At all times of year—be it in the balmy heat of summer or the brutal slog of winter—citrus provides an electric, refreshing respite. Behind a thick peel, sharp and vibrant wedges are seasonal starbursts.
I, for one, never pause to order an orange from an outdoor fruit vendor, its insides made cold and unexpectedly refreshing by icebox temperatures. I always have spare oranges for snacking and lemons/limes for squeezing into salad dressings or bringing light to avocados in my kitchen. They roll around my crisper drawer or across my countertop, and sometimes get lost behind the jars at the top of my fridge. I forget about them and, as if in response to my negligence, they spite me by shriveling up.
A withered lemon is not only quite sad to behold, but pretty much useless. So imagine my delight when I happened upon this hack to keep citrus fresher, for longer. Like any good hack it’s simple, efficient, and proven to work. The hack comes from the folks at Food.com, now Genius Kitchen.
As you might be able to guess, keeping citrus at its peak is all about moisture. So how do you keep that moisture inside the porous fruit before it seeps into the air? To prevent this process, citrus should be kept in an environment with high humidity. Keep citrus in a bowl of water in your fridge, sayeth the hack. This means of storage, they claim, can keep your fruits feeling—and tasting—fresh for up to three months.
This isn’t the only citrus-preserving recommendation the internet has got up its sleeve, however. Other resources suggest keeping your fruits in the fridge in tightly sealed zip-top or silicone bags. This creates a small-scale humid environment and prevents that lemon from losing too much liquid.
If you do choose to leave the fruit out of the refrigerator, make sure you leave them in a cool room without direct sunlight. You'll also want to wash and dry them thoroughly, and take care not to pile them on top of each other, as this causes too much moisture to collect. Combined with the air temperature that's likely warmer than the refrigerator (though I certainly don't know where you live!), the moisture and heat will eventually encourage mold growth all over the lemons. This is perhaps worse than the dried-out specimens!
As none other than Martha Stewart explains, "a lemon's nubby rind is as good a place as any for humidity to collect." To make sure that doesn't happen, she recommends the following: "If you keep your lemons exposed, dry them with a cloth every day or so. It may also be wise to rotate and restack them so each fruit has a chance to get some air."
So there you have it—a few tried and true methods to make all your lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruits, pomelos, and so much more last a lot longer. All the better to try them in a few recipes: this pantry-friendly, couldn't-be-simpler lemon pasta; the orangiest cake out there; and this foolproof margarita that's never failed us. They're all calling your name.
How do you store your citrus? Let us know your tricks in the comments below.
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Valerio is a freelance food writer, editor, researcher and cook. He grew up in his parent's Italian restaurants covered in pizza flour and drinking a Shirley Temple a day. Since, he's worked as a cheesemonger in New York City and a paella instructor in Barcelona. He now lives in Berlin, Germany where he's most likely to be found eating shawarma.