Lemons are an amazing fruit: affordable, healthy, and hopefully core to your daily diet. They pack a power punch of nutrition, provide a recuperative flush after a night of indulgence, and add another dimension to your kitchen confidence in a many, many ways. The sex and wrinkles claim you ask? Yes, that was shameless.
I’ve read a number of interesting articles on the merits of lemons over the holidays and during one of the many December dinner parties here in Provence this question was raised: the orange or the lemon, where do your loyalties lie? For me it’s the mighty lemon, that palm-sized grenade of pure zing and zest. They are available fresh throughout the year, so good for you, never break the bank, and simple to work with.
And now to those merits …
To firm you up:
- Rich in vitamin C, a typical lemon provides 35-40% of the recommended daily allowance. And the peel of the lemon provides almost twice this amount! Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant and aids the body’s immune system; lemons are invaluable during cold and flu season. And that magic powerpeel is proven to be effective with brain disorders like Parkinson’s disease.
- Lemons are also rich in calcium and potassium (even more so than grapes or apples), and therefore excellent natural boosters for heart and bone health.
- Despite being acidic to taste, lemons actually work as an important alkaline in the body, which helps restore our pH balance. Why does that matter? These imbalances tend to bias toward acidic and that can lead to serious problems such as cardiovascular disease, complications from diabetes, and bone fragility.
- 22 anti-cancer compounds have been identified in lemons.
- A glass of lemonade in the morning is an effective detoxifier for the liver, essentially liquefying the bile (sounds lovely). That second shot of limoncello at midnight goes down a bit smoother knowing you’ll be getting an organ flush in the morning!
- Your morning glass also helps to keep the daily constitution regular in the bowels department. Fewer backups means cleaner plumbing and better health.
- The citric acid in lemon juice helps to dissolve gallstones, calcium deposits, and kidney stones and is even known to destroy intestinal worms, should you be so unfortunate!
- And 1 anecdote from my childhood: I remember getting bicarbonate of soda mixed with water and lemon juice from my mother as a kid when feeling nauseous. Worked like a charm!
To zest up your meals:
As a general rule when cooking, us the juice of lemons in recipes that don’t require it to heat for extended periods, as the juice’s flavor and nutritional compounds are suspended in water and evaporate away quickly. The peel, on the other hand, traps these elements in its oil glands and is much better suited for long simmering or baking.
- Protect poached fish by placing lemons slices underneath during the poaching process.
- Prevent sticky pasta by adding 2 teaspoons of juice to 4 quarts of boiling water.
- Dress mild greens with lemon juice (is less overpowering than vinegar).
- Perk up soups and salads by adding a taste of juice just before serving.
- Enhance side dishes like rice and vegetables with juice or zest before serving.
- Keep pesto green by adding 2 teaspoons of lemon juice to each cup of packed basil leaves.
- Brighten basting oil by adding 1 teaspoon of grated zest, 1 tablespoon of juice, and 1 teaspoon of minced herbs to ½ cup olive oil.
- Brighten brown butter sauce by adding 1 tablespoon of juice for every 4 tablespoons of butter.
- Substitute for wine in pan sauces by adding 1 teaspoon of juice and chicken broth for equal parts wine.
- Grill lemon halves and squeeze over finished poultry or fish.
These meal tips were summarized from a January/February 2015 article in Cooks Illustrated magazine, my favorite resource for all things kitchen and cooking.
You don’t need to live in Provence to enjoy fabulous lemons and they will keep in your refrigerator’s vegetable bin for a month. For the hard-charging interpreneur lemons are an indispensable resource for balance and fitness. Stock up now and share with us all how you put them to work.