Meyer Lemon

Meyer Lemon

Latin name: Citrus x meyeri
Uses: fruit

An explorer for the Department of Agriculture named Frank Meyer trekked across the interior of China in 1907 and noted the allure of a lemon-like fruit in a village just outside Beijing. Smooth and thin-skinned, round and juicy, just slightly sour and practically seedless, the xiang ning meng came to be known in the U.S. as the Meyer lemon. Like all citrus, it has grown in China for several hundred years. Some say it’s a cross between a lemon and an orange or mandarin; others say it’s a cross between a pomelo, mandarin, and citron. Look for peak ripeness when its rind is a deep orange-yellow, bright, and shiny, so that the fruit is juicy and at its most fragrant.

Why is meyer lemon healthy? 

Meyer lemons are excellent sources of vitamin C, an antioxidant that reduces inflammation, boosts the immune system, and stimulates collagen production within the skin. The fruit is also a good source of potassium, calcium, and magnesium. Additionally, Meyer lemons contain two specific bioflavonoids found to provide promising anti-tumor activities. These compounds are found in the Meyer lemon peel, so be sure to find a way to utilize the zest as well.  

What does meyer lemon taste like? 

Imagine a mandarin, sweet lime, and lemon all in one. Meyer lemon is prized for its sweetness and complex scent, like spicy-floral bergamot with a distinct herbal note of thyme.

Where does meyer lemon grow? 

Meyer lemons grow best in mild climates without severe winters. In the U.S., citrus-growing areas such as California, Texas, and Florida produce Meyer lemons, as do Mexico, India, Iran, and Turkey. 

How do I prepare meyer lemon and what do I pair it with? 

Use the juice for cocktails and lemonade, desserts, salad dressings, or squeezed over vegetables. Add raw segments to salads. Whole and salted, they make great preserved lemons. You can substitute Meyer lemons for regular lemons in a lot of recipes, but they are mildly sweet. The flavor goes well with nuts such as almond and hazelnut; olives; herbs such as mint, rosemary, and thyme; spices such as ginger and cardamom; stone fruit; berries; and vanilla. The zest makes an excellent (and aromatic, and healthy) addition anywhere you’re using the juice.

Surprising fact: 

Meyer lemon trees were banned or destroyed in the U.S. in the 1940s to prevent the spread of citrus viruses. Most Meyer lemons are now a hybrid: the “Improved” Meyer lemon, developed by the University of California, Riverside. In the 1970s, it was a signature ingredient at Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse, helping to revitalize the fruit’s reputation in California. Martha Stewart is credited for widely popularizing Meyers in dozens of recipes. 


Preserved Lemons

Red Rice with Lemon & Ginger