How are Meyer lemons different from regular lemons? Why should you buy Meyer lemons? What do they taste like? Yes, it’s time for a Meyer lemon ingredient spotlight! We are well into citrus season and it’s time to stop passing by Meyer lemons and bring some home with you.
For years I would go right past the Meyer lemons in the supermarket since I had no idea how to use them! And then other times I would buy a bunch, only for them to languish in my fridge since I didn’t know how to use them. 🙂 Since ignoring them was silly, and especially silly when I had actually bought them, in recent years I have made the effort to find out what sorts of recipes people use them in and to try these ideas for myself so that I could have a few surefire recipes in my pocket.
I’ve posted a few of those recipes recently (links are at the bottom of the post) and I have a great muffin recipe coming soon! With blueberries and ricotta! So good! I’m eating one right now. 🙂 Unfortunately, you are going to have to wait, since I haven’t written it up yet. Soon though! While you wait for the muffin recipe, let’s talk about Meyer lemons and what they’re all about.
What are Meyer Lemons?
Meyer lemons are members of the citrus family and are related to both lemons and oranges. The fruit is deep yellow to orange in color, rounder than a true lemon, quite juicy, and with a thin, fragrant skin. You can see from the photos here that the skin is quite smooth and has much less pith than regular lemons. I find that I can get anywhere from 2-3 tablespoons of juice from one Meyer lemon.
Meyer lemon trees are small, do well grown in pots, and are often used as ornamental plantings, especially in China. It wasn’t until the 1990s that Meyer lemons became popular for more than their looks and began showing up in recipes, thanks in large part to Martha Stewart and Alice Waters.
Where do Meyer Lemons come from?
Meyer lemons are thought to be a cross between a regular lemon and a mandarin orange.
Meyer lemons originated in China and were grown there for some time (though I wasn’t able to determine any specifics) before a cutting was sent to the US in 1908 by Frank Meyer, who was on an agricultural exploration trip to China. It spent the next 40 years here as a popular ornamental, until the spread of a citrus virus required most of them to be destroyed. Luckily one group of Meyer lemon trees was free of the disease. A little selective breeding later and by the 1970s we had the modern Meyer lemon
What do Meyer Lemons taste like?
While Meyer lemons do have a tang to them, they are much more mild than regular lemons. Instead they are fairly sweet (as lemons go) and subtle in their flavor. I find it best to use them in dishes where their flavor won’t be overpowered by other strong flavors.
However, the real amazing part of Meyer lemons is the rind! It’s floral and herbal and complex. Always use the rind/zest when you are adding Meyer lemons to a recipe.
Can you substitute Meyer lemons for regular lemons? Yes and no. They are fairly similar, so you can use them in the same sorts of recipes. However, don’t expect the flavor to be the same even if you adjust for higher (or lower) acidity. Some recipes are best with the bright flavor of regular lemons shining through and others need the subtle, floral flavor of Meyer lemons.
What is the nutritional info on Meyer Lemons?
Meyer lemons are very similar to regular lemons in their nutritional profile and, as such, they are an excellent source of vitamin C while being very low in calories! One Meyer lemon provides about 50% of the vitamin C you need in a day. As with other citrus, Meyer lemons contain limonin, a compound which has anti cancer and anti cholesterol properties. Lemons are also a great source of flavonoids such as hesperidin and eriocitrin. Hesperidin is associated with strong bones and lower blood lipid levels, and eriocitrin may help protect your liver from oxidation.
How do you cook Meyer Lemons?
Now that I’ve told you how they taste and all the good compounds you can find in them, I think it’s time to share a few recipes!
- 100 Things to do with a Meyer Lemon – the list links to a few recipes but mostly it here to spark your imagination with all the ideas!
- Preserved Meyer Lemons – make preserved lemons with a twist
- Chez Panisse Meyer Lemon Meringue Pie – a 1987 recipe for Meyer lemons from Alice Waters, who had Meyer lemons before anyone else
- Meyer Lemon Relish – another Alice Waters recipe
- Greek Lemon Soup – a great savory recipe!
- Meyer Lemon Buttermilk Pie – for when you are ready to make a pie
And here are my Meyer lemon recipes: