Meyer lemons have been grown in the United States since the early 1900s, but it wasn’t until the 1990s when their popularity really took off, thanks to chefs. Smaller and rounder than a regular lemon, Meyer lemons are thought to be a cross between lemons and mandarins. In their native country, China, bowls of Meyer lemons are used decoratively and while they are pretty to look at, their culinary value cannot be denied. Let’s learn a little more about Meyer lemons and how to use them.
What is a Meyer Lemon?
First, let’s talk about what makes a Meyer lemon different from the kind we usually use, which are Libson or Eureka. Both varieties have an oval shape and bright, yellow flesh, thick skin, and a tart, bitter flavor. These are the lemons that we typically squeeze over roasted vegetables or use in dishes that need a touch of sourness. It’s also the go-to lemon for zesting (just make sure you use organic).
Meyer lemons, by contrast, are smaller, smoother, and rounder with a bright, golden yellow flesh and thin skin. Their inside is also darker in color than regular lemons. Their gorgeous appearance has made them popular as decorative fruit in Chinese households and when placed side-by-side with everyday lemons, you’ll be able to spot them immediately.
In direct contrast to the flavor of Libson or Eureka lemons, Meyer lemons are sweeter — so sweet, that they can be eaten by the slice. Their peel is also edible and has been described as having a flavor that is similar to bergamot. Unlike regular lemons, Meyer lemons are not available all year round but are in season from December through May.
How to Use Meyer Lemons
For the most part, Meyer lemons are regular lemons can be used interchangeably, such as in dressings, desserts, and more. But before you swap them you might want to take a look at the other ingredients in the recipe. Some recipes might call for that sour tang you can get only from regular lemons, while with others, Meyer lemons can be seamlessly swapped in. When it comes to using the zest, you have less to worry about and can substitute without having to worry about throwing off the balance of flavors.
For example, the dressing in this Arugula Fennel Salad with Creamy Lemon Dressing calls for lemon zest and juice, but it also includes maple syrup, so if you substitute Meyer lemons for regular, you might want to leave out the maple syrup. In this Wholesome Winter Power Bowl, the only ingredients in the dressing are lemon juice and tahini, so you wouldn’t have to make any adjustments to the original recipe. Since Meyer lemon is so sweet, you could even substitute it for the tangerine juice in this recipe for Coconut Polenta With Roasted Root Veggies.
Because Meyer lemons are sweet, they can be sliced into wedges and added to salads.
This Pasta With Creamy Avocado-Cucumber Sauce is a great example of a sauce that calls for Meyer lemons. Cucumber, avocado, basil, garlic, and Meyer lemon juice are puréed into a sauce that is creamy, refreshing, and the right amount of sweet.
Be careful when using Meyer lemons in dessert, as most lemony desserts use the tart, citrus flavors of Libson and Eureka lemons to cut through the sweetness. Meyer lemon juice may not work in lemon drizzles, which are typically made from just lemon juice and powdered sugar, but they could easily work in raw desserts such as these Raw Lemon Meltaway Balls. It could also work with these unique, herby Cashew Sage Cookies With Lemon Drizzle, which are not very sweet to begin with. For the same reason, Meyer lemons work perfectly in these Meyer Lemon Coconut Cream Tarts With Mint and Lavender. In this Raspberry Lemon Layer Cake, Meyer lemons help to balance out the naturally tart flavor of raspberries.
If you get your hand on a bunch of Meyer lemons, you can also preserve them and add them to pasta dishes.
Look for Meyer lemons at your local grocery store between the months of December and May. If they’re not there, try checking your local farmer’s market, where your chances of finding them will likely be higher. If they can’t be found anywhere, then you can find fresh, organic Meyer lemons online, like these Fairview Orchards 100% Certified Organic Meyer Lemons. If you would rather just experience the flavor of Meyer lemons, try this Stash Tea Meyer Lemon Herbal Tea. One box of 20 tea bags costs about $6.50. One 5-pound box costs $30. Or unique products like this Sonoma Syrup Co. Meyer Lemon Simple Syrup, which is great for iced tea and other beverages.
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