Meyer Lemons


For many, many years, I have read or heard about these legendary Meyer lemons from California…first Alice Waters of Chez Panisse fame waxed poetic about them in her early cookbooks, then the press really got into it and touted them as the most amazing and delicious lemons around. Everything seemed to point to California as the primary source of these fantastic lemons, and some folks were fortunate lemon2to have Meyer lemon trees thriving in their backyards… In the fanciest restaurants across the U.S., a quiet one-upmanship among chefs resulted in chi-chi Meyer Lemon pies, souffles, tarts, sauces, and cooked dishes as this lemon has gained an incredible following. I always assumed they were an American phenomenon. So on our last trip to New York, I was thrilled to find that my sister had a whole bunch of Meyer lemons which she used in a spectacular Meyer lemon meringue pie and I was able to take these photos and before writing this post, did a little research. Well, surprise, suprise, but WHERE do YOU THINK Meyer lemons originated from? Southern China!

Meyer lemons are believed to be a cross between a more common and tarter lemon and an orange, more specifically, a mandarin orange or what we refer to as ponkan. lemon3The lemons were brought to the U.S. from China in 1908 by Dr. Frank Meyer (talk about successful name branding), who worked for the US Department of Agriculture, and from those few original plant stocks grew into large plantations in California. Sweeter than most lemons, Meyer lemons are rounder and their skins are less firm than a regular lemon. They also are a bit more orange in color than a regular lemon. Apparently, a large blight affected the vast majority of crops and destroyed many Meyer lemon trees until a more hardy strain were developed and again propagated. They are now widely grown in California where they thrive in the warm sub-tropical weather. If you had asked me if I thought Meyer lemons originated around these parts, I wouldn’t have answered that question correctly… But then again, given that Key Limes also originated from these parts (our native dayap to be specific!), I shouldn’t have been so surprised…

Which brings up an interesting question. Why the heck aren’t we growing this variety of lemons in droves in the Northern provinces of the Philippines instead of the more common acid sour lemon? Heck, our lemon4kalamansi is also believed to be a cross of citruses, possibly originally from China as well, and it also has such a unique, distinct flavor. So, hello?!, calling all citrus growers, how about trying to grow these lemons which command a huge premium over the tarter traditional yellow lemons? Now that I am writing this post, I realize I should experiment with some regular lemons and some mandarin oranges I have in the fridge… time to test if I can replicate a meyer lemon juice…then perhaps a tart… or even a souffle!


8 Responses

  1. Hmmm… I wonder if the lemon tree behind our house is a Meyer lemon… we have noticed that it tastes a bit sweet. Great looking lemons you have there and the meringue pie makes you want to dive in with a spoon!

  2. I usually buy lemons and limes of sorts just to save their seeds and plant them. They’re actually thriving! They might just bear fruit in maybe ten more years or so not counting our help cutting them down by accident. My husband thinks I’m crazy for trying to grow so many citrus trees of so many varieties. He says there would just be no space anymore once they’ve fully grown. So, here I go again…where can you get a Meyer lemon in Manila? They’re beautiful to look at!

  3. Again at the risk of sounding sinocentric, a great number of fruits that we know nowadays as Western actually originated from thereabouts. Almost any fruit that is not the ancient Roman’s malum (apple), pirum (pear) or ficus (fig) presumably would have been introduced from elsewhere, usually from the Far East.

    Our native dayap being Key Limes is news to me though. Another aha moment at Manila Market.

  4. Apicio, cool huh, dayap and key lime being really one and the same… and check out the dayap pie that I made two years ago…it was REALLY good. Bernadette, I have never seen Meyer lemons for sale in Manila…

  5. Yes that Dayap Pie is one of these glorious gifts you can turn out of the common place condensed milk. The “mercurial oven temperature” is a remarkably felicitous turn of phrase btw. I also melt bitter chocolate with condensed milk for chocolate cubes that can give Monsieur Linx a run for his money (if you use high grade chocolate such as Valrhona as he does) that I flavour with Boyajian citrus oil, specially the tangerine and grapefruit ones.

    Another citrus combination you can try, is lime and lemon. Gives you the zesty flavour of 7-up.

  6. Meyer lemons are definitely not as acidic and tart as the regular variety. The rind is less bitter which makes it more palatable for zesting and candied peels.

    Best of all, it’s sweet fragrance fills up the room. It’s no surprise that companies like Williams-Sonoma and Restoration Hardware have been selling Meyer lemon products, such as lotions, soaps, candles, and sprays, for long time.

  7. Meyer lemons are highly favored by pastry chefs of all leagues and bakeshop owners for their distinct taste including their rind. They leave a good mark on their pastries which is sought by most people. They are also good in any rum cocktail. However, cannot use them in any of our pancit selection as they significantly alter the flavor of the noodles especially in pancit canton it gives it a soapy taste.

  8. I have a meyer lemon tree thriving in my backyard, and yes they are excellent for lemonades, juicy and with less pulp, but I still love my calamansi tree. There’s no other substitute condiment for pancit, sinigang, and other Filipino food but our own calamansi.



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