Growing up, my family had a vacation home in Palm Desert. While the parents would be off perfecting their golf scores, my sisters and I would drench our hair in lemon juice and sit out in the sun to get those perfect California girl highlights. We would also slather ourselves with a mixture of baby oil and iodine and literally bake in the desert heat, but that is a whole different story.
If you have ever been to the desert, you know there is a plethora of citrus. The lemons in the desert we loved were sweeter and tastier than the lemons we had back home. I would peel their thin, almost orange skins, and eat them like an actual orange. (Gee, I wonder why I have skin damage and no enamel left on my teeth?)
I know now that those yummy “lemon oranges” we used to adore are Meyer lemons. This incredibly juicy fruit is small in size and plentiful in the winter months. I love these lemons so much that I have two trees in pots flanking my front door. They provide a burst of beauty and color in my winter garden and make an elegant entryway to our home. Useful and Beautiful—ideal in my book.
Once ripe, the fruit is quite hardy and lasts a long time on the tree so you can pretty much harvest it on an “as needed” basis. If you don’t have the trees in your yard, look for Meyer lemons in the market (I’ve even seen them at Trader Joe’s). For more information on citrus care, click here.
If you have an abundance of lemons, try Peggy Markel’s Preserved Lemons. This recipe is a delicious way to use up your extra fruit, it keeps a long time, and it makes for a cute homemade gift.
Meyer lemons are great for salad dressing as well. Here is one of the easiest dressing recipes I’ve ever done, and it has great crowd appeal. Even the children love it. It goes perfectly with all my leafy greens that are growing so well in the garden right now: mâche, butter lettuce, romaine lettuce, arugula, mesclun, and wild arugula. I simply trim a small amount of each to make my own “Valerie” salad mix—it’s the definition of fresh, and oh so delicious.
Meyer Lemon Salad Dressing
1/4 cup Meyer lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
Pepper to taste
1/2 cup good-quality olive oil
Squeeze the lemon (with the lemons on my trees, this is the juice of one Meyer) into a measuring cup and add the salt and pepper. Slowly whisk in the olive oil and you’re done!
Toss with delicious greens and enjoy!
Refrigerate the remaining dressing and use within 24 hours.
You can use the extra to toss with beets, green beans, grilled fish or chicken.
Tip for dressing lettuce: When dressing your greens, always start with less dressing than you think you will need, and add more a little bit at a time.