemons from the Los Angeles Times:

MEYER LEMONS VS. CONVENTIONAL LEMONS

 
Meyer
Conventional
Shape
more spherical
teardrop shaped
Color
deep yellow to orange
bright, cool yellow
Texture
smooth
dimpled
Sheen
matte
waxier
Skin thickness
thin and soft
thick and tough
Taste
sweeter, less acidic
very tart
Shelf life
not good
good
Seeds
full of seeds
fewer seeds



NOTE: All writing, photography, research and taste testing for this article was done by E. A. Wright.


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Comments 2 comments

crystolite profile image

crystolite 5 years ago from Houston TX

Wow,attractive lemons in here that really made me to salivate.


NMLady profile image

NMLady 3 years ago from New Mexico & Arizona

We have a Meyer Lemon tree. It is a very lovely flavored lemon. This is linked to my Lemon Preserving web. This is a good article!

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