Lemon is a wonderful fruit to use in the kitchen. It is the most versatile fruit that's great in both sweet and savory dishes. Lemons add acidity and flavor to a myriad of meals. They're also an excellent source of vitamin C.
If you've got lots of lemons to use you might be wondering, how long do lemons last?
Lemons have a fairly long shelf life, but how long lemons last depends on a variety of factors including the ripeness and condition of the lemons, storage methods, and if you're storing whole lemons, juice, or cut lemons.
How long do lemons last?
For whole lemons, the shelf life of fresh lemons is approximately 2-4 weeks at room temperature or 1-2 months in the refrigerator. This depends greatly on when they were picked, the room temperature and if the citrus fruits had any spoils or blemishes on them before being stored, and their storage conditions.
When storing your lemons, on the kitchen counter or in the fridge, check them periodically for signs of spoilage. Lemons store best in a cool place, so if you want to store lemons at room temperature, find a spot in your house like a cool pantry, that doesn't get too warm. The best option is to store them in the refrigerator.
They can be kept in the crisper drawer or in a bowl of water in the fridge. The water keeps the whole lemons cold and protected.
Whole fresh lemons can also be frozen for up to 3 months, however, the freezer will change the texture of the fruit. When fruits are frozen, their structure breaks down. This means when the lemons are defrosted they will be very soft inside. This is a problem if you were wanting to cut firm lemon slices. but it's not a problem if you were just wanting the juice.
Store them in a freezer bag or airtight container.
Storing cut lemons
Cut lemons won't last as long. Cut fruits are exposed to oxygen and this will speed up bacterial growth. Lemon wedges or halves will last a couple of days in the refrigerator if stored in an airtight container or zip-top bag or wrapped in plastic wrap. This removes the excess air and helps slow down spoilage. Cut lemon halves or lemon wedges are best used on the same day if they're stored at room temperature.
How long does fresh lemon juice last?
Lemon juice enhances the flavor of other fruits and complements sweet and savory flavors. It can also help fruits like apples and pears from oxidizing and discoloring.
Fresh lemon juice that you have squeezed yourself will last up to a week in a sealed container in the refrigerator. To extend the life of the juice, it can be frozen for up to 3 months. Freezing the juice in ice cube trays will give you individual portions of juice to add to recipes. Add one or two lemon ice cubes to a glass of cold water to create a refreshing drink of lemon water!
If you're wanting all the vitamin C benefits of lemon juice it is best to consume it within the day it is squeezed as vitamin C does begin to degrade the longer the juice sits.
A store-bought bottle of lemon juice will have a much longer shelf life than homemade fresh juice as they will have extra preservatives added to ensure it lasts longer. You can extend the life of your lemon juice by canning it too.
Peeled lemons or just the juice can also be canned for long-term storage. Lemons are high in citric acid, which is why they have their sour taste, and they can be safely preserved via a hot water bath. The canned jars can store for many months. However, once opened it should be kept in the fridge and used within a week.
How long does lemon rind last
The lemon peel (also known as lemon zest or rind) is the most flavorful part of the lemon. It is the best for adding lemon flavor to desserts and baked goods. It's a shame to just squeeze the lemons for the juice and not use the peel too! Take the extra step and save the peel too.
How long the peel lasts depends on how it is stored. If you freeze whole lemons, you can simply zest the frozen lemons when you're wanting the zest. Zesting a frozen lemon is quite easy because it will be nice and solid. The zested lemons can stay in the freezer and be defrosted when you need the juice.
The peel can also be dehydrated if you're wanting to store it for a really long time.
Drying lemon peel
Use a potato peeler or vegetable peeler to peel thin slivers of lemon peel. Avoid peeling off the white pith underneath the zest which can be quite bitter. Lay the peel onto dehydrating trays and dry at around 140F/60C until the peel is completely dry. Let it cool down, then finely chop it or blend it into powder. Store in an airtight jar.
If all the moisture is removed properly then the dried peel will last for a year, if not longer. The dried zest and be added to cakes, cookies, and more. You can add it to granulated sugar to make lemon sugar, or to salt or pepper for lemon salt and pepper!
How to tell if a lemon is ripe
The shelf life of lemons will be the longest if your lemons are picked before they're too ripe and if they're not damaged. If you're picking your own lemons from the tree, there are a few things to look for in telling if the lemon is ripe.
- It should be a decent size, between 2-3 inches in length.
- Their color will be yellow or yellow with a hint of green. Lemons ripen best on the tree so letting them ripen on the tree is the best way to ensure your lemons are at their peak with as much juice as possible.
- They should have a fairly firm texture. A lemon that is soft and squishy will be over-ripe. Some lemon varieties will have thick skin and some have thin skin depending on the variety. This will make a difference in how firm the lemon feels.
If you're choosing the best quality lemons from the grocery store, pick those that are firm and shiny, without any soft spots, dark spots, or signs of damage. If their skin is wrinkled it's a sign they are older and starting to dry out.
Ever wondered why lemons are yellow and limes are green? Limes would also turn yellow if they were left on the tree, however, they get easily damaged if they become too ripe. This is why they are picked when they are under-ripe.
How to tell if lemons are bad
A bad lemon that has started spoiling will have soft texture spots on the fruit, indicating bacteria has gotten into the fruit. There will be some discoloration happening on the skin of the fruit too and there may be brown spots. Mold will grow, usually starting as a white mold and then turning green. Discard moldy or rotten lemons quickly as even a small amount of mold can quickly spread to the whole fruit.
Lemons can spoil for a variety of reasons and it's not always because the lemon is older. A fruit that has been bruised or damaged is much more likely to spoil early. If your lemon is showing these signs it's best to just compost it. Lemons that are too old but haven't gotten damaged may never show signs of mold as there had been no entrance for bacteria to get in. Old lemons will become tough and wrinkly as they dry out.
Lemon juice that has gone bad will not have a pleasant odor. The color of the juice may also change, as well as the taste.
There are so many recipes and different ways in which to use lemon! With its tart taste and freshness, it brings brightness to any dish!
The high concentration of vitamin c is great for the immune system, especially over the colder months.
Try your hand at lemon curd, or this simple lemon loaf!