The origin of lemons, oranges, bergamots, grapefruits, and tangerines began more than 4000 years ago in southeast Asia. The fruits traveled West and now the Mediterranean region produces approximately 40% of the world’s lemons, according to the International Federation of Essential Oils and Aroma Trades (ifeat.org). Today, the people of the Mediterranean sprinkle, squeeze and marinate citrus fruits in every manner of their foods.
One of the major transformations I witnessed in my own body was the slow shedding of weight once I adopted a Mediterranean diet. A key ingredient, I believe, is the sweeping use of lemon. Citrus trees grow everywhere on the island. The picture above is from our own lemon tree. Anytime I needed to marinate chicken, make a homemade salad dressing (there are NO bottled dressings! I will add some quick, healthy, tasty salad dressing recipes in coming pages), or create a lemonade not from a powder, I would lean over my balcony and grab a handful of lemons. These were no ordinary lemons, my fellow goddesses – these monstrous, all natural fruits were the size of naval oranges and grapefruits. Juicy and surprisingly sweet with a hint of tang, they made the most delicious lemonade. But far from simply using only in lemonade (or to vodka tonic), locals use lemons on everything!
Think I’m exaggerating? My husband squeezes half a lemon on his eggs (and this is common practice). And he thinks I’m weird when I douse my scrambled concoction with half a jar of salsa!
Against popular knowledge, citrus fruits are harvested in the winter, not summer months. I like to think Mother Nature was giving us natural vitamins and antibiotics to stave off colds, the flu, and other illnesses during these primary sick months.
Some popular ways to use lemons everyday:
- Basic salad dressing: Generous splash of extra virgin olive oil, half a lemon, and salt on washed, cut veggies. Until only a few months ago, my kids (at writing, they are ages 10 and 8) had never even known about bottled salad dressing.
- Squeezed over cooked vegetables: forget butter! It may take a bit of getting used to, but this slightly bitter alternative is so much healthier.
- Homemade lemonade concentrate: you must have access to a bag full of lemons for this one! Cut and squeeze lemon halves (I use an electric orange juice press for ease and speed). For every cup of lemon juice, add 1 cup of sugar (yes, it’s a lot, but this is a concentrate which you later dilute). I have also tried using organic Stevia to cut my sugar with mixed success. Over medium heat, stir in the sugar/stevia until fully absorbed. Do not allow it to boil! Remove from heat and cool completely. Pour into empty bottle and store in the fridge or freezer. Use an ounce at a time and dilute with water for the most refreshing lemonade.
- Marinade: cut your fish or meat and place in a glass bowl. Squeeze an entire lemon, several tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and half pack of onion soup mix. Mix and cover. Refrigerate at least one hour.
- Rough elbows and heels? Take half a lemon and press into elbows. Feel the burn as the acidity sloshes off all that dry skin.
Here’s a little tip for all you goddesses out there that I learned while on the island: Every morning squeeze half a lemon into a glass of luke warm water and drink it down. Start off every morning with a large glass of lemon water on an empty stomach. Supposedly, the acidity neutralizes the ph-levels in your stomach and flush out toxins. It also helps you lose weight! It’s the first thing I reach for in the morning, before coffee or tea. Don’t believe me? Check out this site below.
I’ve got about a zillion other uses for lemon that I will share with you all. If you have any others, please share! I would love to hear of additional tips and tricks.
Discover your inner Aphrodite. . . .