The sweeter side of Meyer lemons

Prized for their floral aroma and mild flavor, they really shine at dessert
ELAINE JOHNSON

Meyer lemons are the angels of the citrus world," exclaims Donia Bijan, chef-owner of L'Amie Donia restaurant in Palo Alto. "I could eat one ― skin, seeds, and all ― like an apple. They're so sweet, and yet they have a nice tartness that gives a kick to everything."

Lindsey Shere, pastry chef for Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley, adds, "The peel has a really wonderful, very flowery taste. They're especially well suited to desserts because of their complex flavor."

This current darling of chefs ― thought to be a cross between a lemon and an orange ― is growing in favor with home cooks and gardeners, too. Commercial growers around San Diego and in California's San Joaquin Valley are increasing production, and specialty produce purveyors are more willing to carry the thin-skinned, somewhat perishable lemon. (Chilled, it keeps a few weeks.)

California Citrus Specialties (209/781-0886) sells Meyers by mail ― 3 pounds for $9.95, plus shipping. Call soon; the season ends in March.

Designed specifically for Meyers, our recipes use the juice and peel in generous quantities for extraordinarily lemony, floral results.

CHEFS' TIPS FOR USING MEYERS

When substituting Meyer lemons for standard Eurekas, Donia Bijan says she is more heavy-handed. "If a recipe asks for the zest of two Eureka lemons, I might use five [Meyers]." Lindsey Shere, on the other hand, doesn't increase Meyer quantities in recipes calling for standard lemons; if necessary, she augments the tartness with a little Eureka lemon juice.

Shere makes allowances for Meyers getting increasingly sweeter and more orange as the season progresses from December to March.

In general, both chefs like Meyer lemons in delicate desserts such as sorbets and ice creams, custards, Bavarians, and tarts. The zest also does wonders for cookie doughs and poached fruit. Shere also loves the lemons candied.

Recipes:

Meyer Custard-Cream Pie

Meyer Lemon Sherbet

Meyer Lemon Soufflés