Can you imagine cooking without lemons? Τhis citrus fruit is irreplaceable in your pantry, when it comes to adding freshness to dishes or bringing them to a balance.
We use lemons almost on a daily basis. But do we know how to store them properly to make them last longer? And do lemons go bad?
Lemons do go bad. Humidity and heat are the two things that will make lemons go bad quickly. If you store lemons right, you will be able to get the maximum shelf life out of them.
The storage conditions for lemons are similar to those of other citrus fruits, including limes and oranges.
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How to Store Lemons?
Lemons look beautiful stored in a bowl on your kitchen counter or table. They add a pop of color to the cooking area and a smell of freshness. But is this the best way to store lemons? Unfortunately, it isn’t. You can keep a few lemons at room temperature only if you know you will be using them within a few days.
For lemons, the best storage place is the fridge. If you use lemons often, it is enough to put them in a bag and keep them in the crisper drawer of the fridge. The latter will keep the lemons fresh until you decide to use them.
The fridge can make the lemons last longer if you store them in an airtight bag or container. Airtight containers lock the moisture of the fruits in and keep them juicy for longer.
If there is no room for lemons in the fridge, the second-best option is the pantry or a cool kitchen cabinet. Remember to keep the lemons away from heat and light. Don’t store them somewhere humid or where water can get to them.
Additionally, if you store your lemons on top of each other after washing them, make sure to dry them properly before storing. Water droplets left on the skin of lemons will get them moldy pretty soon.
How to Store Cut Lemons?
When it comes to lemon wedges or slices, the fridge is your only option. Cut lemons will quickly dry out if you leave them on your kitchen counter for longer than two hours. The contact of the fruit flesh with air is what makes it deteriorate so quickly.
To store cut lemons, wrap them with aluminum foil or food wrap. You can also use a zip-top bag. When using a bag, make sure to remove as much air as possible from the bag to make the lemon wedges last longer.
If you can, store lemon wedges or slices stacked together to minimize the surface of the fruit that is exposed to oxygen.
Can You Freeze Lemons?
You can find lemons all year round. But what if you find lemons at a really good price and buy a lot of them? Or if you have lemon trees in your garden and have harvested too many lemons all at once?
Luckily, you freeze lemons and in a range of different ways.
Freezing Whole Lemons
If you have very little time but need those lemons in the freezer as soon as possible, freezing them whole is the best and the fastest thing you can do.
First, wash the lemons. Scrub the skin really well to make sure you get fruits all clean.
Second, put the lemons in a sealable plastic bag and squeeze the excess air out of the bag. Lastly, put the bag with lemons in the freezer.
To defrost frozen whole lemons, let them sit in a cold water bath for 10 to 20 minutes. If you need it quick, microwave the lemons for a few seconds. The heat from the microwave will not only thaw the lemons but will also make them very juicy.
Freezing Cut Lemons
If you have some extra time to dedicate to prepping the lemons for freezing, here is what you can do.
Wash the lemons and divide them into wedges. Put the lemon wedges on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Transfer the baking sheet into the freezer until the lemon wedges are fully frozen.
Put the frozen lemon wedges into a freezer bag removing as much air as possible.
Never freeze lemon wedges in a plastic bag before freezing them individually first. If you do this, the wedges will stick to one another as they freeze.
As lemon wedges are smaller in size, they will thaw within minutes at room temperature.
If you freeze lemons for the purpose of using the juice later, you can try zesting the lemons and freezing the zest separately. If you have ever used lemon zest in your dishes, you know what a difference it can make.
How Long Do Lemons Last?
If you want lemons to stay fresh and juicy longer, you need to start by picking good ones. If you buy bad lemons, no matter how you store them, they will go bad rather quickly.
When choosing lemons, keep in mind the following things.
- Good lemons should be firm. There shouldn’t be mushy spots on the lemons. The skin of lemons shouldn’t have any wrinkles too. Wrinkled lemons are the dried out ones.
- Look for lemons that have an overall bright yellow color and have no spots or discolorations.
- Choose medium-sized lemons but make sure they feel heavy for their size. This is how you know there is juice in these fruits.
Lemons that have been sitting on the kitchen counter will keep well for around 7 days. If you store lemons in the pantry, in a dry, dark, and cool area, they will last up to 14 days.
Refrigerating is the best storage method for lemons. Lemons refrigerated in an airtight container or bag will stay fresh and juicy for around 4 weeks.
Cut lemons stored in the fridge should be used within 4 days after which they will dry out and lose their flavor.
Frozen whole lemons will last from 3 to 4 months in the freezer. They may keep well for longer. However, long-term freezer storage does deteriorate the quality of lemons. So, the sooner you take them out and use them the fresher and juicier they will be.
How Do You Know If Lemons Are Bad?
Lemons have a refreshing strong aroma that can be felt even when they are not cut. If your lemons have lost their aroma, they are most likely already old and may not meet your expectations in cooking.
Another indicator of bad lemons is the mushy spots on the skin. Feel the lemons. If they feel unusually slimy, toss them out and head to the market for new ones.
If your lemons have turned green, there are two options you can consider. First, you have exposed the lemons to drastic temperature changes. As a result, the color of lemons has taken on a green tone. In this case, the lemons are typically still good to use.
In the second case, things can be more serious. If the skin of the lemons is green and looks dusty, then your citrus fruit is moldy. This happens whenever the fruits get wet or are stored in a humid environment.
If you see mold on the lemons, don’t even try to cut them to see if they are good inside. Discard them immediately.
If your lemons look and feel good, cut them to see if they are suitable for use. So long as the lemons are not moldy, there are no health risks involved in using them.