A History of Lemons

 

I discovered the lemon when I wanted to lighten my hair in the summer of ‘16, and then the entire season was sticky with pulp. How I lay on the beach and let the lemon juice dry sinewy in my hair, how I drank lemonade, and how I felt cleansed. How it cured my emaciated 18-year-old body in the winter. When all I knew as home was the pregnant loneliness when the children I babysat went to sleep - a life I may one day have, but was distant and I was drinking lemon juice, just trying to survive lying on their shag carpet.

Of all the intoxicating flavors and revelled summer foods, the most powerful is the lemon, folding into the very essence of summer living, an ode, not to the calm, but the vital energy of summer. The time for bugs and bees, where fungus grows, a time of life which is not only sweet, but active. And so we are disinfected by a lemon.

A bright yellow citrus bleaches the hair to the color of straw, quenches thirst like a pin, makes the entrepreneurial youth rich through the abundant lemonade stands. It both flavors and preserves anything like a glossy coat of enamel.

The powerful aroma from a lemon comes from the tiny glands of oil along the lemon zest. The condensed flavor goes a long way in flavor and aroma. Indeed, every part of the lemon has been used for both flavor, medicine, and lightening: hair, skin, and textiles for millenia

Lemons also can aid in healthy skin. It is high in vitamin C; anti-cancerous; enhances eyesight; prevents colds and flus. The fruits are high in pectin, which, aside from being a jelly-maker, aids in intestinal disorders. The list goes on. I can sound like an advertisement, but you know as well as I that ads are for scammers and the delusional. The lemon is doubtless.

The fruit is a hybrid between bitter orange and citron. It is unclear the origin of the lemon, but it may have originally been cultivated in Northwest India. From India it was disbursed by Arab traders to the Middle East when that entire region was known as Mesopotamia. The lemon was introduced into Spain and North Africa sometime between the years 1000 and 1200 CE. It was found in Palestine by the Crusaders who distributed the fruit through Europe.

Staples of a mediterranean flavor profile, the lemon grows best in cool coastal regions like Italy, California, and Southern Spain. Lemons can not be picked wet, or machine harvested, so they are selected by hand. Lemons are picked green, and, usually in transit, the lemons become the uniform bright yellow color they are known for. Lemons are now cultivated six to twelve times a year, mostly in Argentina, South Mexico, and California.

The color of a lemon is a bright, Pantone shade of yellow, with a touch of light green. While yellow is a joyful and vibrant color, it is slightly subdued, spacious. Yellow is a color for living rooms and common areas, communal spaces where the color can promote a welcoming, light air, that simultaneously provides intellectual illumination and solace.

Lemonade braids all over the city like cascading crowns. There’s something painful about the taste, something real and raw in that pain. The trend of lemons can’t be left here with the fruit when Beyonce’s Lemonade wove a glorious yet painful story of a woman - of women, and provided an example for how to tell your story, turn your hurt into… There are times when tastes can hold us down, when the world doesn’t seem to make sense and all of your identity, your belongings, all of your beliefs are stripped from you. This doesn’t happen often, but it happens like lightning and the only things that holds you are things like the taste of lemons.

They’re like Leonardo DiCaprio’s totem in Inception, the harsh, yet predictable taste of lemons, that remind you you’re not dreaming. 

 

Recipes with lemon:

August Salad

Arugula, avocado, sliced tomatoes (or baby tomatoes if you like), lightly salted sunflower seeds, lemon juice and a light splash of oil

 

Chicken Tagine

Chicken baked with cumin, lemon, curry and a bit of hot pepper

Make sure to keep the chicken juices to use with the couscous

 

Lemonade:

Lemons

Sugar

Lavender extract

Ice

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