Citrus × meyeri
C. × meyeri
|Citrus × meyeri|
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 acidity level allows 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 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. Though it is given his namesake, it is important to note that this variety was established as 香柠檬 (xiangningmeng) likely thousands of years before he introduced it to America.
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. Popularity further climbed when Martha Stewart began featuring them in some of her recipes.
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.
The Meyer lemon fruit is yellow and rounder than a true lemon. 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. The pulp is a dark yellow and contains up to 10 seeds per fruit
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. 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. 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. 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. 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. While fruit is produced throughout the year, the majority of the crop is harvest-ready in winter. 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.
New leaves are an attractive food source to Swallowtail butterfly larva.
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 hydrolyze 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.  The lemon zest, the grated outer rind of the fruit, is used quite frequently to add flavor when cooking or baking. 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.
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. After this finding, most of the Meyer lemon trees in the United States were destroyed to save other citrus trees. The Meyer lemon is also known as the Valley Lemon.
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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.
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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.
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