Meyer lemon

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Meyer lemon
Citrus × meyeri
Meyer Lemon.jpg
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Rosids
Order: Sapindales
Family: Rutaceae
Genus: Citrus
C. × meyeri
Binomial name
Citrus × meyeri

Citrus × meyeri, the Meyer lemon, is a hybrid citrus fruit native to China. It is a cross between a citron and a mandarin/pomelo hybrid distinct from the common or bitter oranges.[1]

Mature trees are around 6 to 10 ft (2 to 3 m) tall with dark green shiny leaves. Flowers are white with a purple base and fragrant. The fruit is rounder than a true lemon, deep yellow with a slight orange tint when ripe, and has a sweeter, less acidic flavor. The lemons contain a highly acidic pH of between 2 and 3. This means that lemon juice is 10,000-100,000 times more acidic than the levels of water.[2] With this being said, the acidity levels allow for these lemons to be used as antibacterial and antiseptic cleaners.

It was introduced to the United States in 1908 as S.P.I. #23028[3] by the agricultural explorer Frank Nicholas Meyer, an employee of the United States Department of Agriculture who collected a sample of the plant on a trip to China.[4] A newsletter from Medical News Today outlines several studies indicating that lemons may have health benefits that include lowering the risk of stroke, regulating blood pressure, preventing cancer, and boosting the immune system with high levels of vitamin C.[5] Additionally the phytochemicals in the lemon can help with boosting mood, calming anxiety, and aiding in weight loss.[6]

The Meyer lemon is commonly grown in China in garden pots as an ornamental tree. It became popular as a food item in the United States after being rediscovered by chefs such as Alice Waters at Chez Panisse during the rise of California Cuisine starting in the 1970s.[7][8] Popularity further climbed when Martha Stewart began featuring them in some of her recipes.[4]


An unripened Meyer lemon

Citrus × meyeri trees are around 6 to 10 ft (2 to 3 m) tall at maturity, though they can be pruned smaller. Their leaves are dark green and shiny. The flowers are white with a purple base and fragrant.[9]

The Meyer lemon fruit is yellow and rounder than a true lemon.[9] The skin is fragrant and thin, coloured a deep yellow with a slight orange tint when ripe. Meyer lemon fruits have a sweeter, less acidic flavour than the more common Lisbon or Eureka supermarket lemon varieties.[9] The pulp is a dark yellow and contains up to 10 seeds per fruit

Meyer lemon approaching ripeness


The Meyer lemon is popular as an ornamental plant for its compact size, hardiness and productivity. It is decorative and suitable for container growing. It is one of the most sweet lemons there is, even their skin is delicious and can be great for cooking.[10] Growing a Meyer lemon tree can either be done in a pot or straight from the ground, but the plant does require plenty of sunlight. These plants require an ample amount of sunlight, but too much sunlight is possible and can even burn the plant if exposed for long periods of time. This is why summer sun, morning sunlight with some afternoon shade is the most ideal for taking the best care of the lemon tree.[11] The tree is reasonably hardy and grows well in warm climates. It is fairly vigorous, with a plant grown from seed usually beginning to fruit in four years yielding thousands of lemons over its lifetime.[citation needed] These plants do require an adequate amount of water, but having well draining soil is crucial. However, allowing the soil to dry out slightly between watering keeps the plant moist enough, but not too moist or dry.[10] Along with watering and sunlight, Meyer lemon trees need high nitrogen fertilizer that is slow releasing. These plants should only be given fertilizer within the growing season (spring-fall) and never in the winter, unless the leaves are yellowing then they should be given water and fertilizer.[12] While fruit is produced throughout the year, the majority of the crop is harvest-ready in winter.[13] Trees require adequate water, but less in the winter. For maximum yield, they should be fertilized during growing periods. New branches are thorny to protect the young shoots, but the thorns transform into secondary branches with age. A very important role when it comes to growing the most successful tree is pruning, this keeps the plant in shape and avoids overcrowding of unnecessary plants to leave room for the lemons. It allows the plant to receive the proper airflow which enhances the plant to grow strong and well, while also preventing the plant from any potential diseases.[12]

New leaves are an attractive food source to Swallowtail butterfly larva.

