Longing for Lemon
Lemon is recommended by physicians for a number of ailments such as bladder infections, kidney stones, bronchitis, catarrh, constipation, heartburn, hiccups, pyorrhea, sunburns, intestinal worms and dysentery, to name a few.
Life without lemons seems unthinkable today. In modern times, lemons are prized kitchen companions that enliven everything from simple soups to daring dishes.
Beyond the culinary caboose, the trusty lemon is a fruit with an interesting history and a thousand uses. The ladies of Louis XIV’s (1638-1715) court loved to bite lemons to keep their lips seductively red. The Romans valued lemons as an antidote to all poisons. The so called “golden apples of the Hesperides” that Hercules had to fetch from the garden guarded by dragons were in fact lemons. The Chinese cherished the fruit on their long sea voyages and later the English made lemon consumption mandatory for sailors so that they could stave scurvy.
The Arabs were pioneers in spreading lemon cultivation. As early as the twelfth-century, Ibn Jamiya (physician to Sultan Saladin), wrote the Treatise of the Lemon, a work replete with recipes and worthy of translation to Latin in 1583. The Arabs carried lemon as far as China, where it was called “li mung,” from “limun” in Arabic. The Arab invasion of Spain in the eighth century reintroduced lemons to the area and they flourished in Andalusia—one of the finest lemon producing orchards in the world today. (Today, Mexico and the U.S. are the world’s biggest lemon producers.)
Modern Arabs use lemon in a variety of ways—fresh, dried, pickled, and preserved. They’ve perfected a way to preserve lemon in salt and spices until its texture is simonized to a silky finish.
Historical references to lemon as “median apples” are seen in the Greek comedies of Aristophanes (fifth-century B.C.), the botanical writings of Theophrastus (fourth-century B.C) and the work of the Roman poet Virgil (first-century B.C). The Roman scholar Athenaeus illuminates the popular belief that lemon was a powerful antidote in his tale where two criminals are thrown to venomous snakes. The criminal who ate a lemon before being bitten survives, but the other succumbs to a violent death.
As late as the fifteenth-century, the lemon was still a curious, luxury citrus fruit that was far from the maddening crowd. In 1494, the Spanish prince Cesare Borgia gave his wife an assortment of gifts that included lemons and oranges. Also around this time Columbus carried lemon seeds to Haiti, which led to lemon plant’s eventual migration to Florida. Franciscan missionaries brought it over to California in the 1850s following the gold rush.
Lemons are an incredible and concentrated source of vitamin C and they also contain healthy helpings of vitamins A, B and P, potassium, magnesium and folic acid. The outer layer (or “zest”) of a lemon contains an essential acid that tends to flavour and perfume food such as lemon pie, soufflé and mousse.
Lemon is also an ideal thirst quenching fruit. Lemonade or lemon sherbet is a perfect beverage and one of the most popular, refreshing drinks during hot weather. Though lemon is acidic, it is believed that its effect is alkaline. Ripe lemons tend to be sweeter and less acidic.
Lemon is recommended by physicians for a number of ailments such as bladder infections, kidney stones, bronchitis, catarrh, constipation, heartburn, hiccups, pyorrhea, sunburns, intestinal worms and dysentery, to name a few. European herbalists once recommended pearls dissolved in lemon juice as a treatment for epilepsy and lemon juice has also traditionally been used as a contraceptive.
Fried or grilled fish is nearly always served with a few splashes of lemon juice, which mitigate the typical fish smell and make these dishes more appealing. Lemon is an ideal ingredient in salads and lemon juice intensifies the flavour of many fruits. A few drops of lemon juice plus a dash of sugar creates a slightly sweet/sour tang that can make many vegetables more interesting.
Besides being much acclaimed as a natural remedy, lemon is an ideal kitchen companion, a perfect beauty therapy ingredient and an all around housemate that can be put to a myriad of uses, just some of which are suggested below:
The pain and burn of insect bites can be soothed with the application of lemon juice. The juice is also recommended for cuts and bleeding if you can withstand the sting. A few drops of lemon juice on a cut serve as a disinfectant and the cut closes and heals sooner. Nose bleeds also respond remarkably to lemon juice. Lemon is believed to be a powerful germicide that can outwit 20 different types of germs. Lemon juice is a great antiseptic. Mixed with olive or almond oil it cures eczema externally. Combined with papaya juice it works wonders in cases of athlete’s foot.
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Skin and hair care
There is nothing that can rejuvenate your skin like a lemon, which helps to maintain the skin’s pH balance. An ideal face mask can be prepared using lemon and honey in equal quantities. Mix the ingredients; apply to your face and let sit for 10 minutes. An old remedy for wrinkles was to apply lemon directly to the skin, leave it on for two to three hours and then massage the area with olive oil. Fruit acids (alpha hydroxy acids) are highly valued in the cosmetics industry and lemon is an important ingredient in various skin creams.
After shampooing, retouch your hair with a final rinse made out of water and lemon juice (half a lemon mixed to 500 ml of water) to fight dandruff and sweep the soap film and excess oils.
Lemon juice added to rice prevents it from sticking and enhances its white colour. To prevent eggs from cracking while boiling, simply paint the eggs with lemon juice. Add a teaspoon of lemon juice to the water you are boiling eggs in to ensure that the shell peels off with little effort. Fruits (like apple) when peeled and cut can be saved from enzyme browning if you apply lemon juice on them. And finally to counter the odour of garlic, onion, sea food, fish, etc. the best thing is to rub your hands against a piece of lemon dipped in table salt.
Lemon juice added to baking soda makes an excellent stain remover and even serves as a safe, mild bleach. Rust stains are easily removed by covering the rusted areas with salt and then rubbing it with lemon juice. Aluminum, brass and copper implements regain their luster once they are treated with lemon juice mixed with salt.
Choose lemons with smooth skins that are free from bruises or wrinkles. Ripe lemons exude a pleasant citrus aroma. Lemons are best kept at room temperature, which yields more juice as compared to refrigerated lemon. Place a lemon in hot water or microwave it (30 seconds) to extract more juice. Enjoy!