Recipe Corner Cooking Techniques

When Life Hands You Lemons...

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You're in luck. Lemons are one of the most versatile foods that you can find in the produce department (or, if your luck is abundant, from a tree in the backyard). Human history with lemons goes back--waaaaaaay back--millennia, and no one knows for sure exactly where the sour fruit originated. What we do know is lemons traverse the usual boundaries between culinary use, health aids and even household products.

In the kitchen, lemons can be juiced to add flavor to poultry, fish, veggies and salads, especially for low-sodium diets, and their acidic properties are essential in preparing fish for ceviche and helping to clean raw poultry. Cooks won't waste the peel either: The fresh zest perks up muffins and cakes. Then the lemon can be dragged along any wooden cutting boards and dropped into the garbage disposal--an instant freshener.

As a health aid, lemons play a vital role in ayurvedic practices, traditional Chinese medicine and holistic health regimens. One common tip is to drink a cup of hot water with freshly squeezed lemon juice first thing in the morning as a gentle stimulant (no caffeine required!) and detoxifying agent. A twist, pardon the pun, to the idea is drinking a hot toddy with lemon juice and honey when you're under the weather. However, we enjoy sipping hot toddies on chilly autumn evenings before getting so much as a sniffle.

Perhaps some of the most diverse ways to maximize a lemon's potential are for everyday household purposes. A favorite "green" cleaning tip comes from a friend who lives in Ohio: Roll a lemon back and forth a few times to get the juices going, then cut it in half. Using the lemon as a self-contained knob or handle, rub the cut surface along your shower panels to make them sparkle. Turn the lemon around and scrub tough spots with the peel. Then you can dry the peel for a mood-elevating potpourri during the winter months. (Obviously, our friend is a wizard of all lemony things--and she makes amazing potpourri.)

Of course, if the multitude of possibilities for lemons doesn't particularly grab you one way or the other, you can always take the simplest approach by turning lemons into lemonade. With just a few glasses, you'll be popular. Happy Sipping!