It’s hard to beat lemons for versatility and usefulness. Not just useful for their juice—the zest contains lemon oil, which is where you’ll find the most flavour-bang for your buck.
This is especially handy in instances where you want to add flavour, but not additional liquid, from pie crusts to custards. And, unlike unsubtle salt, too much of which will strangle the flavours in your food, lemon juice and zest play nicely with bitterness, sweetness, piquancy and umami, helping them reach their full potential.
Sweet and sour, cut through sweet desserts with a tart lemon curd. Or finish a meal with a refreshing lemon sorbet.
Add a tang to mayonnaise and sauces and serve with seafood. Lemon juice is the perfect partner to olive oil for a classic and quick dressing for everything from lettuce leaves to a tangy winter coleslaw of thinly sliced cabbage or Brussels sprouts.
Preserved lemons add a completely different dimension to soups, stews, tagines and salads.
New Zealand lemons are available June through to December. At other times of the year they are imported out of Australia and the United States.
Meyer Lemons are a cross between a traditional lemon and a mandarin; this makes them the sweetest lemon variety. They have thin, bright yellow skin and are full of juice, making them a preferred option for desserts. Meyer lemons are the most commonly grown lemon in New Zealand and harvested from April to August.
Yen Ben Lemons
Are bright yellow in colour with a thick skin and very few seeds. They have the classic lemon tart flavour, making them great for baking and drinks. Yen Ben lemons can be harvested year round as each tree produces multiple crops per year. Each tree has four generations of fruit at any one time: lemons to be picked, those that are green, flowering and budding.
Have all the refreshing, invigorating flavour of a lemon, minus the mouth-puckering sourness. This is because they are a hybrid citrus that is a cross between a mandarin orange and traditional lemon. They are available July through to August.
Add Some Acidity
A squeeze of lemon is as good as a dash of salt in bringing out the flavour of just about any food. Acidity, like saltiness, also leads to an increase in salivation—both flavours literally make food more mouth-watering. What we taste depends on saliva’s power as a solvent. The presence of saliva on your tongue is necessary for your taste buds, and therefore your brain, to perceive flavour.
Besides making your mouth water, acidity cuts greasiness and heaviness and gives food a fresh, clean taste.