Health benefits[edit]

Lemons are filled with vitamin C and flavonoids, which act as antioxidants. These antioxidants aid in removing free radicals that damage body cells over time.[5] A study done in 2012 outlines that certain flavonoids in citrus fruits lower the risk of ischemic stroke in women. Nearly 70,000 women who ate citrus fruit over fourteen years had a nineteen percent lower risk of ischemic stroke compared to women that did not consume citrus fruits.[14] A 2019 population study showed that these same flavonoids protect humans from cancer and cardiovascular disease.[15] Factors such as age, pollution, and sun exposure lead to skin damage. With the consumption or application of vitamin C regularly, this type of damage can be prevented. Vitamin C also helps in reducing the chances of patients having asthma attacks. This vitamin benefits people with bronchial hypersensitivity with symptoms of the common cold. This allows for a strengthened immune system to fight against things such as the flu.[5]  

Mode of action[edit]

Lemons have an alkalizing effect on the gastric environment within the human body.[citation needed] By stimulating the production of potassium carbonate, the gastric mucosa receives protective effects.[citation needed] Hesperides are biochemicals and have many anti-inflammatory properties. These hesperides stimulate production of nitric oxide within the endothelial cells while improving endothelial function. This reduces the inflammatory markers.[16]

Homeopathic uses[edit]

Homeopathic uses of lemon help with anxiety, mood, and weight loss. To promote each of these categories, lemon can be used as an aromatherapy in a diffuser, bath, or cloth. When looking at anxiety, an extract was screened for the high levels of muscarinic and nicotinic (both active phytochemicals). Muscarinic and nicotinic were shown to bind to human brain tissue and have calming effects as well as memory performance.[6] This also contributes to boosting the mood within a person and keeping their anxiety low. In a 2008 study, phenols were found in the lemon peels to help prevent weight loss. Those that followed a lemon detox diet experienced larger improvements on insulin resistance and a lower body weight than when they started. These phenols also help with reducing body fat and body mass index.[17]

Culinary uses[edit]

The juice of the lemon can be used to make things such as cocktails and lemonade. This lemon juice can be used to tenderize meat and partially hydrolyzed tough collagen fibers. The low pH denatures the proteins causing them to dry out when the meat is cooked. The juice is also used as a substitution for vinegar in dressings and is used to brighten/enhance flavors of vegetables, acting as a preservative.[18] A polysaccharide called pectin is used as a gelling agent. Pectin is used as a thickener and stabilizer in food so it does not go bad. The lemon zest, found in the grated outer rind of the fruit, is used quite frequently to add flavor when cooking or baking.[18] Some examples of dishes that use zest in their recipe are puddings, rice, and chicken soup. The leaves of the lemon tree are primarily used for making tea and preparing cooked meats to have retaining and lasting flavor.

Improved Meyer[edit]

Closeup of 'Improved Meyer Lemon' flower

By the mid-1940s, the Meyer lemon had become widely grown in California. However, at that time it was discovered that a majority of the Meyer lemon trees being cloned were symptomless carriers of the Citrus tristeza virus, a virus which had killed millions of citrus trees all over the world and rendered other millions useless for production.[19] After this finding, most of the Meyer lemon trees in the United States were destroyed to save other citrus trees.

A virus-free selection was found in the 1950s[20] and was certified and released in 1975 by the University of California as the 'Improved Meyer lemon' – Citrus × meyeri 'Improved'.[21][22]


