Lemons History and Culinary Uses

Fresh Lemons

The lemon is a treasured citrus fruit, used in many dishes to enrich the flavor of the dish, or simply to give them a touch of class.
The lemon originated in the Far East (India and China). It grew in the wild, was then imported to Europe by the Greeks who used it for ornamental purposes and for perfuming linen. Found in the digs in Pompeii, a house named the "Orchard House" (Casa Del Frutteto), with frescoes on the walls illustrating various plants including the lemon.
In the West, lemons spread throughout the year 1000, when the Arabs brought it to Sicily. The first real lemon cultivation was established in Genoa in 15th century. The discovery that lemon juice prevented scurvy caused large quantities of lemons to always be present on merchant vessels, which caused the spread of lemons in Northern Europe.  Lemons were purchased like hotcakes and paid in gold.
The lemon was later introduced to the Americas when Christopher Columbus brought lemon seeds to Hispaniola on his voyages. Spanish conquest throughout the New World helped spread lemon seeds. It was mainly used as an ornamental plant and for medicinal purposes.  In the 19th century, lemons were increasingly planted in Florida and California. Today the largest producer of lemons is Indian, then Mexico and Argentina. Italy is in the top ten ranking.  

The lemon is over 95% water, does not contain fats or alcohol. It is rich in potassium, vitamin C and foliate.
There is a variety of lemons used for various culinary purposes. The Eureka or Lisbon lemons grow year-round therefore are most abundant and easily found in all supermarkets. These lemons are most commonly used in recipes.  Coarse lemons, that are thick-skinned have less juice, therefore can be used to make lemon skin marmalade and sugar lemon strips.


Choosing lemons - Choose smooth-skinned lemons that are heavy for their size. The skin should have a fine grain and a bright yellow color. If there’s any streaks of green on the skin that usually means higher acidity. Avoid lemons that feel soft or spongy with skin that looks or feels wrinkled.
Lemon zest and rind gives flavor to cakes, cookies, scones, preparations of vegetables, salads, meat, fish or seafood.  Its skin, which is very aromatic, is often included as an ingredient to prepare many savory and sweet dishes, as long as only the yellow part is used and not the white which can be bitter and unpleasant.
Lemon juice is used as a marinade for dark meat or game because it can remove that classic wild flavor not everyone likes. It can be used to prevent some vegetables and fruits from oxidizing. Lemon juice is widely used in fruit salads, and to make lemonade, or flavor tea. Lemon juice is also used as a short-term preservative on certain foods that tend to oxidize and turn brown after being sliced, such as apples, pears, bananas and avocados.

Limoncello, made from Femminello,  St. Teresa, or Sorrento lemons is native to Italy. These lemons skins are used because of the high oil content. Limoncello is a time-honored drink of southern Italy:  a lemon liqueur usually served at the end of the meal. Today it can also be used in cooking desserts, preparing chicken or seafood dishes.

Chef Tips:   Buying Organic is always best. Substitute fresh lemons instead of vinegar or salt in recipes. When buying fresh lemons, store in refrigerator for less than a week. If not used over a week, place whole lemons in freezer bags and freeze. Always rinse lemons before using. If zesting, pat dry before use. Instead of bottled salad dressing, use fresh lemon and extra olive oil with dressing.

Recipes to use lemon zest: pie crust, cakes, cookies, cheesecakes, fruit pies, muffins, pasta dishes, risotto, soups, couscous, tabouleh, roasted vegetables, and marmalades.

Recipes to use lemon juice: in place of salad dressing, marinade for fish, chicken, or lamb, in tea, cocktails, in hummus, couscous, lemon tart, tagines, scaloppini, ceviche, Carpaccio, grilled fish and meats, yogurt sauces, fresh squeezed on grilled meats, fish or seafood.



No comments:

Post a Comment