Should You Refrigerate Lemons?
When life gives you lemons, know that there's plenty more you can do with them than just make lemonade. Juiced, sliced, or zested, this citrus fruit can be used in a variety of ways and imparts a pop of brightness to any dish, from desserts and beverages to salads and pastas. If you enjoy cooking at home, or if you often add lemons to your drinking water, you probably find yourself tossing a few of the fruits into your cart whenever you visit the market, but what's the best way to store lemons once you get home? What's more, do you know what you should do when a recipe calls for the juice of half a lemon or just the zest? Should you refrigerate the remnants or store them elsewhere? To answer all of these questions, we consulted the experts.
Is the Refrigerator Best?
As is the case with most fruits, Anina von Haeften, co-founder of the food delivery service Farm to the People, recommends storing lemons in the refrigerator. "You can keep them on the counter but they won't last as long and will start to dry out," she explains. "On the counter they will last about a week and in the fridge they can last up to a month." When keeping lemons in the fridge, von Haeften says to pop them into a sealed airtight container, which will help them stay juicier and keep their moisture for longer. If you happen to have unripe (green) lemons, however, she recommends stowing them on the counter until they turn yellow, then putting them in your crisper drawer in the refrigerator.
Not only does keeping lemons in the fridge make them last longer, but it also maintains the soft texture of the rind and keeps their flavor intact. According to Maddy Rotman, head of sustainability at Imperfect Foods, "When lemons are fresher, they are sweeter and less acidic than when they start to dry out, which happens quicker at room temperature."
When it comes to the rind, Rotman urges cooks to never throw away a lemon rind without zesting it first. "Lemon zest is so versatile in cooking and baking, so even if you don't need it right away, pop it in a sealed container in the freezer and thaw when you're ready to make the lemony desserts you've been dreaming about."
If you only use half a lemon, Rotman recommends covering the exposed end with plastic wrap or placing it in a sealed container, making sure to use it within a few days before it dries out. To preserve leftover lemon juice, Rotman recommends keeping it in a sealed container in the refrigerator where it will maintain its flavor for a couple of days. "After that, it's best to use lemon juice for cooking or baking or freeze the rest by pouring it into ice cube trays and storing in a container when frozen."