  1. ^ Curk, Franck; Ollitrault, Frédérique; Garcia-Lor, Andres; Luro, François; Navarro, Luis; Ollitrault, Patrick (2016). "Phylogenetic origin of limes and lemons revealed by cytoplasmic and nuclear markers". Annals of Botany. 11 (4): 565–583. doi:10.1093/aob/mcw005. PMC 4817432. PMID 26944784.
  2. ^ "Lemon Juice: Acidic or Alkaline, and Does It Matter?". Healthline. Retrieved 2020-05-06.
  3. ^ "Lemon". Retrieved 2014-06-09.
  4. ^ a b O'Hara, Julie (18 February 2009). "The Meyer Lemon: More Than A Pretty Face". National Public Radio. Retrieved 2009-02-20. For more than a century, the Meyer lemon was known mostly for its looks. In its native China, it was primarily a decorative houseplant. The Meyer lemon might still be decorating homes today if it weren't for one man. In the early 1900s, the U.S. Department of Agriculture sent Frank N. Meyer, an agricultural explorer (yes, that was his actual job title) on several trips to Asia with the mission of collecting new plant species. Among more than 2,500 plants that he introduced to the U.S., the Meyer lemon was named in his honor. Sadly, Meyer would never live to see the success of his namesake. He died on an expedition near Shanghai in 1918.
  5. ^ a b c "Lemons: Benefits, nutrition, tips, and risks". Retrieved 2020-05-06.
  6. ^ a b Kennedy, D O; Wake, G; Savelev, S; Tildesley, N T J; Perry, E K; Wesnes, K A; Scholey, A B (2003-05-15). "Modulation of Mood and Cognitive Performance Following Acute Administration of Single Doses of Melissa Officinalis (Lemon Balm) with Human CNS Nicotinic and Muscarinic Receptor-Binding Properties". Neuropsychopharmacology. 28 (10): 1871–1881. doi:10.1038/sj.npp.1300230. ISSN 0893-133X. PMID 12888775.
  7. ^ Lowry, Patricia (February 12, 2009). "When life hands you Meyer lemons, life is sweet". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Pittsburgh. Meyer lemons are sweet, thin-skinned and famous for their ethereal perfume. Although common in California backyards, they are just beginning to be commercialized. Ask your friends or relatives in California to send you some," Alice Waters wrote in her Chez Panisse Cafe Cookbook in 1999. A decade later you don't have to beg, thanks in part to Waters' championing of the Meyer and to more growers entering commercial production.
  8. ^ "Domestic Programs". Slow Food USA. Archived from the original on 2012-11-24. Retrieved 2014-06-09.
  9. ^ a b c Christman, Steve (10 February 2018). "1067 Citrus meyeri". Floridata. Retrieved 3 August 2018.
  10. ^ a b "Learn How to Grow a Beautiful Meyer Lemon Tree in a Pot". The Spruce. Retrieved 2020-05-06.
  11. ^ "Meyer Lemon Tree Care – Learn About Growing Meyer Lemons". Gardening Know How. Retrieved 2020-05-06.
  12. ^ a b "Lemon Tree". doi:10.31096/wua121-nos_461. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  13. ^ "Citrus Variety Collection: Improved Meyer". University of California Riverside. 2002-05-28. Retrieved 2014-06-09.
  14. ^ Cassidy, Aedín; Rimm, Eric B.; O'Reilly, Éilis J.; Logroscino, Giancarlo; Kay, Colin; Chiuve, Stephanie E.; Rexrode, Kathryn M. (April 2012). "Dietary Flavonoids and Risk of Stroke in Women". Stroke. 43 (4): 946–951. doi:10.1161/STROKEAHA.111.637835. ISSN 0039-2499. PMC 3360888. PMID 22363060.
  15. ^ Bondonno, Nicola P.; Dalgaard, Frederik; Kyrø, Cecilie; Murray, Kevin; Bondonno, Catherine P.; Lewis, Joshua R.; Croft, Kevin D.; Gislason, Gunnar; Scalbert, Augustin; Cassidy, Aedin; Tjønneland, Anne; Overvad, Kim; Hodgson, Jonathan M. (2019). "Flavonoid intake is associated with lower mortality in the Danish Diet Cancer and Health Cohort". Nature Communications. 10 (1): 3651. Bibcode:2019NatCo..10.3651B. doi:10.1038/s41467-019-11622-x. PMC 6692395. PMID 31409784.
  16. ^ Parhiz, Hamideh; Roohbakhsh, Ali; Soltani, Fatemeh; Rezaee, Ramin; Iranshahi, Mehrdad (March 2015). "Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of the citrus flavonoids hesperidin and hesperetin: an updated review of their molecular mechanisms and experimental models". Phytotherapy Research. 29 (3): 323–331. doi:10.1002/ptr.5256. ISSN 1099-1573. PMID 25394264.
  17. ^ Fukuchi, Yoshiko; Hiramitsu, Masanori; Okada, Miki; Hayashi, Sanae; Nabeno, Yuka; Osawa, Toshihiko; Naito, Michitaka (November 2008). "Lemon Polyphenols Suppress Diet-induced Obesity by Up-Regulation of mRNA Levels of the Enzymes Involved in β-Oxidation in Mouse White Adipose Tissue". Journal of Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition. 43 (3): 201–209. doi:10.3164/jcbn.2008066. ISSN 0912-0009. PMC 2581754. PMID 19015756.
  18. ^ a b "All About Lemons". Retrieved 2020-05-06.
  19. ^ Lee, Richard F. (2015). "Chapter Five – Control of Virus Diseases of Citrus". Advances in Virus Research. 92: 143–173. doi:10.1016/bs.aivir.2014.10.002.
  20. ^ "Four Winds Growers: Meyer Lemon Origins". Archived from the original on 5 Oct 2010.
  21. ^ Markoulakis, Sophia (May 2005). "Meyer Lemon Sweet Enough To Squeeze" (PDF). Master Gardener News – Amador County. University of California Cooperative Extension. p. 6. Archived from the original (PDF) on 7 March 2006.
  22. ^ Reuther, Walter; Leon Dexter Batchelor; E. Clair Calavan; Herbert John Webber; Glenn E. Carman; Robert G Platt (1989). Citrus Industry: Crop Protection. University of California. p. 195. ISBN 978-0931876240.

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