On the Table

Add zip with lemons and limes

August 14, 2012 


Lemons with their zest removed, avoid getting the pith when making Limoncello in Mendota Heights, Minnesota, on June 3, 2008. (Steve Rice/Minneapolis Star Tribune/MCT)


Lemons and limes make good partners as kitchen staples. They serve so many purposes that you won’t go wrong buying one of each every time you shop.

Both are rich sources of vitamin C, but they also provide potassium and smaller amounts of some B vitamins such as folate and thiamin.

They’re low in calories, low in sodium and saturated fat, and – bonus! – their names don’t appear on the Environmental Working Group’s “dirty dozen” list of the most pesticide-contaminated foods.

But most of us don’t eat lemons and limes by the slice or chunk for the very reason that we like them. They’re so full of flavor and zing that just a squirt of their juices contributes concentrated flavor, serving as a condiment on many foods and flavoring for plain water or seltzer.

The tartness and fresh, sweet flavors of lemon and lime juice make them ideal substitutes for sugar and salt on many entrees, salads and sides. Though each has a flavor of its own, lemons and limes are similar enough in flavor and pucker-power that you can often use them interchangeably in recipes.

Here are just a few of the ways to use them:

• Season your cooked veggies without adding butter or salt. Squeeze fresh lemon over steamed broccoli, kale or brussels sprouts. Add some olive oil and balsamic vinegar, too.

Fresh lemon or lime juice tastes great on baked sweet potatoes.

• Add light, fresh flavor to salads by spritzing fresh lemon or lime juice over greens or squeeze juice generously into oil and herb mixtures for homemade salad dressing that’s better than anything you can buy in a bottle. Fresh lime juice is good over papaya or avocado slices.

• Add chunks of lemon to seafood or casseroles such as rice- and vegetable-based Spanish paella. Squeeze lemon juice over the dish first, then toss the wedges into the mix.

Sliced lemons and limes add color to plates, so use them as garnishes. Of course, their juice also serves a practical function of delaying browning when tossed with apple, pear and bananas pieces.

Keep a couple in your fruit bowl. It’s unlikely they’ll spoil before you find a way to use them.

Suzanne Havala Hobbs is a registered dietitian and clinical associate professor in the departments of Health Policy and Management and Nutrition in the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. Send questions and comments to suzanne@onthetable.net

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