Citrus season is getting underway on the Northern Rivers and the first good pick of lemons have arrived at the market.
You’ll find two main varieties- the Meyer, a rounder lemon thought to be a cross between a lemon and a mandarin or orange; and the more common Eureka, which is an oval shape and more acidic.
Numulgi citrus grower and New Brighton Farmers Market stallholder Jane Boniface, of Rancho Cordial, says both varieties have plenty of juice, but the Meyer is slightly sweeter. The Eureka has a thick rind with a strong lemony flavour that makes it better for zesting.
According to author of Your Food – Where Food Comes From and How it is Produced, Malcolm McGuire, it’s common practice for mass-produced citrus to be dipped in fungicide and sprayed with wax, so if you’re going to use the zest, it’s always a good idea to buy organic or ask your farmer whether sprays have been used.
Lemons are one of those fruits that should be a staple in your fridge or fruitbowl. They have so many uses – in sweets like cheesecake, lemon meringue pie and puddings, squeezed onto savoury foods like mushrooms, fish or avocado, in your salad dressings, in a batch of home made lemonade, or in an immune boosting lemon honey and ginger tea.
If you are using the juice of the lemon, always grate the zest as well, even if you’re not going to use it straight away. You can keep it in a freezer bag and use as you need.
Preserved lemons are delicious in African, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern style cooking, and they look so good in their glass jars you’ll want to keep them out on your kitchen bench rather than hide them in the pantry. Try this simple recipe from spice and dip producers Rob Cullinan and Duska Jefed of The Spice Palace:
• Scrub the lemon with a scourer to remove any dirt.
• Insert a knife right through the widest part of the lemon. Remove, then turn the lemon 90 degrees and insert again. You’ll now have four holes in the lemon and the ends will be intact.
• Scoop a heaped teaspoon of rock salt into each of the holes.
• Place lemons in a sterilised jar and fill with lemon juice and hot water. Leave for a minimum of five weeks. The longer you leave them the softer they will get. As they age, they lose their acidity and you will be left with a deliciously intense lemon flavour.