Preserved lemons are among those that remind us of a forgotten time when there is a need to preserve fruits and vegetables because these are not available all year long. Today, lemon is available any time of the year, but that does not mean that the art of making preserved lemons has been lost. While fresh lemons have their advantages, there will be times when preserved lemons are the better choice.
Preserved Lemon Trivia
- Preserved lemons are also called lemon pickles.
- Other names for preserved lemons are “country lemons” and “leems”.
- Ibn Jumay, a 12th-century Egyptian doctor, detailed the process of preserving lemons, a method which is very similar to the modern way of making preserved lemons.
Preserved Lemon Buying Guide
Preserved lemons are sold in groceries and supermarkets. You can find them in the canned and pickled section or aisle of the store. There are also small, local businesses that make and sell preserved lemons, available in farmers’ markets and other pop-up selling events.
When buying preserved lemons, check the ingredients, because there are preserved lemons that contain spices and you might not like them compared to plain preserved lemons.
When buying preserved lemons, check the brine. While it is not uncommon for the brine to turn cloudy or foggy or dusty, opt for a product that has a clearer brine that allows you to see the lemons inside (it also gives you peace of mind if you are not comfortable using preserved lemons with very dusty brine water). Despite being submerged in a brine, the lemons inside should retain their natural appearance, so beware if the lemon rind is showing unnatural discoloration, dark spots or marks, etc. If you see something else besides lemon inside, check the label. Many preserved lemons also contain herbs and spices. If you see something else inside other than lemons that is not on the list of ingredients, do not buy it.
Check the plastic safety seal and make sure it is intact. Check the bottle for any sign of damage or tampering.
Preserved Lemon Production & Farming in Texas
Making preserved lemons is easy. All you need is to put lemons in a brine of water, lemon juice, and salt. You can put whole lemons but it is best to use diced, quartered, or halved lemons. Let it ferment at room temperature for weeks or months.
Lemons are grown in Texas. Supply for making preserved lemons in Texas is available all year long. This is why there are several local small businesses all across Texas that make and sell preserved lemons. You can find them selling in farmers’ markets.
You can also buy preserved lemons in Texas groceries and supermarkets. Preserved lemons are sold in Central Market, an American gourmet grocery store chain owned by H-E-B Grocery Company based in San Antonio, Texas. This is also available at Walmart stores in Texas. You can also buy preserved lemons at Spice N More.
Make sure you clean your lemons thoroughly before making preserved lemons because lemons grown using pesticides may still have traces of pesticides on them even after they’ve been washed after harvest.
Lemon trees are vulnerable to being attacked by different kinds of pests, necessitating the use of different pesticides to ensure the growth and survival of lemons.
- Aphids – Kill aphids using neem oil, insecticidal soap, or horticultural oil. You can also use the pesticide malathion, which is the most commonly used organophosphate insecticide in the United States, or rotenone, a selective, non-specific insecticide typically used in home gardens for insect control.
- Leafminer – Use spinosad against leafminers.
- Mealybugs – You can use 70% isopropyl alcohol or apple cider vinegar to kill mealybugs. Bug sprays are also effective against this pest.
- Spider mites – To get rid of spider mites, use neem oil and apply it through foliar spraying. It contains azadirachtin which is effective against spider mites. You can also use horticultural oil (which also targets aphids and thrips). Pests die after exposure to horticultural oil due to suffocation since the oil blocks the spiracles through which insects breathe. Another effect of horticultural oils is disrupting the metabolism of insect eggs. Lastly, horticultural oils disrupt the insect’s ability to feed. As a result, the insect starves to death. Using pyrethrin spray is also an effective method against spider mites. Another option is spinosad, a mixture of two chemicals called spinosyn A and spinosyn D typically used to control a wide variety of pests.
- Whiteflies – Malathion or Pyrethrins are effective against whiteflies.
Preserved lemons originated in North Africa. Preserved lemons are now very common, especially in the Middle East, the Mediterranean, India, and North Africa.
Preserved lemons are sold in glass jars, although it is not uncommon to find preserved lemons in plastic jars as well.
Enjoying Preserved Lemons
The best part of preserved lemons is the peel. This is made of the zest and the pith. It has a salty, lemony tang, and a mildly tart flavor.
Preserved lemons kept in the refrigerator will keep for at least one year. When storing preserved lemons, always make sure to keep the bottle or jar closed with the lid shut tight. Make sure your preserved lemons are not stored where it is exposed to direct sunlight.
It is common practice to use the pulp of preserved lemons in stews and sauces. Preserved lemons are used in making Middle Eastern stews, Moroccan tagines, the Cambodian chicken soup ngam nguv, tomato fish curries, couscous with preserved lemons, vinaigrette, tomato salad, grain salads, salsas and dips, pasta dishes, or marinades. You can use it in making sauces for salmon or veal. The pulp and the liquid can be used in making the popular cocktail Bloody Mary.
Preserved lemons are great in food packed with ingredients that complement the taste, texture, and flavor of preserved lemons, like chicken, beef, lamb, veal, venison and mutton, seafood like shrimps, white fish like salmon, olives, eggplant, cauliflower, cucumber, kale, spinach, carrot, potato, artichoke, avocado, pomegranate, dried apricots, edamame, chickpea, capers, almonds, white bean, wheatberry, lentils, spelt, barley, fresh herbs, coriander, cilantro, mint, horseradish, garlic, red onion, goat’s curd, yogurt, labneh (Lebanese cream cheese), white vinegar, honey, and rice.
Preserved lemons offer vitamin C and potassium. Preserved lemons can help with improving immunity and skin health, protecting cells and blood vessels from damage and inflammation, stimulating brain and nerve function, helping control blood pressure and lower cholesterol, minimizing the risk of atherosclerosis, heart disease, and diabetes. The limonene in preserved lemons can help prevent the growth and spread of human colon and breast cancer cells.
Preserved lemons are used to cure stomach disorders. It is used for problems of the spleen in East African folk medicine.