In my research, I was fascinated by the fact that Lemons and Limes come from the same family and have similarities in their benefits, both low in calories and hosts of Vitamin C, but have a different flavor with a distinctive taste, and originally were grown in two different continents. Limes, which originate in Southeast Asia, come in two varieties, sweet and sour. I read how they were first grown in Assam, northern Burma, now Myanmar, and China.
Lemons, known as Citrus limon, originate from limes, Citrus aurantifolia. They were originally developed as a two-step hybrid, first between the lime and the citron in India and Pakistan, and the second lime with pummelo in the Middle East, with the lime being significantly smaller than the lemon, with its bright green peel versus the bright yellow of the lemon.
According to the National Geographic, researchers have used the DNA of today’s citrus trees to trace them back to some time in the late Miocene epoch which means that wild citrus trees have been growing for around seven to eight million years. That’s pretty amazing!
It was in 1493 that Christopher Columbus took lemon seeds to Hispaniola, which is when the lemon was introduced to the Americas. The first substantial cultivation of lemons in Europe began in Genoa, Italy in the middle of the 15th century. And lemons have been grown in Florida since the 16th century, becoming a million dollar industry.
It was in 1747 that James Lind discovered that lemons and oranges wouldn’t just prevent scurvy, a disease that caused mouth hemorrhages, internal bleeding, and tooth decay, but cure it!
One of my favorite types of lemon is the Meyer lemon, a mix of citrus and meyeri, a hybrid fruit native to China, which is sweeter and rounder than the traditional lemon. Limes are in season from May to October, and lemons are best from May to August. I travel to Aldi’s for well-priced lemons or limes, but if I’m thinking of making lemon scones, as the Meyer lemon is much sweeter than a regular lemon, I’ll go to Trader Joe’s. The Meyer lemon ripens from November to March.
It was not until I moved to South Florida that I tried key lime pie for the very first time. Having always loved a mix of sweet and sour, the flavorful key lime pie became my preferred Miami dessert.
I had no idea how adding fresh lime juice to a ground turkey dish would elevate the flavor, adding a special zing to it! There are innumerous dishes in every style of cooking which use lemons or limes, from the juice to the zest, as a means to add that amazing citrus flavor.
I admit I was floored, just floored, when I read that you can create “invisible ink” with a mix of lemon juice, onion juice, milk and vinegar. If you write a message on a piece of paper and let it dry, it will not be seen, but under heat the acid in the lemon weakens the fibers of the paper, so it turns brown, in other words, legible!
And let’s not even think through the myriad of options of using lemon juice as a cleanser or as a skin softener. My maternal grandmother, as well as my mother, always kept a cut lemon near the sink on a little plate, so that after she finished washing the dishes or working in the yard, she would use the lemon on her hands to clean and soften them.
My grandmother also had the biggest lemon tree in her yard in Carrasco. The lemons were as big as my hands and they were delicious. Those were the only lemons that I actually bit into…yes, supremely tart, but delicious nonetheless.
So lemons can be used in so many options, from marinades to salad dressings, or to be the main ingredient in sweets, such as the cake shown below. This is what I call my ‘Naked Lemon Cake’, as it is not covered with frosting. In the mix I used fresh lemon juice, as well as lemon zest, and created a lemon cream, which I used between the layers and to decorate the cake. This cake was oozing lemony goodness throughout each bite!
Tune in soon for another segment of Lemons or Limes!