In recent installments of this series, we’ve talked quite a bit about eating seasonal fruits and veggies. Citrus fruits can provide key nutrients in wintertime, and you might be surprised to find how many options are in-season, including grapefruit, oranges and lemons. With the tips we’ll share here, the next time life gives you lemons, you’ll be able to make more than just lemonade.
Lemons are well-known as a source of vitamin C, and they also provide good doses of potassium, magnesium and copper. They are incredibly flexible in cooking, as sweet and savory foods alike can benefit from their bright and slightly sweet tone.
If you’re trying to cut back on salt intake, adding lemon juice is an excellent way to to bring out flavor. It can be followed with just a tiny pinch of salt, or the salt can be left out completely. In fact, a lemon wedge can kick most any meal up a notch.
This is especially helpful if you’ve meal-prepped for the week, and end up with a bland or under-seasoned dish. A little squeeze of lemon juice and a drizzle of Sriracha can quickly help repair a meal. When even stronger flavor is desired, remember that the fruit’s essential oils are found in the peel, so adding a bit of lemon zest can do the trick.
Lemons contain citric acid, which lends them their tart flavor. It is versatile and useful, and works especially well as a preservative, as it can slow the process of mold and bacteria growth while maintaining flavor. Similarly, the aforementioned vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, can help prevent food from discoloring or browning (oxidizing).
Think avocados, sliced apples or fruit salad – while technically still good when first oxidized, they look a lot less appetizing. Squeeze a bit of lemon juice over your cut fruit or avocado slices, and they’ll stay fresh-looking and brightly colored longer.
Lemons have a great number of uses outside the kitchen, too. Next time you grocery shop (or visit a friend with a lemon tree) grab a few extras to explore the possibilities. Here are a few recommendations.
The essential oil in lemon peels is a powerful disinfectant – great for countertops, yoga mats and more. To make a batch, first fill a reusable spray bottle with the peel of one lemon (use a vegetable peeler to remove the skin, leaving the rest of the lemon for other purposes). Then top off the bottle with equal parts water and distilled white vinegar. Allow the mixture to sit for a day to infuse well before using it. Allow the mixture to sit for a day to infuse well, then remove the peel and strain the liquid before using it.
Cutting Board Cleaner
Wooden cutting boards can stain easily, but this cleaning method can remove stains and kill bacteria: Cut a lemon in half. Pour coarse sea salt on the cutting board (it will serve as a kind of pumice), and then use the cut lemon to scrub away stains and stubborn bits of food. Rinse, and you’ll be left with a bright, clean cutting board and a nice fresh scent.
You can use lemon, applied to clean and dry underarms, as a natural deodorant. The acidic properties mentioned above can keep odor-causing bacteria at bay. Just be aware, that same acidity can cause sensitivities in some people, and definitely do not apply lemon juice to freshly-shaved skin (it will burn).
Vitality Booster Drink
I like to consume this cleansing beverage in the morning, upon waking or at least one hour before breakfast. The vitamins, minerals and antioxidants in lemons provide a host of health benefits. The fruit’s naturally occurring compounds can help lift energy levels and improve skin’s appearance, and may also boost your immune system during cold and flu season.
- 16 ounces filtered water
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- Dash of cayenne
- 1 teaspoon raw honey (optional)
Mix well and drink immediately. Can be enjoyed warm or cold.