Thursday, April 23, 2009

Lou's Most Excellent Food Facts: Lemons

Lemons originally come from Asia with India thought to be the originator, perhaps as long ago as 2000 BC.

The classic lemon tree has a pretty obvious name that’s un-Jeopardy worthy: Citrus limon. The word “lemon” is fairly similar across multiple languages which helps trace the lemons introduction to cultures. In Persian, līmūn and Arabic shares a similar derivative. The Italian’s called – and still call them – limone and the French and Old English share limon.

Commercial lemon production started in Italy but India is the worlds largest producer of lemons. More than 13,000,000 tonnes of lemons are produced annually worldwide.

Christopher Columbus is credited for having introduced lemon seeds to Hispanola.

The experiment conducted by James Lind testing whether lemons prevented scurvy in 1747 is one of the earliest clinical experiments ever performed in medicine. However, his research did not identify that vitamin C was the preventative agent but that high citrus fruits were. Thus it was thought that highly acidic foods would also prevent scurvy.

Ironically, his work was not widely recognized as a “preventative” for scurvy until decades later by Gilbert Blaine who in 1794 prescribed daily a mixture of lemon juice and grog (a rum-like liquor) to his crew. Twenty three weeks later with a smelly, rowdy crew: no scurvy.

Limes were later substituted for lemons since fewer limes were needed and the crews preferred them; limes are actually sweeter than most lemon varieties and contain up to four times more vitamin C than a lemon. After that British sailors could then be called "limey's." I'm not sure if they were ever "lemony's."

Contrary to much popular belief, limes are not immature lemons (immature lemons look like limes). Limes are in the same family as lemons but are a completely distinct species (Citrus aurantifolia).

Lemon trees continuously bear fruit. On a single tree you’ll find multiple stages of lemon development.

A type of lemon called a “rough” lemon are often used as a rootstock with other citrus fruits. Rootstocks help maintain soil conditions for other plants and are often very hardy. Over time, the desired plant and the rootstock combine their tissues yet remain genetically distinct.

Lemons are packed with vitamin C but 8 hours after squeezing lose about 20% of it.

The ladies of Louis XIV’s court used lemon juice to redden their lips. Louis XIV would also send lemons as gifts to demonstrate his wealth.

More than 25 varieties of lemons exist ranging in size from golf balls to grapefruits; these 25 are categorized as either sweet or acid.

The most common acid lemons in the U.S. are either Eureka and Lisbon lemons as they are both very tolerant to environmental and physical extremes. Eureka lemons have a very thick skin and appear pitted. Lisbon’s are smooth and also seedless.

Sweet, Meyer lemons are a cross between a lemon and an orange (or a mandarin) and were discovered in 1908.

Letting lemons come to room temperature (or microwaving for 10 seconds) makes it much easier to extract the juice.

One lemon has about 25 calories.

Store lemons in a plastic bag in the fridge for up to three weeks. At room temperature they may keep for up to two weeks.

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