Lemon Peel: More To It Than Zest

Lemons are thought to have originated in the northwest part of India and have been cultivated there for over 2,500 years. Some researchers consider them to be a hybrid between sour orange and citron. Lemons were brought to the Middle East and Africa after 100 BC.

Lemon trees were first used as ornamental plants until about the 10th century. Shortly after that, lemon plants would be introduced to Spain by the Arabs. From there, lemons would be introduced to the rest of Europe by crusaders who brought them back. It was during the early part of lemon’s history in the Mediterranean that lemons were first preserved. Preserved lemons are lemons that have been salted and fermented. In this preparation, the peel is what provides most of the flavor. The preserved rinds are removed from their brine and used as a spice in foods.

The word lemon would enter the English language around the 14th century. Lemons would be widely used in Europe by the 15th century and Christopher Columbus would take lemon seeds with him to the New World.

Lemons would be cultivated throughout the New World and would thrive in North America with Florida and California eventually being the main hubs of North American citrus production.

Lemon peel flavor profile

Lemon peel offers a more concentrated lemon flavor and fragrance when compared to the juice of the lemon. It provides an intense, sweet citrus flavor with a slightly bitter note.

Health benefits of lemon peel

Lemon peels contain a variety of nutrients including:

  • Minerals: Lemon peels are rich sources of calcium and potassium, both of which are important for bone health and for the transmission of electrical nerve impulses within the body. You can get 8 mg of calcium from a tablespoon of raw lemon peel and 10 mg of potassium from that same amount. These are just small fractions of what you need each day, but still significant for the small serving size.
  • Vitamins: The peel of lemons provides more vitamins than the rest of the fruit. You can get as much as 10 times the amount of vitamins from the peel than you get from the juice. Vitamins in lemon peel include Vitamin C. You can get almost 10 percent of your daily vitamin C from a single tablespoon of lemon peel.
  • Fiber: A 1-tablespoon serving of lemon peel provides a little over 2.5 percent of your daily fiber intake. Fiber is important for the function of your digestive system.

Along with the nutrients it provides, lemon peel can provide a range of benefits for your overall health. Use it to treat or prevent:

  • Cancer: Lemon peels are thought to be beneficial for preventing prostate, skin, and breast cancer.
  • Diabetes: Partly due to its fiber content, lemon peel is thought to be an effective tool for controlling blood sugar.
  • Heart Disease: Another benefit of the fiber is the effect on cholesterol levels. In addition, lemon peel contains vitamin C and other antioxidants that can help to lower heart disease risk.

Use cases for lemon peel

Lemon peel can be used in some unique ways – well beyond just the “hint of lemon” provided by lemon zest. Lemon peel can be preserved with salt and used to make a variety of Moroccan tagines including chicken tagine. It can be candied in sugar to make cakes and other desserts. You can also dry it and add it to tea. Dried lemon peel pairs particularly well with black tea. You can use fresh or dried lemon peel to flavor simple syrups or make a lemon sauce.

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