Savor the many virtues of lemons

Lemons are a most versatile fruit; with their bright yellow puckered skin and a fresh aroma, many varieties grow year-round in California, making them always in season.

Whether sweet or savory, dishes and desserts pop with flavor and tempt the taste buds with the addition of lemon juice or zest.

Six different types of lemons grow in the state. Eureka Lemons grow year-round, as do Pink Variegated, a varietal of the Eureka lemon. These round lemons with green stripes, turning yellow when the fruit ripens, are ideal for cooking and garnishing. Lisbon lemons are native to Portugal. They are juicy with few seeds and are commonly grown in California. They also grow year-round but are mainly harvested in spring and winter.

Try Priya’s Lemon Hummus recipe

The sweet Meyer Lemon is originally from China. They are a cross between a lemon and mandarin orange and produce fruit in spring and winter. They tend to be juicy and sweet, great for lots of recipes. The Primofiori Lemon is native to Spain. This lemon fruits throughout the year, but the primary harvest season is winter. This lemon is considered one of the best lemons in California. The last variety grown in the state is the Verna lemon, also native to Spain. These lemons tend to be a bit acidic. They have a thick rind, a lot of seeds and are not very juicy.

Lemons are a staple in my home, and I always have them on hand. I drink a glass of warm lemon water first thing in the morning. It’s great for hydration and digestion, and lemons are packed with vitamin C, as well. I save the rinds for zesting (grating the skin) or adding a twist to my coffee or espresso.

Whether sweet or savory, dishes and desserts pop with flavor and tempt the taste buds with the addition of lemon juice or zest. The low-calorie lemon is excellent for salad dressings (Lemon Vinaigrette), sauces (Meyer Lemon Chutney), dips (Lemon Hummus) and dessert (Lemon Curd is to die for). These are only a few ways to experience the virtues of lemon.

When it comes to greens, nothing goes better than lemon and salad. I’ve been making many kale salads with olive oil and lemon dressing of late, and leafy greens are excellent for you. It’s essential to massage the kale with a touch of olive oil and salt before adding additional ingredients and dressing the salad.

Main dishes made with lemon and lemon sauces are some of my favorite meals. Shrimp, fish, chicken or tofu Francese is delightfully lemony. The protein is dredged in an egg batter and prepared in a lemon butter sauce. Piccata dishes boast a lemon-forward flavor, dishes like chicken, fish or veal piccata. Lemon on pasta is divine. It’s easy to create a simple pasta dish with lemon and herbs. Lemon orzo with parmesan and parsley is a fantastic dish to make for the family.

Lemons are not only for dressings, dinners and desserts. Side vegetables pop when lemon is added. Seared lemon garlic broccoli and roasted asparagus with lemon, garlic, butter and parmesan are two of my favorites. Lemon goes well on just about any leafy green vegetable like spinach or roasted kale.

And lemon desserts are so delicious. Lemon bars, cake, scones, tarts, lemon meringue pie, pound cake and sorbet are only a handful of lemony treats that are all dessert hits. Don’t forget lemon preserves with toast and tea.

Lemon goes hand in hand with most beverages and adds a new twist to most drinks. Homemade lemonade with herbs and berries, a warm lemonade cocktail, hot toddy or hot ginger lemonade with bourbon or vodka comes to mind.

And, don’t throw out the last of the lemon rind. Lemons are great to clean with. They remove grease and grime off baking trays, pots and pans. Sprinkle baking soda on the pan and add a touch of lemon juice and let it sit. It’s incredible how well it breaks down grease. If your dish disposal can handle it, put a small amount of lemon rind down the drain for a fresh scent.

Lemons are also an excellent tonic for health and healing. They add flavor to almost any food — an ode to the lemon and all of the virtues it bestows on lemon lovers.

Easy Kale Salad with Lemon Dressing
From the Kitchen of Priya Hutner

2 heads of kale
¼ C extra virgin olive oil
1 lemon, juiced
1 t kosher salt
½ t fresh ground pepper
¼ C pomegranates
¼ C of goat cheese
¼ C toasted pine nuts or walnuts

Remove any large stems from kale if using dino or lacinto kale strip greens from stems and place in a large mixing bowl. Add 1 teaspoon of olive oil,1 tablespoon of lemon juice and a pinch of salt and massage the greens for 3 minutes or so until kale softens and turns a dark green. Add half of the remaining lemon juice, olive oil, pomegranates, goat cheese, salt and pepper, and mix well. Taste the salad and add more lemon juice, salt and pepper if desired. Top with nuts and serve.