lemon

Indian lemons are round to oval, averaging 5-10 centimeters in diameter. The thin, slightly bumpy, outer skin has prominent oil glands and is green when unripe and transforms to a bright yellow when mature. The flesh is succulent and vibrant yellow with 8-10 segments and a few, white, inedible seeds. Indian lemons are juicy, semi-sweet, and mild with low acidity.

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Seasons/Availability

Indian lemons are available year-round.

Varieties:

Commonly grown acid lime cultivar is Kargzi lime, but recently identified four high yielding cultivars Vikram, Prumalini, PKM, and Sai Sharbati are now gaining popularity. Commonly grown lemon varieties are Assam lemon, Italian lemon, Pant lemon, Galgal and Eureka lemon, Sevilla and Malta lemon varieties are popular in South India.

Current Facts

The Indian lemon, botanically classified as Citrus limon, is a difficult grouping to define and often refers to several indigenous lemon varieties such as the Nepali Oblong, Nepali Round, and Sweet lemon, and also refers to imported varieties such as the Meyer and Eureka lemon. Indian lemons are known as Nimbu in Hindi, Champra in Manipuri, and Elumicchai in Tamil. The word Nimbu refers to both lemons and limes in India. The reason this name is used interchangeably in India is due to similarities in appearance of the lemon and lime varieties. It is common to harvest or buy Indian lemons when they are green and unripe, appearing like a lime, and lime varieties in India can also turn yellow when mature, resembling a lemon. Limes are readily available in Indian markets, and true lemons are rare to find, so when one visits India and asks for a lemon, a lime may be presented in its place.

Nutritional Value

Indian lemons are a good source of vitamin C.

Applications

Indian lemons are typically used in fresh preparations to add sweet and sour flavors and balance out heat in dishes. They can be squeezed and used to dress Western-styled salads in northern India, which are comprised of raw onion, sliced tomatoes, green chiles, and cucumbers. The juice can also be used to make sodas and nimbu pani, or Indian lemonade. Indian lemons are commonly sliced and used to make pickled lemon, which is a mixture of sliced lemon, salt, pepper, chiles, and carom seeds and is left to ferment in a jar for several weeks before consuming as a side dish. Indian lemons pair well with herbs such as lavender, mint, cilantro, basil, and lemongrass, aromatics such as garlic, onion, ginger, and fennel, white wine, sesame, curry leaf, turmeric, and fruits such as strawberry and cucumber. Indian lemons will keep up to two weeks when stored in the refrigerator.

Ethnic/Cultural Info

Indian lemons are used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine as a digestive aid. They are believed to have antibacterial properties and can also be used as a remedy for sore throats. In addition to medicinal benefits, it is common to see a whole lemon strung up with seven green chiles in the doorways of shops and businesses in India. The legend states that Alakshmi, the goddess of misfortune, is fond of spicy foods and will take the offering and devour it. When her hunger is satisfied, she will pass by and leave the business intact.

Geography/History

The exact origin of the lemon is unknown, but some experts believe it originated from the eastern Himalayan region of India and has been growing since ancient times. Today Indian lemons can be found in local markets in India and select regions in Southeast Asia.

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