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Whether it comes down to their color or their patented bite, there’s just something about lemons that can brighten anyone’s day – so it’s no wonder they’re everyone’s main citrus squeeze.
And all that squeezing can lead to some awesome results – from the cleaning supply closet to the cocktail bar to nearly everywhere in between. So it’s a good thing there are so many different types of lemons out there to juice!
Lemons may be nearly ubiquitous now, but their origins are actually a mystery, with scientists only able to guess that they came from somewhere around Northern India, Burma or China.
In fact, one of the reasons lemons’ early years are so unknowable is because the fantastic fruits weren’t exactly favored for much. Lemons mostly got around on their beauty in the old days, with gardeners considering them more “ornamental” fruits than anything else.
It wasn’t until the 1700s when lemons got their big break, after a scientist named James Lind experimented with lemon juice for help with scurvy, the dangerous disease stemming from a lack of vitamin C.
Lemons were found to help, and from there, the fruit quickly made up for lost time, appearing in recipes and on market shelves everywhere.
And today, they’re arguably more popular than ever, with hundreds of lemon varietals out there putting their own twist on the sour treat, including:
For the fruit that can do it all, this is the varietal that can do it all.
Lisbon lemons are one of the most popular and widely-grown types of lemons in the world, thanks to their traditional lemony football shape, their pimply rinds that produce plenty of essential oils, and their nearly seedless pale yellow flesh.
That laundry list of perfectly puckery qualities make Lisbon lemons the go-to choice for a number of needs, with the fruits being used for their abundant juice, flesh and zest in nearly equal measure.
And as the most popular type of lemon in stock at the grocery store, you don’t even need to go to Portugal to find them!
Named after the victorious exclamation, these types of lemons may also make you want to cry out – but whether it’s in joy or in fear all depends on your sourness tolerance.
Eureka lemons are particularly powerful when it comes to the citrus side of things, sporting more volatile oils along their skin than most other lemons, which leads to an especially potent flavor and smell.
Still, their consistent texture, taste and growing season have made them perennial favorites with growers, and their pungent punch lends itself nicely in the kitchen, where Eurekas are frequently used for their zest or to make marinades and syrups.
Small in size, smoother in skin and thinner in rind, these lemons distinguish themselves on the daintier side of the spectrum – and that demure attitude extends itself to their flavor as well, with Meyer Lemons sporting far less acid than their peers and actually tasting floral, fruity and even sweet.
Such good-natured tendencies may be in their genes, as Meyer Lemons can actually be traced back to the cross-breeding of a lemon and a sweet orange.
Still, today their unique palette is appreciated in a number of sweet culinary concoctions, including lemon cookies, scones, cheesecakes and lemon curd – basically making the Meyer Lemon the all-time winner of the Great British Baking Show.
These types of lemons are a handful – literally.
Ponderosa lemons are by far the biggest type of lemons out there, easily weighing in around four pounds each, and being known to reach the size of grapefruits and even footballs.
Originally developed in Maryland in the 1870s, the fruit’s first nickname was the “American Wonder Lemon” – and how that never became the name of a comic book character, we’ll never know.
Still, despite its heroic size, its other qualities are much more Clark Kent than Superman, with the ponderosa sporting the same type of bumpy yellow skin and segmented light-yellow flesh as the rest of its cousins.
Although, you could say it’s juice yield is pretty epic, with all that extra weight bearing a high volume of the stuff.
Buddha’s Hand Lemon
One of the strangest citruses out there, these unique fruits could’ve only been made by the hand of a deity.
Buddha’s Hand Lemons feature a large number of finger-like digits, extending out from their root and curling around in yellow burst of action. The effect is more flower – or even octopus – than hand, but beautiful and certainly exotic either way.
The long, thin tendrils don’t leave much room for flesh or juice inside – though they’re sometimes used for their zest and pith, which carries a taste as mellow as the plant’s namesake.
And they’re the perfect throwback cultivar, reminding us that lemons were once only favored for their looks – and letting us meditate on how awesome lemons are, in any variety.