Over the last 30 years, the Meyer lemon has evolved from an ornamental garden lemon found in California farmers markets, to a popular commercial lemon.
The two major lemons in America, Eureka and Lisbon, have a bracing tartness.
The Meyer Lemon, which is a hybrid between a lemon and a mandarin or possibly another sweet orange, has a milder, sweeter juice.
You get both lemon and mandarin notes in the juice flavor profile.
Meyer lemons quickly became the favorite of chefs, who used them in salad dressings, sauces, sorbets and other recipes. This led to consumer demand.
The Meyer lemon, Citrus × meyeri, was brought to the U.S. by Frank N. Meyer, an explorer for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, who found it growing as an ornamental plant outside of Peking, China in 1908.
While the orchard trees are six to ten feet high, dwarf varieties are commonly available in China as ornamental plants in garden pots.
By the mid-1940s, the Meyer lemon was widely grown in California. Alas, breeders discovered that a majority of the Meyer lemon trees that were cloned were symptomless carriers of the Citrus tristeza virus, a worldwide scourge.
Subsequently, most of the Meyer lemon trees in the U.S. were destroyed so as not to infect other citrus trees.
A virus-free version was found by a grower in the 1950s, and was certified and released in 1975 by the University of California. All Meyer lemon trees propagated in California now derive from that “improved” mother tree.
Around that time, the Meyer lemon was “rediscovered” by Alice Waters and other California Cuisine chefs.
Popularity among consumers got a boost when Martha Stewart began featuring them in her recipes [source].
RECIPE: HUMMUS WITH MEYER LEMON
Add some to your Super Bowl hummus and see a big jolt of flavor. This recipe, by Tom Fraker, is courtesy of Melissas.com.
1. MIX together the first 4 ingredients in a medium bowl. Transfer to a serving dish and surround with the vegetables.
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