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I use lemons more than any other flavour in my food. Their juice provides a gentle acid balance, neither too biting nor too fragrant, that brightens a dish, while the zest delivers depth and a piquant flavour. A lemon tree is a really useful thing to have in your garden. If you’re tight for space, a smaller lemon variety such as Meyer will thrive if planted in a large pot and kept well-fed and watered.
Lemons are in season for most of the year, with a downtime in the late summer and early autumn. I grow Yen Ben for an early-season lemon and the soft-skinned Meyer for harvest through to early summer. Lemons like a warm, sunny spot in the garden and prefer free-draining soil. They require regular watering and a good soaking every couple of days during hot, dry spells. If growing in pots they will need watering every day through summer. A layer of compost can help keep the soil moist, but be careful not to let the compost touch the trunk of the tree. Lemons are also prolific feeders and respond well to a generous application of citrus food in spring and autumn.
Lemon is one of the most versatile flavours and enhances sweet and savoury dishes. Lemon zest – the outer, coloured skin of the fruit – contains the fruit’s aromatic oils, which to my mind encapsulates the essence of the fruit. I use lemon zest throughout my savoury cooking to give a neutral freshness. Citrus-based dressings are always refreshing, and a clean, lemony flavour is a perfect foil to sweet, creamy desserts.
These are some of my favourite recipes for lemons:
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