The lemon is both a small evergreen tree (Citrus × limon, often given as C. limon) native to Asia and the tree's oval yellow fruit. The fruit is used for culinary and nonculinary purposes throughout the world – primarily for its juice, though the pulp and rind (zest) are also used, mainly in cooking and baking. Lemon juice is about 5% to 6% (approximately 0.3 Molar) citric acid, which gives lemons a sour taste, and a pH of 2 to 3. This makes lemon juice an inexpensive, readily available acid for use in educational science experiments. Many lemon-flavored drinks and candies are available, including lemonade and lemonheads.


The true lemon tree reaches 10 to 20 ft (3-6 m) in height and usually has sharp thorns on the twigs. The alternate leaves, reddish when young, become dark-green above, light-green below; are oblong, elliptic or long-ovate, 2 1/2 to 4 1/2 in (6.25-11.25 cm) long, finely toothed, with slender wings on the petioles. The mildly fragrant flowers may be solitary or there may be 2 or more clustered in the leaf axils. Buds are reddish; the opened flowers have 4 or 5 petals 3/4 in (2 cm) long, white on the upper surface (inside), purplish beneath (outside), and 20-40 more or less united stamens with yellow anthers. The fruit is oval with a nipple-like protuberance at the apex; 2 3/4 to 4 3/4 in (7 -12 cm) long; the peel is usually light-yellow though some lemons are variegated with longitudinal stripes of green and yellow or white; it is aromatic, dotted with oil glands; 1/4 to 3/8 in (6-10 mm) thick; pulp is pale-yellow, in 8 to 10 segments, juicy, acid. Some fruits are seedless, most have a few seeds, elliptic or ovate, pointed, smooth, 3/8 in (9.5 mm) long, white inside.


Because of its more or less continuous state of growth, the lemon is more sensitive to cold than the orange and less able to recover from cold injury. The tree is defoliated at 22º to 24º F (-5.56º-4.44º C). A temperature drop to 20º F (-6.67º C) will severely damage the wood unless there has been a fortnight of near-freezing weather to slow down growth. Flowers and young fruits are killed by 29º F (-1.67º C) and nearly mature fruits are badly damaged below 28º F (-2.22º C). On the other hand, the lemon attains best quality in coastal areas with summers too cool for proper ripening of oranges and grapefruit. Therefore, the lemon has a relatively limited climatic range. In Florida, lemons are produced commercially as far north as Ft. Pierce on the East Coast and Ruskin on the West Coast. The 'Meyer' lemon, as a dooryard tree, can be grown wherever oranges thrive, even as far west as Pensacola.

The fruits are scarred and the tree readily defoliated by winds, and benefit by the protection of windbreaks.

Lemons are grown in both dry and humid atmospheres, the latter being a disadvantage mainly in the processes of curing and storing. Over a large lemon-growing region in California, annual rainfall varies from 25 to 125 cm. In long, dry periods, the lemon must be irrigated.


The lemon tree has the reputation of tolerating very infertile, very poor soil. In Florida, groves are mostly on sand. In California, excellent growth is maintained on silty clay loam of high water-holding capacity. In Guatemala, recommended soils are sand, clay and sandy-clay-deep, with high permeability and good drainage. Black soils are also suitable if not lying over calcareous subsoil. Ph should be between 5.5 and 6.5. If acidity is high, it is necessary to apply lime to achieve the optimum level.


The rough lemon is widely grown from seed. The 'Meyer' lemon is easily reproduced by rooting large cuttings in the nursery and planting them directly in the grove. They fruit 2 to 3 years sooner than budded trees and have a long life, remaining in full production for over 30 years, perhaps much longer.

In Florida, commercial lemons have been budded onto 'rough lemon', sweet orange, and 'Cleopatra' mandarin rootstocks. More recent practices are the utilization of sour orange, Volkamer lemon (C. volkameriana), and alemow (C. macrophylla Wester, an old Philippine lemon/ pummelo hybrid). The latter is employed in California on soils containing an excess of soluble salts and boron. If citranges are used as rootstocks for 'Eureka', bud union crease will kill the tree.

Food Uses

Slices of lemon are served as a garnish on fish or meat or with iced or hot tea, to be squeezed for the flavorful juice. In Colombia, lemon soup is made by adding slices of lemon to dry bread roll that has been sautéed in shortening until soft and then sieved. Sugar and a cup of wine are added and the mixture brought to a boil, and then served.

Lemon juice, fresh, canned, concentrated and frozen, or dehydrated and powdered, is primarily used for lemonade, in carbonated beverages, or other drinks. It is also used for making pies and tarts, as a flavoring for cakes, cookies, cake icings, puddings, sherbet, confectionery, preserves and pharmaceutical products. A few drops of lemon juice, added to cream before whipping, gives stability to the whipped cream.

Lemon peel can be candied at home and is preserved in brine and supplied to manufacturers of confectionery and baked goods. It is the source of lemon oil, pectin and citric acid. Lemon oil, often with terpenes and sesquiterpenes removed, is added to frozen or otherwise processed lemon juice to enrich the flavor. It is much employed as a flavoring for hard candies.


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