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Sweet lemons?

The other day I bought something called "sweet lemons" at my favourite Middle Eastern grocer. They're about the size and colour of regular lemons, but the skin is a bit smoother and maybe not quite so thick. What did I buy and what should I do with them?

There was a woman beside me also buying them and I asked her about them. She says you just eat them like an orange. Really? You think?

I obviously haven't tried one yet.

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  1. Is it a Meyer Lemon?


    If so, you'll find all kinds of recipes by searching for Meyer Lemon.

    Edit: Nope, nevermind... apparently it's something else.

    1. Ok this is one weird fruit. I juiced one yesterday to use in a marinade for grilled chicken. It's true - these are not sour. In fact they are barely anything at all. There's little of the typical lemon aroma, and the juice has almost no flavour - it's definitely not acidic. I would certainly not use it in a recipe that calls for a normal lemon. The only thing I can think of doing with it is to add to a fruit salad - and even then, they're not as flavourful as an ordinary orange. Very very odd.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Nyleve

        Could they be what are called sweet limes around in Latin markets around here (NYC)? I once asked what turned out to be a kitchen-clueless produce stacker if he knew what they were used for, but the most I could get was "boiling them [apparently but not 100% clearly, whole] in water" with no particular reason for doing so. Jumping to a bit of a conclusion, I'd guess that if the guy didn't invent the whole thing right there, it's one of those things that nobody really "likes" to drink but is supposed to be good for something-or-other chronic or otherwise inevitable like winter chills or old age.(g) Realistically, probably "invented" to make some use of nontoxic fruit that would otherwise just rot on the ground since even animals wouldn't be interested unless there's a drought. (lol)

        IIRC, I think I tried boiling one in a small amount of water but I don't remember the taste, which either means it didn't have much or had so little aroma that I didn't bother to taste it at all. Maybe the guy didn't know you're supposed to poke holes in it or something, but with as little flavor as the flesh has, I don't see that helping. I did cut one up to examine and taste and -- heavy and ripe as it appeared to be -- it was just as you describe, it just sort of "wasn't".

        1. re: MikeG

          Re: Sweet Lemons
          Nyleve & MikeG
          I live on Long Island and have been searching for sweet lemons for years. I was introduced to them in Manhattan about 17 yrs ago, they blew my mind at the time, I didn't know what I was eating/seeing. Looked like a regular lemon-a bit smoother tho- yet sliced and placed in my drink it was sweet like candy, this was also the first time I ever had Thunderbird (LOL). I was told it was sweet lemons and where to get them so I ran over to this hispanic produce store, around the corner, on Amsterdam near 105th St. At the time my spanish was real rusty but I got my point across that I was looking for a sweet Lemon. (G) He pointed me to what looked like a bunch of regular old lemons. The difference was that reg. lemons had a sign saying "Lemons" what he showed me said "Limons" so I bought a few. (whether these were Meyer lemons or not I do not know but it sure sounds the same) When I returned to the apartment they had me peel one and, to my surprise, eat it like an orange, guess what no pucker face. lol It was sweet like candy, like pineapple life savers type of sweet, a flavor that is unmistakeable and unforgetable. I had the news on today at noon and to my surprise Tony Tantillo was talking about Meyer Lemons, it was his tip of the day. :)
          On the right side you will see a video just check through for "Tony's tip of the day: Lemons" it will be dated March 03,2010 1:07pm ET. I had given up looking for Sweet Lemons, so as soon as I saw that I had to get online and search for Meyer Lemons and Here I am. :) You should also check out Tony's Website he talks all about lemons -Acidic types, Sweet, Meyer apparantly although Meyer lemons are sweet there is a big difference between them and Sweet Lemons or "Limettas", Here is the specific page ,there is alot of info re: selection & storage, preparation, availability and type:
          Here is another URL I came across, From the LA Times, with some info and 100 recipes for Meyer lemons ...
          ..... Hope this all helps. Good Luck and I hope you can find the same sweet lemons I had. :) {SMILE} Maybe the ones you got were not fully ripe?

          1. re: ladiblu

            I also live on LI and I recently found them at a local produce store. The store is called John's Farms in Plainview.

        2. re: Nyleve

          They're available around here as "Persian" sweet limes, and I find them lacking in sugar and acid. However, they juice easily, and once adjusted with citric acid and sugar I find the juice makes an excellent limeade with some pleasant added floral aromatics. I added 1 tsp. dried citric acid (carried at Indian markets for pickling) and 2 T. sugar to 1 cup juice.

        3. It is possible that it's a one-off hybrid from a tree in someone's yard. Or orchard. At my local farmers market yesterday I bought some small, orange colored citrus from one of my favorite vendors. He said, "well, it's not a satsuma, but they're really sweet. I just have this one tree in my orchard; I have no idea what it is." And it's true-peels like a satsuma, but tarter and much smaller.

