A Sweetart of a Lemon
This little fruit packs huge flavor
We have Frank N. Meyer to thank for the eponymous lemon’s place in our kitchen larder. Back in the early 1900s, the US Department of Agriculture sent him to Asia on a mission to collect new plant species. In its native home of China, the Meyer lemon was used primarily as a decorative houseplant. Thought to be a cross between a regular lemon and a mandarin orange, Meyer lemons are smaller than their cousins and have more juice and thinner, edible skins. They are less acidic, too, and their subtle sweetness and faint bergamot scent brighten all sorts of dishes. Though a favorite backyard tree in citrus-friendly areas for nearly a century, Meyers never made it into the mainstream American kitchen. In the 1960s, they were even banned due to a proclivity for spreading a devastating virus to healthy fruit trees, which threatened the entire citrus industry. Today’s Meyer lemon trees are a non-threatening hybrid. In the early 2000s, thanks to improved shipping capabilities and endorsement from celebrity chefs like Martha Stewart, the little lemon grew in popularity. Down in Miami, Daniel Serfer, chef-owner of restaurants Mignonette and Blue Collar, uses the Meyer in a series of holiday party-friendly fare.