Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Meyer Lemons

This is not a painting of lemons - it is a painting of Meyer lemons! They are probably the sweetest, tastiest lemons I have ever consumed. If like me you have never had the profound privilege of tasting one of these little gems, it is something I would recommend for your food bucket list.

I received four Meyer lemons from my friend Bobbi. Her son lives in California and happens to have a Meyer lemon tree in his back yard. He shipped her a box. When she asked whether or not I wanted some, I said yes. I never refuse food of any kind. Later, and in all honesty, I couldn't fathom why someone would go through all the trouble of shipping lemons across the country if you could get a perfectly fine lemon right here in Maine. It piqued my curiosity so I went on the web to find out what this particular lemon was all about.

In the early 1900s, the USDA sent Frank Meyer, an "agricultural explorer," on many trips to Asia to collect new plant species. He brought back to the US over 2500 new species of plants, one of which was a dark yellow lemon that was a cross between a lemon and a mandarin orange. The lemon was used as a decorative houseplant in China for a century before someone decided to bite into one. It has a baby bottom smooth deep yellow skin with a thin edible rind, lots of juice with absolutely none of the tartness of a regular lemon. 

The Meyer lemon thrived in the citrus belts in this country, but because of it's thin, delicate skin and high juice content, was too fragile to become a commercially successful product. It was only sold in the citrus belts exclusively unless of course you were fortunate enough to have a son who happened to live in one of those belts and shipped a box to you in Maine!

Most of the Meyer lemon trees in California were destroyed by a virus in the 1960s however, and because it had the potential to spread to other citrus trees, they were all destroyed with the exception of one stock which was was declared free, and subsequently cleared of disease. It was called the "Improved Meyer Lemon" tree.

Today the Meyer lemon season begins in November and extends into March - sometimes April. If you happen to come across one of these delightful fruits while perusing your favorite grocery store, pick one up. You will never go back!

Meyer Lemons • 8" x 8" acrylic framed to 12" x 12" • $200

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