Arizona Lemons

January and February are the months in Arizona is when citrus is ripe and plentiful. Neighbors trade bags of grapefruits for bags of lemons and oranges. Then, in March, as the fruit grows more scarce, the citrus trees start to blossom, preparing for next year’s yield, and the air outside is filled with the sweetest, most beautiful floral fragrance you can imagine for the whole month of March. It’s during this time that I try to partake in as much citrus as possible since its local and often organic, and I really love lemons.

As I entered Whole Foods one day in January, I came across the most beautiful locally grown Meyer lemons and pledged to buy as many of them as I could before they ran out for the season. Just look at them. Simply gorgeous. They’re large and juicy, and full of flavor. Lemons not only provide a good source of vitamin C, but are, of course, full of limonene.

Limonene is a terpene, common to lemons and other citrus fruits and the second most common terpene in nature. Thought to be a mood elevator able to help fight depression and anxiety, studies with citrus oils in mice and in clinical studies with patients suffering from depression suggest that limonene is a powerful anxiolytic agent. Some preliminary studies also suggest that limonene induces apoptosis of breast cancer cells and treats gastro-esophageal reflux.

So, what are some of the best ways to enjoy lemons?

Lemon water, hot or cold, might be one of my favorite things; since I don’t like the taste of plain water. I know, I know, you’re thinking water doesn’t have a taste, but to me it does. But add some fresh squeezed lemon juice and a slice from a beautiful lemon and, Voila, it’s a refreshing and healthy treat.

There’s a limit on how much caffeine I can have in a day before my heart starts racing out of control. So, on cold mornings when I’ve reached my limit of coffee, I sometimes heat up a mug of water and mix in a squeeze from a fresh lemon wedge. Add a few drops of local orange blossom honey and enjoy this warmed concoction simply for pleasure or perhaps to soothe a dry or sore throat.

In the summer, when it’s a ridiculous 110 degrees in Phoenix and you sweat just walking to your car, a large iced cold glass of lemon water cools me down and keeps me hydrated. Keep in mind, I really like sour foods, but I realize many people do not. No problem. Oranges, grapefruits, and limes are all good options. If you really want to be diligent, squeeze the juice when lemons are plentiful, pour it into an ice cube tray and put it in the freezer for small portions you can add to any drink for the rest of the year.

Cooking with lemons is another great way to enjoy their sweet and sour nature. Here are some of my favorite simple ways to cook with lemons. Ina Garten’s Lemon Vinagrette has four ingredients and is simply delicious. I like to add a teaspoon of dijon mustard to this recipe to pump up the flavor.

When roasting a chicken, place a few lemon wedges inside the chicken and a few lemons slices on top of the chicken while it bakes for additional flavor.

Another Ina favorite includes these Tuscan roasted potatoes and lemon. The lemon really enhances and brightens the blend of garlic, rosemary, potatoes, and olive oil in this recipe.


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