Originating from somewhere between the Malay Archipelago and the Indian subcontinent, lemons have travelled the entire globe over centuries to become the most adaptable citrus, whose secret power is to lift any meal. Lemons created themselves as a hybrid of the ancestral citrus varieties of the pomelo, mandarin and citron. Their slow evolution from that early bitter, thick-skinned fruit to the sour and juicy one we know today, can be geographically mapped from Asia, to the Middle East, then to Europe over 2,000 years. From Europe, lemons made their way to the New World as an ornamental, culinary and medicinal tree, whose properties we have been using ever since.
Nearly every part of the lemon is useful for cooking and for home remedies. The high concentration of vitamin C in lemons benefits our cardiovascular systems, skin andour eyes. The juice, the zest and even the leaves can all be used in cooking. All contain the compound citral, which is what we recognise as the lemony taste. This flavour pairs beautifully with broccoli, dill, ginger, juniper, goat cheese, chocolate, lavender, of course fish, but also beef. It is the flavour companion in the kitchen. As waste warriors, we also love lemon for the way it can refresh and rescue tired fruit and veg: try adding the juice of half a lemon to a litre of cold water to revive limp lettuce, celery or broccoli.
At Cornersmith we preserve all sorts of lemon varieties. Here are some of the things we do:
- The common Eureka lemon is hugely versatile with few seeds and lots of juice, but there are other varieties worth seeking out. Great for Indian lemon pickle and kids’ lemonade stalls.
- Myer lemons are a hybrid of a mandarin and Eureka and therefore have less acidity and thinner skin– we use them for marmalades and candied lemon peel.
- Lisbon lemons are similar to Eureka and are great for beverages such as lemon shrubs that do well with higher acidity.
- Our favourite lemons are the knobbly Bush Lemon. These are a naturalised variety that grows wild in sub-tropical areas. Bush lemons are traditionally used to make classic lemon butter and at Cornersmith we love to make preserved lemons from their thick fragrant skins.
There are so many lemon trees around Sydney. Instead of buying the shiny waxed variety at the supermarket, why don’t you approach neighbours who have a lemon tree and offer to trade a batch of homemade cordial or curd for some fruit.