          This jibes with what I've been reading. According to Harold McGee, all modern citrus is derived from mandarin orange, citron, and pommelo. Everything else is some combination of these, or combination of a combination. And since citrus hybridizes so easily it seems entirely possible that you have stumbled upon someone's experiment, rather than an exotic import from the Middle East (which is also entirely possible, of course).

          1. In hunting around the net (always an infallible source of completely accurate information) I did find a page that talked about "sweet lemon" as a variant that could be processed for essential oils, but which wasn't terribly flavorful and didn't really have much commercial value as a food product. This seems to be along the lines of what you bought.

            1. doesn't sound like Meyer (Improved). My Meyers have always had very fragrant skins and piquant if not sour juice. Very aromatic. Thin-skinned when compared to a Eureka or Lisbon; smaller and more rounded, especially as the fruits mature on the tree. Easy to grow in a large tub if you have enough sun.

              1 Reply
              1. re: toodie jane

                About the same size as a regular lemon, rounder and thinner skinned - yes. But I live in a place in Canada where, today at least, the temperature is hovering around -20 celsius. The chances of this thing being a locally grown quirk are, well, zilch. I think Dmnkly probably has it right. It's a nothing lemon. I'm not sure what I'm going to do with the rest of them (I think I bought 5). Maybe mix the juice in with fresh OJ. Strange that anyone would ever bother growing (or shipping or buying) anything that has no flavour.

                1. re: Egg

                  That's it. Funny how they keep describing the fragrance. Mine are hardly fragrant at all. Oh well - I'm sure that's the very same thing. Odd little fruit - not really worth it, in my opinion. Thanks, Egg!

                2. Might be too late to reply, but I'm very familiar with this fruit so I thought I should. I grew up eating sweet lemons and they're eaten mostly by Middle Easterners. They are sweet, almost bland, with absolutely zero acidity. You just peel and eat like an orange, though my grandmother always spoiled me by sectioning it because I didn't like the bitter membranes. I had to eat them when I was sick, I assume because they have vitamin C but aren't irritating to your throat like other citrus.

                  I've never heard of boiling them, and neither has anyone I've talked to. There's a type of dry lime that you poke holes in and boil up to drink for medicinal purposes (cures nausea and upset stomach), which might be what that other writer was referring to.

                  1. this is copied from a site called Lemon:
                    Sweet Lemon (C. limetta Risso)–a general name for certain non-acid lemons or limettas, favored in the Mediterranean region, In India, they are grown in the Nilgiris, Malabar and other areas. The fruits are usually insipid, occasionally subacid or acid. The seeds are white within and the tree is large, resembling that of the orange. One cultivar, called 'Dorshapo' after the plant explorers, Dorsett, Shamel and Popenoe, who introduced it from Brazil in 1914, resembles the 'Eureka' in most respects except for the lack of acidity. Another, called 'Millsweet', apparently was introduced into California from Mexico and planted in a mission garden. It was reproduced at the old University of California Experiment Station at Pomona. Neither is of any commercial value.

                    i have some of these. some are better than others, but i think they have a pleasant, mild, sweet flavor, and yes, you do just peel and eat them, like an orange.

                    1. I've been looking everywhere for those lemons!!

                      They were a childhood fav. of mine growing up in different places but I never found them here in (toronto) .. Which store did you find them at?


                      4 Replies
                      1. re: BamiaWruz

                        Hi - funny that this turned up now. I bought those sweet lemons last year at Nasr on Lawrence Ave. E. To be quite honest, I probably won't buy them again. They were quite insipid in flavour and really had no lemon aroma at all. Not sure if that's typical, but as a citrus fruit, I'd rather eat an orange or grapefruit. And they're no substitute for lemon or lime.

                        But if you're looking for them I'd try either Nasr or Arz.

                        1. re: BamiaWruz

                          BamiaWruz, i stumbled upon these today at "Super Khorak" on Yonge St. It's just south of Steeles and open 24-hours.
                          The front door had two hand-written signs announcing, "California Sweet Lemons Now Here" and many people in line ahead of me were purchasing them, which makes me think that they're not always available?

                          1. re: growinggourmet

                            Wow, how wonderful!

                            Thank you for the note, if I go and get some I will try otherwise it's next year, I guess.

                        2. Could be a Palestinian Sweet Lemon, I have a tree in my greenhouse and we juice them for "diet" lemonade.

                          1. hello nyleve- did you ever figure out what to do with these sweet lemons? i too have a bag of these and don't know what to do with them. i first tried making juice but what i got was actually something slightly bitter but still sweet in this flat way. i added sugar but it didn't take away the bitterness. these are certainly not meyers either!

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: trolley

                              Well, after a bit of messing around I realized that they were one of those neither-here-nor-there things. Not tart enough to use as a lemon, not flavourful enough to take the place of an orange, and really without the fragrance of either. I think I ended up mostly adding the juice to some marinade for something or other. I've never had a Meyer lemon so I don't know for sure, but I suspect also that this is not at all the same thing. Meh, I say.

