Meyer Lemons

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Meyer lemons are a natural cross between a citron and a mandarin/pomelo (or some would say sweet orange, depending on the source). The Meyer lemon was named after Frank Meyer, a USDA employee that brought the plant back after a trip to China in 1908.  Meyer lemons have a similar lemony taste to true lemons, but are less acidic and leans more on the sweet side. Meyer lemons were a hit in the United States until the 1940s when it was discovered that they were immune carriers of the Citrus tristeza virus, a virus that affects citrus plants. Almost all of the Meyer lemon trees in the United States were then destroyed due to this finding. It wasn’t until 1975 when the University of California released the “Improved Meyer Lemon”, a strain that couldn’t host the virus, did Meyer lemons come back into production.

  • Kingdom: Plantae
  • Order: Sapindales
  • Family: Rutaceae
  • Genus: Citrus
  • Species: C. x meyeri
  • Binomial name: Citrus x meyeri
  • Add: Citrus x meyeri “improved”

Meyer Lemon Trivia

  • The Meyer lemon was the “Typhoid Mary” of lemons, it was an asymptomatic carrier of the Citrus Tristeza Virus which killed off thousands of citrus plants.
  • Meyer lemons are not “True Lemons”.
  • Meyer lemons bounced back into the limelight after Martha Stewart started featuring the fruit in some of her recipes.

Meyer Lemon Buying Guide

When buying Meyer Lemons, choose fruits that have smooth skin and an even coloration throughout. The color should be rich and even yellow without any hints or shades of green left. Since Meyer lemons are more fragile than true lemons, be sure to carefully check each one for bruising and discoloration.

Be sure to purchase just enough Meyer lemons that you can use as their shelf life is much shorter than that of other true lemons.

Meyer Lemon Production & Farming in Texas

First the good news. Since it’s illegal to bring any citrus fruits INTO Texas, unless it’s from certified sources, most of the Meyer Lemons you’ll find in-store will be locally sourced.

Most of the Meyer Lemon production in Texas is located in the southern part of the State where the climate is suitable for commercial production. Meyer lemons are also known as the “Valley Lemon” because they are known to be primarily grown in the Rio Grande Valley Region.

Due to Meyer lemons being hardier than other citrus plants when it comes to cold, they have been known to be grown by some small producers even outside of the Rio Grande Valley region and these growers supply to local markets and Farmers’ markets. They are also quite popular with home growers who aren’t afraid to expend a little more effort to have their own home-grown fruits.

Pesticides:

While Meyer Lemons, or most citrus plants for that matter, are somewhere between the “Clean” and the “Dirty” lists. Pesticide residue is commonly detected on the surface of Meyer Lemons and other citrus fruits, but they usually fall in the “acceptable” levels as mandated by the EPA.

In a perfect world, there would be zero pesticide residues on all fruit and vegetables that we consume, but if there isn’t an organic choice, commercially grown Meyer lemons are a relatively safe fruit option. Of course, if there are organically grown Meyer lemons available, that should be your first choice.

Additional Information: Contaminants have been detected on a variety of citrus fruits, both organic and commercially grown. These contaminants include Salmonella and E. Coli, so be sure to give your Meyer Lemons a good wash before slicing into them.

Geography:

The Meyer lemon is rated to grow at USDA Hardiness zones 8-11.

Meyer lemon plants are pretty compact and can be grown inside containers. They can grow up to five feet tall and they can be easily moved indoors during colder months, making them perfect for areas outside of the Rio Grande Valley region. For outdoor planting, the Meyer lemon can reach up to 12 feet tall, so make sure to give it a lot of room to grow.

Meyer lemons require at least 8 to 12 hours of sunlight per day for it to reach its maximum potential. If growing in a container, professional grow lights are recommended when they are indoors.

The soil needs to have a pH level between 5.5 and 6.5 and the soil should be well-drained to avoid rot. Initially, the soil should be kept moist at all times but avoid making the soil soggy. Once the roots have been established, it can go for a while between watering.

Packaging:

Meyer lemons are less hardy than other citrus fruit so they are not packed in bulk cartons. Due to their thinner skin and pith, they are usually packed in trays of 8 or 12 with extra protection for them to reach stores undamaged. Meyer lemons are also packed in PE stand up pouches to protect the exterior while being on display.

Eating Meyer Lemons

Even the Meyer lemon is a lot sweeter than true lemons, it is still too acidic to be enjoyed as a whole fruit.

Storage:

Meyer lemons should be stored in cool, dark places, in a single layer. When stored properly, they can last up to two weeks. Refrigerating Meyer lemons should be a last resort as they have thinner skins and they tend of desiccate and dry out faster in the fridge.

Different sources have different opinions if storing whole Meyer lemons is a good idea. Some say that it’s okay to freeze them whole, others say no. They all agree on one thing though, and that is if you want to freeze Meyer lemons, it’s best to freeze them in their juice form. Just squeeze the juice from the fruit, and place them in a freezer-safe container and they should last for a few months.

Tip: Add the zest of the Meyer lemon to the juice if you’re freezing them for an extra burst of flavor.

Cooking:

Meyer lemons can be used in any recipe that calls for true lemons. Since their profile is similar, and they’re a lot sweeter than regular lemons, a lot of folks prefer to use Meyer lemons in their recipes as it reduces the need for added sugar.

Meyer lemons make for excellent candied peel due to their sweetness. Just take care when zesting them as the skin is quite delicate.

Meyer lemons also make excellent chutney for a year-round condiment that goes great with chicken dishes, salmon, or pork.

Meyer lemon marmalades are also a lot easier to make than regular lemons as their pith is not as bitter.

For lemonade/juice preparations, start with a standard lemon recipe and reduce the added sugar by one half and adjust from there.

Nutrition:

When life gives you lemons…

  • Carbs
    • The carbs in Meyer lemons are equal parts of natural sugars and dietary fiber.
    • Meyer lemons are naturally sweeter than true lemons, so it is a healthier choice due to it needing less added sugars to make it palatable.
  • Fiber
    • The Meyer lemon is not a good source of dietary fiber as a 100g serving only provides roughly 5%-7% of the RDI.
  • Vitamins and minerals:
    • Meyer lemons, as with any other citrus fruit is an excellent source of Vitamin C with 100g of juice providing up to three-fourths of the RDI.
      • Vitamin C is an excellent antioxidant that helps protect against viral infections and promotes skin health, as well as cell regeneration.

When Are Meyer Lemons in Season in Texas?

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  • January
  • February
  • March
  • November
  • December

One of the most salient benefits to eating seasonally is that you are effectively reducing your carbon footprint and supporting a more geographically sustainable food economy. We are rarely encouraged to think about the physical lengths our food travels before arriving on the market shelves. And all of this travel comes with a hefty environmental cost that is concealed from the consumer’s eye. Check other fruit and veg that’s in season in Texas.

Buy Local Farmfresh Meyer Lemons in Texas Directly from the Producer

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Be Spiced

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Froberg’s Farm and Country Store

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