What Is a Meyer Lemon?

Sliced Lemon on Table Top

A Meyer lemon is a citrus fruit that resembles a cross between a lemon and a mandarin orange. This type of lemon has a thin yellow-orange peel and a distinctly sweet flavor instead of the tangy-sour taste of standard lemons. Because of this, Meyer lemons are perfect for baked goods and savory recipes that could use some brightening.

The fruit was originally used as a decorative house plant in China and was introduced in the United States by Frank N. Meyer, an agricultural explorer for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in the early 1900s. It gained popularity nationwide after culinary icons like Martha Stewart and Alice Waters featured the fruit in many of their recipes. Part of their allure is that they are seasonal and can’t be located at just any grocery store year-round.

Meyer Lemon vs Lemon

Meyer Lemons next to Regular Lemons

The difference between lemons and Meyer lemons comes down to their flavor, coloring, and size. A Meyer lemon is sweeter than a standard lemon with a hint of orange flavor. In fact, it is 1.3 times less acidic than Eureka or Lisbon varieties. It is darker in color, the rind holding more of an orange hue than its bright yellow counterpart. Eureka and Lisbon lemons are oblong and tend to be larger than Meyer lemons, which are typically smaller and rounder in shape. The rind of a Meyer lemon is also much thinner and more delicate than that of a standard lemon, making it edible and easier to peel.

What Do Meyer Lemons Taste Like?

Meyer lemons are sweet and floral instead of acidic like a standard lemon. Its flavor is often described as a sour lemon mixed with orange juice. The thin rind is edible and holds a citrus and bergamot tang with none of the bitterness of a traditional lemon rind.

How Big Are Meyer Lemons?

Meyer lemons tend to be 2 to 3 inches (5 to 8 centimeters) in diameter and are round in shape. For comparison, a regular lemon is longer than it is wider and can reach 3 to 5 inches (8 to 12 centimeters) in length.

How Much Juice Is in a Meyer Lemon?

There are approximately 2 to 3 Tablespoons of citrus juice in a Meyer lemon if you were to press it with a juicer. You would need 5 1/2 to 6 Meyer lemons to fill a cup with fresh juice. A standard lemon produces 3 to 4 Tablespoons of juice, usually requiring just 5 to 5 1/4 lemons to fill a cup.

Lemons on a Blue Table

When Are Meyer Lemons in Season?

Meyer lemon season is usually only from winter to early spring in the United States, unlike standard lemons that are available year-round. Because this delicate fruit is only in season from December to May, its price is usually higher than that of Eureka or Lisbon lemons. Outside of that timeframe, they can often be grown in the warmer climates of Florida, California, and Texas, but their thin rinds make them hard to ship nationwide.

How to Use Meyer Lemons

Meyer lemons are great for adding brightness to both savory and sweet recipes. You can use the juice, flesh, and rind, making this a very versatile fruit for culinary creations. If you’re adding the rind to your recipes, be sure to wash the fruit properly before adding it to the dish.

Recipes with Meyer Lemons

Here are just some of the Meyer lemon recipes you can try.

  • Use the juice of a Meyer lemon on grilled fish to complement the briny flavor.
  • Brighten a Panzanella salad with a squirt of Meyer lemon juice.
  • Press Meyer lemons for fresh squeezed lemonade to showcase its natural sweetness.
  • Grate some of the zest of a Meyer lemon to add a tangy zing to pasta sauce.
  • Add the juice or zest into dessert recipes, like lemon bars and lemon meringue, to balance the lemony tartness.
  • Boil the rind with sugar and cream of tartar to make candied Meyer lemon peels.
  • Prepare Meyer lemon sorbet with an ice cream maker for a delicious frozen dessert.
  • Create memorable signature cocktails, like lemon drops and sidecars, by swapping out the lemon juice and zest for that of a Meyer lemon.
  • Make a delicious breakfast spread by turning Meyer lemons into a flavorful compote or marmalade.

Meyer Lemon FAQs

We explored some of the most common Meyer lemon questions below:

Lemons on a Tree

Can I Substitute Regular Lemons for Meyer Lemons?

Yes, if you are not able to access Meyer lemons, you can use regular lemons in their place along with some juice of an orange to add the missing sweetness. Replace Meyer lemon juice with half lemon juice and half tangerine juice. The same ratio can be used for swapping out Meyer lemon zest with the zest of a regular lemon and the zest of an orange.

Where to Buy Meyer Lemons

You can find Meyer lemons in some specialty grocery stores and organic markets primarily from December through May. They are more easily found in stores in citrus-growing regions, like Florida, California, and Texas. Because of their thin rinds, Meyer lemons are difficult to transport to nationwide markets outside of their growing season.

How to Store Meyer Lemons

Meyer lemons are notoriously delicate, so you’ll want to take extra care when storing this fruit. You can keep Meyer lemons stored at room temperature out of direct sunlight if you’re planning to use them within the week of receiving them. To prolong their lifespan, you can place them in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for approximately 2 to 3 weeks. The juice can also be frozen for use at a later date.

Impress your guests by using Meyer lemons to add a whimsical twist to your specialty recipes. Whether you're updating your bar's cocktail menu or baking delicious desserts for your cafe, Meyer lemons can be the sweet and tangy addition to take your creations to the next level.

Posted in: Kitchen & Cooking Tips|Menu Tips|By Janine Jones
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