Juicy Meyer Lemons (Citrus meyeri) are thought to be a lemon/sweet orange hybrid brought to the U.S. from China in the early 20th century. Though they’re prized for their less acidic, subtly sweet juice—and each fruit yields a lot of juice for its size—Meyer lemons don’t transport well, so their commercial availability is limited. You can sometimes find them in local stores, but a backyard Meyer lemon tree is your best bet.
Meyer lemons are named for U.S. “agricultural explorer” Frank Meyer, who collected all manner of species from Asia and helped introduce Meyer lemons to this country.
The thin skin makes it hard to ship the fruit, but it also allows you to eat Meyer lemons whole, rind and all—yet another reason they’re so easy to cook with.
Décor and More
The fruits, rounder and darker than common lemons, have a history as decorative objects both here and in China, where they were often displayed in bowls.
In the U.S. in the 1960s, disease nearly eradicated the species. After most of the Meyer lemon trees in this country were destroyed, a hardier dwarf version emerged. That smaller tree is what we grow today.
Culinary options abound for Meyer lemons, which are sweeter and less tart than regular lemons. They can add nuance to dishes calling for regular lemons. Try placing slices atop smoked salmon and sour cream, or just making good old-fashioned lemonade.
Grow Your Own
The trees, which max out at 10 feet tall and can be grown in the ground or in containers, require at least six hours of sunlight and diligent pruning. Consult an expert to keep your tree healthy and bearing fruit.
The boom in Meyer lemon popularity is thanks, in part, to Martha Stewart, who champions the fruit in a variety of recipes, both sweet and savory, and also offers instructions for preserving the lemons in salt—a simple recipe that produces a tangy ingredient used in Middle Eastern cooking.