Lemon is, arguably, one of the nation's favourite cooling, summer flavours. It’s certainly one of mine.
As a country, we add lemon juice to our salad dressings, squeeze a wedge over our fish suppers and we like a slice of lemon in our water (or to garnish a summer cocktail!) as it improves the taste and helps us with our digestion.
Lemon drizzle cake is one of the UK’s favourite cakes, while lemon juice and sugar are one of the most popular pancake toppings.
However, lemons aren’t a native species in the United Kingdom, so when did this fruit become such an everyday part of our diet?
The first ancestors of lemons (and their orange cousins) likely originated in Australia or New Guinea around 30,000 BC. The lemon’s distant cousin, citron, found its way to Europe, via Southern Italy, around 2 AD spreading throughout the Mediterranean and Arab worlds between 1000-1150 AD.
Lemons used to be so rare that royalty would gift them to each other. In Ancient Rome, they were a symbol of status and wealth.
It wasn’t until 1494 when lemons, as we know them now, were cultivated and regularly shipped to England.
Now, the UK is one of Europe’s largest import markets for lemons. In 2018, 120,000 tonnes of lemons were brought into the country.
We do love our lemons, and not just because a slice of lemon goes really well in a cup of Lapsang Souchong. The entire fruit is good for you.
Packed full of vitamin C, one lemon can supply 51% of our recommended daily intake of this immune-boosting vitamin. The citric acid in lemons help your body absorb iron, while the soluble fibre in them can help with your digestive health. Lemons are reputed to help prevent kidney stones, support weight loss, freshen breath, improve cardiovascular health and even improve our complexion. As an antioxidant, they may help reduce our risk of cancer.
Interestingly, lemons are rarely eaten on their own (unless you’re my teenage daughter!), they are usually combined with other ingredients. Lemon juice is just as effective as salt at enhancing the flavours in a dish.
Tips for using lemons
-Squeeze fresh lemon juice over sliced apples and avocados to prevent them from browning in your salads.
-To store lemons, keep them on the countertop for up to a week or in your vegetable crisper in the fridge for up to two weeks.
-Unwaxed lemons are good for zesting, slicing and garnishing, while waxed lemons are better for juicing.
-When buying lemons, choose fruits which are heavy for their size as they’ll have plenty of juice. Smooth-skinned lemons have more juice, if that’s what you’re needing for your recipe, while knobbly-skinned lemons will yield more zest.
Lemon, with its sour, eye-twitching acidity, is refreshing. It makes us feel cooler on those hot, summer’s days.
On that note, here’s a simple recipe for cloudy lemonade for you to enjoy.
Cloudy Lemonade Recipe
- 2 whole unwaxed lemons
- 500 grams cold water
- 100 grams sugar
- Ice cubes, to serve
- Cut the lemons into quarters and place into a blender along with the sugar and water.
- Pulse for approximately 10 seconds. You don’t want to puree the lemons; you just want them chopped into small pieces.
- Leave the mixture to infuse for 5-10 minutes before straining through a fine mesh sieve.
- Serve over ice.
Note: this lemonade recipe makes rather lovely ice lollies too – simply pour into a plastic ice lolly mould and freeze. Add chopped fresh fruit such as strawberries, blueberries or cherries before freezing, if desired.
Tip: add fresh sprigs of mint and sliced fresh lemons to the lemonade before serving for extra flavour.
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