Alhambra Farmers Market
As the past few visits to the Sunday morning farmer's market have brought us a bounty of winter citrus, join us as we focus on a lemon that gets abundant praise, but has limited availability in many supermarket chains.
I usually don't have a set list of produce in mind when I step out to a farmer's market. I'll let whatever catches me eye dictate my purchases (this can be a potential disaster for both your wallet and rear passenger space). But trusting your gut can sometimes be your best guide. No sooner had I brought home loads of blood oranges, grapefruits and lemons, a slight tingle creeps up in my throat. Ignoring this for a few hours, this tingle then turns into a full blown fever that I've been fighting this past week. Although I'm hating my feverish body for putting me through such torture, I must acknowledge that it saw this coming and planned appropriately.
Meyer lemons, with its thin skin and all around lemony sweetness, have been the citrus of choice to ease my misery. A cross up between lemons and mandarin oranges commonly grown in China, it was introduced to the US by Frank Nicholas Meyer, an agricultural explorer working for the USDA (from a list of approximately 2500 plants, he is also credited for introducing Chinese persimmons, soybeans, and gingko biloba). Rounder than the common Eureka and Lisbon lemon varieties, the skin is also thinner with a rich, golden yellow hue. I stopped by both Briar Patch farms and Maciel Farms for help in picking Meyers. Look for those with smooth, supple skin and that feel heavy for their size. Heavy size will usually indicate more juice. This combination of thin skin and high juice content means easy spoiling if not handled carefully (It is these characteristics that make mass supermarket availability so difficult). Avoid any that are bruised or overly blemished. Meyers should be very fragrant, even more so than the clementines we picked up a few weeks ago.
Meyers make great cooking lemons as they lack much of the overly sour flavors that one would commonly associate with lemons. That also means they make sublimely smooth lemonades and Arnold Palmers (in my case a comforting mug of hot tea poured over muddled Meyer slices and honey). While it may seem likely that you can substitute Meyers for Eurekas and other citrus, consider that some recipes may have extra sugar to compensate for the normal lemon sour/acid/tartness. Since Meyers will be in season until at least April, that gives you plenty of time to experiment! Try a luscious Lemon Curd or these delectable looking Meyer lemon bars. The combination of chocolate and citrus always gets me, so these Lemon Chocolate Cupcakes sound particularly intriguing. For savory applications, try grilling whole fish with herbs and slices of Meyers stuffed in the cavity, or a nourishing Avgolemono soup (a Greek soup with Chicken, Lemons and rice). Stuffed in a roasted chicken, duck or cornish hen, or preserved and used in Joan Nathan's Moroccan Chicken with Olives and Preserved Lemons.
LATimes.com has a list over 100 things to do with Meyer Lemons, my favorites being a Meyer limoncello, or as a new (and highly temporary) chew toy for your puppy.
Have you tried a Meyer lemons? Do you have additional tips and recipes? Let us hear them in the comments, or send them our way at [email protected]