Here’s the Right Way to Store Lemons

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I love lemons so much I tend to buy them a lot. Like, a lot. I love drinking tea with one slice of lemon in it on a cold winter evening. And of course, salads… they’re just so delicious with that zestful twist! One ingredient that I use the most? Definitely lemons, even in soups. Fortunately, my whole family shares this love for lemons, and they never complain. Really, they never say a meal has too much lemon in it. Because I buy in bulk—a lot—it’s very important to store them properly. It’s not like I don’t use them quickly, but still, making sure they last is key.

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How to Store Lemons Properly

Learning how to store lemons the right way has been a game-changer for me, especially since I buy them in such large quantities. Whether you’re squeezing them into your tea, zesting them over a bowl of pasta, or just keeping them around for their cheerful color and fresh scent, here’s how you can keep your lemons fresh and juicy for as long as possible.

1. Understand Your Lemons

First off, not all lemons are created equal. There are several varieties, from the common Lisbon and Eureka lemons, which are quite tart and perfect for everyday use, to the sweeter Meyer lemons, which are a favorite in my family for desserts. Knowing which type you’ve got can help you decide how you might want to use them (and store them!).

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2. Storing Whole Lemons

The simplest way to store whole lemons is in your refrigerator. Contrary to what some might think, lemons do not last as long at room temperature—they’ll only stay fresh for about a week. In the fridge, they can last up to four weeks. I like to place them in a resealable plastic bag, removing as much air as possible before sealing. This keeps them from drying out. I learned this the hard way when a bunch of my precious lemons turned into sad, hard little rocks after I neglected them on the counter!

3. What About Sliced or Zested Lemons?

Once you cut a lemon, its lifespan decreases rapidly. I store sliced lemons in a tightly sealed container in the fridge and try to use them within three or four days. For lemon zest, it’s best used fresh, but you can also freeze it in an airtight container. And lemon juice? I squeeze it into ice cube trays and freeze. It’s perfect for when you need just a splash.

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4. How to Choose the Best Lemons

When buying lemons, I look for ones that are firm, plump, and heavy for their size—these have the most juice. The skin should be bright yellow, with no green patches (unless you’re going for unripe lemons, which have their own culinary uses). Avoid lemons that have any spots, blemishes, or wrinkles.

5. Companions in the Fruit Bowl

It’s important to note what fruits shouldn’t be stored with lemons. Lemons, like many fruits, emit ethylene gas, which can hasten ripening (or rotting) in other produce. I keep them away from bananas, avocados, and tomatoes, which are particularly sensitive to ethylene. This little tip helps all my fruits last a bit longer.

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6. Shelf Life Tips

Besides proper storage, ensuring your lemons last involves a bit of vigilance. For lemons on the counter, make sure they are in a cool, dry place away from sunlight. In the fridge, keep them away from the cooling element, as this can cause them to freeze slightly and turn mushy once thawed.

7. When Have Lemons Gone Bad?

You can tell lemons have gone bad if they feel soft or mushy, and if their skin turns dull and spots appear. If a lemon has a sour or off smell (ironic, right?), it’s best to toss it. Don’t ignore these signs; a bad lemon can influence the taste of whatever you’re making.

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By integrating these simple storage techniques into your routine, you can ensure that your lemons are always as fresh and flavorful as possible. Now, every time I make my evening tea or prepare a lemony dressing for our family salads, I know my lemons are at their best. And seeing my family enjoy these simple, zestful pleasures just confirms—it’s totally worth it to store lemons the right way!