                            2. They aren't Meyers. I bought some once out of curiosity and an earlier poster described it best, insipid.

                              Meyers are tart but not as tart as regular lemons and the skin has a slight tangerine aroma. I wouldn't eat them just as a fruit, but use them for cooking. They'd be good with fish, or as a lemonade base.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Louise

                                i feel bad throwing them away b/c my husband bought them for me knowing i love lemons and tried to do something different. i guess i'm just going to mix with regular lemons for a better taste. no they are not meyer lemons. they are what another poster claimed-bitter oranges or sweet limes. middle eastern in origin.

                              2. I've found this on occasion at our farmer's market. It is different then a meyer lemon which still has an acidity.

                                Honestly, I've never found a use for them.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: JudiAU

                                  yes, he got them at the hollywood farmers market. the same vendor who sells the ojai tangerines which are delicious!

                                  1. re: JudiAU

                                    just eat it like an orange remember to remove the skin first its to bitter,,or just make lemonade juice..

                                  2. We bought a lime tree for the front yard, and were appalled to see largish, yellow fruits appear. They were not tart, not at all. In fact, they were as sweet and weak as nearly flavorless apples, such as the Red Delicious. What a disappointment. Also the orange tree and lemon tree we bought for the backyard never grew, never fruited. Forget about asking the sales people. Home Depot is not a good place to buy nursery stock.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: RosePearl

                                      Your tree may be sprouting from the rootstock (all citrus are grafted onto a disease-resistant rootstock). Careful inspection of the trunk near ground level should reveal a diagonal "seam" where the two different tissues have grown together at the graft. If your has none, it maybe lost it's grafted tissue (broken off etc) and the rootstock has taken over.

                                    2. I bought two at Whole Foods and they were divine! Very sweet and perfumey though the pith is bitter - add the juice to fruit smoothies in lieu of sweetener for satisfying results.

                                      1. I just bought these at the local Middle Eastern market, mistaking them for Meyer lemons. I haven't figured out a use for the fruit or juice, but the zest seems to work just fine in baked goods that call for "regular" lemon zest.

                                        Pickling or preserving the fruit seems like it might be worth a shot.

                                        1. I live in souther Ecuador, Vilcabamba. Here the sweet lemon is given to children (all ages) to suck the juice out of. It is sweet and tastes sdomewhat like lemonade. It is a treat given daily and does not have the acidic quality of a lemon. I believe it is also called a limetta in some places. It is used frequently in Medierraian cooking. You might want to look up some of those recipes to see how you want to use yours.

                                          1. Its so funny that I came across this board since I'm very sick with a cold right now. Being Persian and growing up eating sweet lemons I can offer some insight into this peculiar fruit. Sweet lemons are an AMAZING cold buster and are cut up like oranges to be consumed immediately. They start growing bitter the second they are cut open so lets say...an hour later they are very very bitter and not so sweet anymore. Some people like them some don't, I always had to consume ridiculous amounts when I was sick and would put off eating them till they were too bitter therefore had a deep rooted resentment toward them. I can however appreciate them better now as they are pretty underrated by most and are-if consumed correctly- sweet and delightful!

                                            1. sweet lemons are different form meyer lemons ! meyer lemons are limes seen at this adress : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meyer_lemon and the sweet lemon can be found here : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sweet_lemon

                                              1. My acupuncturist sent me to a middle eastern grocer to buy these when I had a cold. She said they are very high in anti-oxidants and vitamin C, but not acidic so you can eat several without getting irritated as some people do with lemons and other citrus. She did say that you have to eat it within 10 minutes of cutting it open or else it will become bitter. This is probably why the folks who have tried it in salads or juices etc found it bitter. It has a rather benign taste, but you can't taste much when you have a cold anyway -- and it did seem to help me feel better. They are definitely NOT meyer lemons.

                                                1. I live in southern Ecuador. Here the sweet lemons are used for hydration. The pulp is not good to eat. They simply rip open the skin and start sucking the juice out.. It has very little taste. It is not good for cooking or eating.

                                                  1. Sweet lemons are low in acidity and delicious. They taste a bit like "Five Alive" citrus juice when it was *first* introduced decades ago. I find the fruits to be a perfect balance -- they are not overly sweet nor are they bitter. Slice them in quarters and let the juice flow into your mouth. They don't render a lot of juice, but it's enough. Enjoy.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: Cheese Boy

                                                      Sweet lemons are originally from Iran. I've been having it most of my life, specially during flu season as it's a great source of vitamin C. At the same time it's easier on the throat and stomach comparing to oranges or other acidic fruits. Just like how pomegranate wasn't very popular in North America till a few years ago, some day sweet lemons will be recognized for their benefits and become known on this side of the world.

                                                    2. I use them in martinis, replacing some or all of the vermouth, depending on what kind of vodka I have on hand!