Lemons! Despite a tart taste that makes it more common in recipes and as a garnish than eating out of hand, there are few fruits more versatile – and few more interesting. Did you know lemons are technically berries? That the word “lemon” is derived from an Asian word meaning “sour fruit?” That sprinkling lemon juice on sliced apples can keep the apples from turning brown?
The lemon truly is a fascinating fruit with a compelling history, many different uses, and strange quirks. Here are just five fun facts:
1. There are basically two types of lemons.
There are acidic lemons and there are sweet lemons, but contrary to what you might think, it’s the acidic type that’s grown commercially (sweet lemons are mostly used as ornamental plants by home gardeners).
Although there are some specialty lemons that are called out as such in the marketplace (like the Meyer lemon and the Ponderosa lemon, which are both hybrids), the most common varieties will just be labeled as “lemons” in your local grocery store. These are generally going to be the Eureka lemon or the Lisbon lemon, and while they may look slightly different, their flavor is virtually the same.
2. Lemons are useful for more than just cooking and eating.
Is lemon a fruit? Yes – but it’s also a very effective cleaning agent! Thanks to the lemon’s high acidity, lemons can be used to:
- Eliminate unwanted smells. Has your cutting board absorbed too much of the garlic you’ve chopped on it? Rub half a lemon over its surface to get rid of the smell.
- Get grime off your windows. Lemon juice will soon have you seeing clearly again!
- Remove stains. Did you spill some red wine? Whip up a paste made from lemon juice, salt and baking soda to get it out.
- Leave your dishes streak-free. Next time you run the dishwasher, put in a half a lemon to guarantee a streak-free rinse.
- Polish metal. Dip half a lemon in salt and use it to scrub your chrome fixtures to leave their surfaces gleaming.
3. You don’t have to live in a warm climate to grow lemons.
Lemon trees don’t do well in freezing temps, but you can grow your own indoor lemon tree! There are many varieties of dwarf lemon tree to choose from, and a lemon tree in a pot can be a lovely addition to your décor as well as a source of fresh fruit.
Lemon tree care isn’t as difficult as you might think, either…a sunny spot is the first order of business, and making sure you water well and wisely is also very important (in a lemon tree, yellow leaves or dried out leaves are a good indicator of poor watering habits). Provide humidity (a tray with gravel and water will do), fertilize and prune occasionally, and you’ll soon be enjoying a picturesque tree with fragrant lemon flowers and, eventually, homegrown lemons. (Shop Citrus.com to find your ideal lemon tree for sale – our Dwarf Meyer lemon tree is a popular choice, as well as more exotic varieties like the dwarf pink lemon tree).
4. You can grow lemons and limes on the same plant.
Did you know a growing lemon tree could produce more than just lemons? It’s true – a lemon lime cocktail tree has been grafted to produce both fruits on the same lemon plant. It’s a great space-saving option if you would like to grow more than one fruit but don’t have the room!
Before getting even one lemon tree, however, you might be wondering – can dogs eat lemons? Most pet owners won’t have to worry – cats, dogs and other pets are usually turned off by the smell of citrus, so it’s generally not a problem. If you do have the type of pet that just has to sample everything, however, you may want to think about keeping your indoor lemon tree out of reach – while citrus isn’t poisonous to your pooch, it might cause him to have a tummy upset.
5. Lemons produce electricity.
Well, not by themselves…what actually happens is that the electrolytes (which can carry electricity) can allow two different metals to react with one another. Building an electro-chemical battery with a lemon is a classic science fair experiment – all you need (apart from a lemon, of course) is a galvanized nail and a copper penny. Insert the nail in one side of the lemon, and the penny in the other (make sure they don’t touch inside the lemon), connect them to a complete circuit, and you have a lemon battery!