Lemons add a welcome burst of citrus flavor to everything from sweet and savory dishes, cakes and cookies to drinks and marinades. The zest, juice and pulp provide a touch of brightness and acidity to any recipe.
Lemons are so versatile that they know no culinary boundaries, perking up sauteed or roasted vegetables and adding the right amount of zest to desserts. They’re also great for juicing or infusing to create syrups and iced teas.
The answer to when are lemons in season depends on the variety of lemon and its climate. Generally, lemons grow from fertilized flowers and are ready for harvest four to nine months after the flowers first bloom. The traditional Eureka (Citrus limon ‘Four Seasons’) lemon is commonly harvested from fall through winter, while Lisbon (Citrus limon 'Lisbon') lemons are typically ready for harvest in spring and summer. The less common Meyer lemons are a cross between a lemon and orange, making them less acidic and sour than traditional lemons. Meyers are usually ready for harvest from November to March.
Lemons should be picked at peak ripeness, when their color has fully developed and they feel heavy for their size. A ripe lemon should have firm, glossy skin and should smell slightly sour when held. A good way to test a lemon for ripeness is to cut it open and see if the flesh is a rich yellow-orange color. If not, the lemon is probably still green and needs to ripen longer.