Happy Monday Everyone! This week we have a whole article singing the praises of the glorious Lemon. Over the years we've been told that the day is best started with warm water + fresh lemon, (I'm even drinking it now!) But why? We know it's good for waking up our systems but what does that really mean? This week our lovely Jessie sets us straight about this particular citrus and all the benefits it contains!
The vibrant lemon (Citrus x limon) is a small evergreen tree native to Asia. Its exact origins are unclear however evidence suggests Assam in northeast India (where beautiful Assam tea comes from), northern Burma and China seem to be where it all started.
Lemons had arrived in southern Italy by the first century AD, where they weren’t widely cultivated. Still, they spread around the southern Mediterranean to Persia, Iraq and Egypt by around 700AD.
Christopher Columbus took this citrus to the Americas in the 15th century where their cultivation eventually took off in the 19th century in Florida and California.
Their health benefits were first realised when James Lind added them to the diet of sailors and seamen who suffered from scurvy in the 1750s.
Like tomatoes, lemons were initially an ornamental fruit yet today knowledge of their nutritional value and long list of digestive benefits means their lovely colour will do more than brighten up a winter’s day.
Lemons are known for their tart/sweet taste juice thanks to 5-6% of which is citric acid. Nutritionally they are known for dozens of benefits but primarily for their abundance and availability of vitamin C, vitamin B6, copper, potassium, and antioxidants. Their vitamin C potency assists colds and flus, whilst its naturally occurring antimicrobial properties help shut down those persistent bugs. The potassium stimulates brain, muscle and nerve function and these citrus gems enhance our ability to absorb iron.
Digestively, some fresh lemon juice in warm water before breakfast assists in the movement of the digestive tract, calming any liver inflammation. It is a great way to gently wake up your system and give it a little detox. Add a dash of cayenne pepper to extend those benefits a little further by increasing blood flow and awaken your liver enzymes. This translates to less indigestion, bloating, heartburn and reduced bloating.
Helping to counter the acidity in our system, lemons are extremely alkaline and work to balance our internal pH. You wouldn’t think so considering their acidity but once inside the body, they reduce inflammation and calm our systems right down.
The pectin in lemons helps create a satiated feeling, add a squeeze of lemon over a curry or a salad and it will help you recognise when you’re full and keep that feeling for longer. Heightened awareness of hunger or lack thereof is connected to weight loss and management, lemons help us stay connected to our tummy’s :)
Even their bright and cheerful colour has meaning; it is a nod to their bioflavonoid content. These super antioxidants prevent internal haemorrhage, benefit your blood flow and reduce blood pressure whilst also supporting the creation of new, stronger cells and with an added anti-carcinogenic impact.
You want lemons that have a thinner skin and are yellow all over (no patchy green areas). They should be weighty in your hands, chose heavier ones, and ideally un-waxed - if they are, give them a good scrub before you use them.
Lemons should keep in a bowl at room temperature for about a week. They can keep in the fridge for longer without taking to mould so easily but they yield less juice when cold. As it is ideal to cook with room temperature ingredients let your lemons return to room temperature before using.
Cooking with Lemons
The zest of lemons adds a strong hit of lovely bitter citrus to salads, cocktails, vinaigrettes and much more. Just be careful not to add the pith, the white flesh between the skin and flesh, it’s bitter without the citrus zing.
To yield more juice from the lemon, roll it under your hand on a flat surface to soften it and break down the membranes in the flesh.
An easy way to use these in you kitchen is by preserving them! They are a staple in most Moroccan and Middle Eastern kitchens and there's good reason for it too. By adding them to your salad dressings, salsas or grain dishes you add a whole new layer of flavour to your meal. This week Emma Galloway is helping us celebrate the lemon by sharing her own Preserved Lemon recipe with us over on the Guest Cook page, check it out here!