The lemon is a small evergreen tree originally native to Asia, and is also the name of the tree’s oval yellow fruit. The fruit is used for culinary and nonculinary purposes throughout the world – primarily for its juice, though the pulp and rind (zest) are also used, mainly in cooking and baking. Lemon juice is about 5% (approximately 0.3 moles per liter) citric acid, which gives lemons a tart taste, and a pH of 2 to 3. This makes lemon juice an inexpensive, readily available acid for use in educational science experiments. Because of the tart flavor, many lemon-flavored drinks and candies are available on the market, including lemonade.
Varieties: Meyer lemon, Lisbon, Eureka, Verna, Bush Lemon Tree, Villafranca, Lemonade, West Indian or Mexican or Key, Tahitian or Persian.
Lemons are used to make lemonade, and as a garnish for drinks. Many mixed drinks, soft drinks, iced tea, and water are often served with a wedge or slice of lemon in the glass or on the rim. The average lemon contains approximately 3 tablespoons of juice. Allowing lemons to come to room temperature before squeezing (or heating briefly in a microwave) makes the juice easier to extract. Lemons left unrefrigerated for long periods of time are susceptible to mold.
Fishes are marinated in lemon juice to neutralize the odor. The acid neutralizes the amines in fish by converting them into nonvolatile ammonium salts.
Lemon juice, alone or in combination with other ingredients, is used to marinate meat before cooking: the acid provided by the juice partially hydrolyzes the tough collagen fibers in the meat (tenderizing the meat), though the juice does not have any antibiotic effects.
Lemons, alone or with oranges, are used to make marmalade. The grated rind of the lemon, called lemon zest, is used to add flavor to baked goods, puddings, rice and other dishes. Pickled lemons are a Moroccan delicacy. A liqueur called limoncello, typical of southern Italy, is made from lemon rind.
When lemon juice is sprinkled on certain foods that tend to oxidize and turn brown after being sliced, such as apples, bananas and avocados, the acid acts as a short-term preservative by denaturing the enzymes that cause browning and degradation.
India tops the production list with ~16% of the world’s overall lemon and lime output followed by Mexico (~14.5%), Argentina (~10%), Brazil (~8%) and Spain (~7%).