Ingredient of the Month: Lemons

(Photo: Lemons by Troy Tolley/Flickr Creative Commons)

(Photo: Lemons by Troy Tolley/Flickr Creative Commons)

Winter is the season for citrus—and thank Goodness for that. In the months of root vegetables, citrus brightens up the produce stand and our cooking. Citrus fruits are known for being chock-full of Vitamin C, an important antioxidant. They are often noted for their tartness—especially the lemon.

This need not be so—lemons can not only look like sunshine, but taste like it too. I recommend Meyer lemons, good for all of your cooking and baking needs. Meyer lemons are sweeter than the average lemon, but still have a pleasant tartness, and are distinctly perfumed: sort of floral and sweet, but tangy (not like some out of season lemons of non-Meyer varieties, which sometimes taste like cleaning products). They are easier to juice and are spectacular in lemonade—really, in any recipe that showcases lemons and their natural tartness.

Lemons are super versatile in the kitchen. Slice them thin and put them on salmon fillets or on chicken thighs before baking. The juice makes a great replacement for vinegar in many salad dressings. The zest? It’s an attractive garnish. Lemons, as many of us know, go way beyond savory dishes—they are spectacular in pastries, marmalades, and other sweets. Lemon soufflés, cookies, cakes, and mousses. The list is very possibly endless.

Lemons, though available in various incarnations year round, are now in peak season. Ergo, for lemon lovers and fresh food aficionados alike, now is the time to buy them. When shopping, look out for brightly colored, firm, heavy lemons with a tight peel. Dull, spongy, or mushy tend to describe a lemon past its prime.

How do you feel about lemons—love ‘em or leave ‘em? Any favorite recipes? Tell us in the comments!

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