Consider these zesty facts before you shop.

By Kelly Vaughan
September 14, 2020
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Johnny Miller

From their cheerful yellow hue to their acidic flavor, there's something magical about lemons. They are endlessly versatile in the kitchen, lending themselves to both sweet and savory recipes. Eureka lemons, which are the kind you're most likely to find in your grocery store, have a sour, tangy flavor. By comparison, Meyer lemons are more fragrant and a touch sweeter. Their brightly colored skin is smoother and more vibrant than that of Eureka lemons, which is thicker and textured. But aside from the most basic differences, what else distinguishes Meyer lemons from Eureka lemons?

What Are Eureka Lemons?

If you go to the grocery store to stock up on lemons, what you'll find are Eureka lemons (also known as Citrus limon). They were originally brought over to the U.S. from Italy in the 1800s, says Mani Skaria, citrus scientist and founder of US Citrus. They are always larger, tarter, and have a more vibrant yellow color than Meyer lemons. The zest and juice of lemons can bring life to chicken and seafood, fresh berries, and robust Italian comfort food. Of course, Eureka lemons are magical on their own; try baking with them in this Lemon-Rhubarb Olive-Oil Bundt Cake or our Lemon-Cranberry Meringue Pie for a twist on the classic.

What Are Meyer Lemons?

Meyer lemons, which are a cross between a mandarin orange and a lemon, are small, a touch sweet, and super special, says Skaria. They were first introduced to the United States in the early 20th century by an agriculturist named Frank Meyer, who discovered them on a trip to Asia. Nowadays, they're still not as easy to find as Eureka lemons (their peak season is from November to March) but once you do come across them, treasure them with all your might. They're not super sweet, but they do have substantially less tang than a regular lemon. Another fabulous fact about Meyer lemons? They're seedless, so no need for picking out pesky seeds from the juice!

How to Cook and Bake with Meyer Lemons

Martha herself is a huge fan of using Meyer lemons in the kitchen (Skaria actually credits Martha with making Meyers so popular). If you haven't tried baking with them before, try them in some of our beloved recipes. For pure Meyer lemon flavor, bake this Spiced Pear Pie with Buckwheat Crumble.

Meyer-Lemon and Coconut Layer Cake uses a combination of Meyer lemon and Eureka lemon juice and zest; it's the perfect spring dessert. During the holiday season, when citrus fruit is truly at its peak, make use of Meyers in these festive Meyer-Lemon Shortbread Wreath Cookies. Just like regular lemons, Meyer lemons have savory applications, too. See how their juice and zest brightens these Snap-Pea and Melted-Leek Tartines, as well as Roast Chicken with Lemony Harissa Glaze. You'll also be amazed at how they shine in homemade lemonade.

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