My Meyer lemon tree is in full regalia, with star-shaped white blossoms filling the house with a sweet, heady fragrance. Since moving my plant inside for the winter, the five lemons on the tree have turned from pale green to quite yellow and ripe — a good time to harvest.
The Meyer lemon is a cross between a lemon and an orange. Named after Frank Nicholas Meyer, who in 1908 imported the plant into the United States from China, my tree is actually related to a hybrid released by the University of California in 1975. It is considered a dwarf; and the tree itself was not started from seed, but was grafted onto healthy rootstock.
Given the right conditions, these plants can grow anywhere from 6 to 10 feet tall, with thin-skinned, delicious, yellow fruit. To thrive, they need at least six hours of sun daily, and well-drained soil.
In the summer, I wheel the plant out onto the deck where it receives early morning sun and afternoon shade. Once the temperatures start to dip, the lemon tree returns to the sunniest window in my house. The glossy green leaves make for an attractive houseplant, and the flowers and fruit are a delightful bonus.
Meyer lemons have a rounder shape and smoother skin than common commercial lemons. The aromatic juice is sweeter and less acidic than that of regular lemons. Available in the markets from November until May, the fruit makes a wonderfully floral fresh-squeezed lemonade or cocktail, creamy marmalade, delicious chutney and is a tasty addition to a salad.
For years, my family has always enjoyed Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins. The original recipe, flavored with lemon extract, contains lots of sugar and a whole cup of fat. The muffins are definitely scrumptious, but a nutritious nightmare, at almost 500 calories per muffin.
Instead of lemon extract, this recipe uses both the grated zest and freshly squeezed juice from a Meyer lemon. I cut the sugar in half, reduced the fat, substituted whole-wheat pastry flour for regular flour and added plain yogurt to the batter.
These muffins are a keepah: fragrant, bursting with lemon flavor and poppy seeds, and healthy. Serve these treats for breakfast, tuck them into a lunch box, or enjoy as an afternoon snack. At only 168 calories per muffin, you can even eat more than one!