An oval shaped, yellow citrus fruit with flesh that is generally contained in 8 to 10 segments. It has a bright yellow skin that can be thin and lightly textured or thick and heavier textured. When the lemon's flesh or juice is added to sweet and savory dishes, it provides a mildly tart, fresh flavor. The outer skin of the lemon, which is referred to as zest, contains a lot of flavor that can also be used to enhance the flavor of foods. Lemons have many uses in cooking and are very popular in European recipes. They are very high in vitamin C and low in calories. Lemons are also used as a health and beauty aid, and have many uses as a cleaning agent.

How to use: Lemons are rarely eaten raw but are used to flavor many sweet and savory dishes. They are used in sauces or as an accompaniment to fish and poultry. Sauces and foods containing lemon juice help in the digestion of fried foods. Lemons are also used in baked goods and desserts to provide a light, fresh flavor. They are also used as a garnish, in the form of a slice or wedge added to the plate. Lemon zest (the yellow part of the peel) is also often used to add flavor when cooking and baking.

Besides adding flavor, lemons are used for other purposes when preparing food. Their high content of vitamin C is the ascorbic acid needed to prevent the discoloring of the flesh of fruits and vegetables that oxidize quickly when exposed to the oxygen in the air. Lemon juice can be used to tenderize meat or it can be used as a substitution for vinegar in dressings. Lemon juice added to steamed vegetables will help them keep their bright colors and enhance their flavor. It can be added to beverages for a refreshing flavor.

The composition and properties of lemons also make them a natural health and beauty aid. They are used to fight infections and provide soothing relief for coughs, sore throats, and flu symptoms. Lemons and limes were used back in the 18th century on British Navy ships to prevent and treat scurvy among the sailors. Lemons can be used in home beauty treatments to rejuvenate the skin and is found in many commercial beauty products. Lemon juice is used to lighten sunspots on the skin and put highlights in hair. Lemon juice is also used as a cleaning agent. It acts as natural bleach for stains on fabrics and is used as a hand cleaner to remove odors from the skin. Lemons are a very versatile fruit with endless uses.

At their best: Lemons are available throughout the year.

How to buy: Select lemons that are bright yellow in color and have a shine to their skin. Choose those that are as thin-skinned as possible and heavy for their size, because they will produce the most juice. Avoid lemons that have any green tinged areas, which is an indication that the lemons are not fully ripe and will be more acidic. Also avoid dull pale colored lemons and those with blemishes, soft or hard spots and shriveled skin, which are all signs of over mature fruit. Over mature lemons lose their acidity and begin to dry, producing less juice.

Storage: Lemons can be stored at room temperature for approximately a week if kept out of the direct sunlight. If they are not going to be used within a week, store them in the refrigerator where they will stay fresh for 2 to 3 weeks. Leftover fresh squeezed juice can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Lemon juice and zest can be stored for longer period of time by freezing them. Place grated zest in an airtight freezer bag or container and store in the freezer. Freeze lemon juice in ice cube trays until solid and then place in airtight freezer bags or containers and store in the freezer.

Buddha's hand citron

Buddhashandcitron This fragrant fruit has hardly any flesh, but the peel can be candied.

Eureka Lemon

A knobby, thicker-skinned lemon than the Lisbon lemon. The Eureka lemon has a short neck at the stem end and contains a moderate amount of juice. This variety of lemon generally contains some seeds. The Eureka and Lisbon lemons are very similar in flavor, aroma and acidity.

Meyer Lemon

Lemon_meyer Meyer Lemon is a variety of lemon that is known for having a sweeter flavor, tasting mildly like a tangerine. It is often used as a seasoning for fish, providing a fresh aroma and a sweeter flavor than the standard lemon. This lemon is often used to season fish and seafood. When a Meyer lemon's flesh or juice is added to a dish, it adds a sweet and only slightly tart flavor. Meyer lemons are more difficult to find but as they increase in popularity they are becoming more available in specialty markets.

Smooth Lemon / Lisbon lemon

Smooth_lemon A smoother, thinner-skinned lemon than the Eureka lemon. The Lisbon lemon does not have a definite neck at the stem end but the blossom end tapers to a slight point. This variety of lemon is generally seedless and contains more juice than the thicker-skinned Eureka, but otherwise the two varieties are similar in flavor, aroma and acidity.