Kitchen Hacks

The Secret to Storing Lemons to Keep Them Fresher, Longer

Here's how to store all your citrus so it doesn't shrivel up or grow weird moldy bits.

May 18, 2020
Photo by Rocky Luten

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.

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Top Comment:
“I live in California and have a citrus orchard of 25 trees. Lemons preserve on the tree quite well. But when the day comes to take off what I want until the next crop, I purchase the smallest preserving jars that I can find. I juice them and fill the glass jars. Then freeze them in the freezer drawer. The small jar will thaw out quickly when you need to use it. I do not use ice cube trays because they will taste funny after awhile. The sealed jars will allow your juice to taste like it was just juiced. ”
— Leslie L.
Comment

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.

87 Comments

caroline0ne April 14, 2022
I keep a tall jar for lemons in the door of my refrigerator next to a jar of preserved lemons. I wish I had room there for one more jar for limes. They keep well, so I don't see a need to keep them in water.
 
Caroline M. April 14, 2022
I love to have a bowl of lemons out, in the kitchen. I find them so beautiful and cheering. Also, I have no extra space in my fridge or freezer to keep them. I find that if I'm careful when buying (never buy a bag, squeeze each one carefully before choosing) they will keep well if I wipe each one with white vinegar before placing in the bowl.
 
tastysweet July 27, 2021
The method of wrapping each lemon tightly in Saran Wrap and storing in a freezer bag works. I do wash and dry them first. I only lost one lemon out of all the ones I bought at Costco.
I would check the bag first for squishy lemons before buying. And I noticed there is a pack date on the lemons.
 
Nancy July 27, 2021
Saw this article late, but storing citrus in water is a great tip! It works and makes bulk buying of them practical. I use them for snacks, drinks, salad dressings.
 
tastysweet May 26, 2021
Bought my lemon supply at Costco the other day.
Trying different methods as reported here.
1) sliced a big lemon and did one extra thing. I took the seeds out with a small fork. Sliced some in half. Flash froze them for about 2 hours. Then put them in a freezer bag.
2)I am curious about the second method. As suggested, wrapped each lemon tightly in Saran Wrap and put in a freezer bag and they are stored in the the fridge in the drawer.

We shall see how this method goes.
Thanks to all for the suggestions.
 
Helen T. May 21, 2021
A number of years ago, a friend told me to wrap lemons individually in plastic wrap, and store in the refrigerator. This way they will keep 2-3 months.
 
MoMoWack May 21, 2021
That's great to know,....but I just throw them whole in the freezer and don't do anything to wrap them. It's amazing how long they keep without it even affecting the peel. Rinse from frozen, and then grate the peel if you choose. After so many months the peels will look bad and you won't want to use the peels,.. but if you put them in the microwave for 20 seconds at a time, turn, 20 minutes more depending on your microwave, (may have to turn again) it is amazing the amount of juice that you can get out of them, which can be use for a multitude of purposes. We just pulled a couple of old ones out of the freezer tonight to use on Salmon. The zest I would not use, but the juice was just like fresh lemon! That said,....the zest on lemons that have been frozen for a few months is still good for grating to use for recipes or dishes. I have grated zest while the lemon is still frozen and stuck the zestless lemon back in the freezer to save for juice. Lemons are really expensive, so I buy bulk and freeze. We never run out of lemons and none go to waste by keeping too long in the refrigerator. Something happens when they freeze,....and they are much juicier after microwaving.
 
Indra G. May 21, 2021
I put them in a zip lock bag as soon as I get them home. They last a looong time. I’m going to have to put a date on the bag to figure out how long they do last!
 
Leslie L. May 21, 2021
I live in California and have a citrus orchard of 25 trees. Lemons preserve on the tree quite well. But when the day comes to take off what I want until the next crop, I purchase the smallest preserving jars that I can find. I juice them and fill the glass jars. Then freeze them in the freezer drawer. The small jar will thaw out quickly when you need to use it. I do not use ice cube trays because they will taste funny after awhile. The sealed jars will allow your juice to taste like it was just juiced.
 
orit R. May 22, 2021
Supercubes can do this work great
 
rebeca May 21, 2021
I juice them and freeze in ice cube trays!! Last quite a while!!
 
Adrienne B. May 11, 2021
I put my lemons in the freezer. I slice them first, then flash freeze and then I put them in a bag. I use them mostly to put in drinks but I also use them for garnish and recipes. It's great to have a tall, ice-cold iced tea with a slice of frozen lemon to keep it even colder.
https://the-good-plate.com/?p=305029&preview=1&_ppp=79b8e7befc
 
tastysweet May 21, 2021
Could not click on the link. Tried to copy and look up and still wouldn’t work.
 
Galina May 21, 2021
Tastysweet - type “the good plate.com” in your browser, and the page comes up. Scroll down to the entry about freezing lemons. Btw, that’s my go-to method as well, along with freezing peeled ginger slices - together they make a lovely tea!
 
Shannon May 21, 2021
Great tip ! Thank you !
 
tastysweet May 22, 2021
Worked. Thanks so much.
 
Adrienne B. May 24, 2021
Thanks for the tip about ginger! I will be doing that for sure.
 
Will May 9, 2021
There are some things that must always be in my refrigerator A block of Parmigiano-Reggiano, dijon mustard, scallions, limes, and lemons are all atop of that list. This year I started using a large Rubbermaid FreshWorks food saver to keep my citrus in and it works really well. The smaller ones are also great for things like cilantro. Whatever strategy you choose, may the odds be ever in your favor.
 
MoMoWack May 9, 2021
Me too!! :).
 
BeNeWe May 9, 2021
As soon as I bring them home I wash them and place individually in reusable Bee’s Wrap like from Food52! It solved the plastic conundrum & I have them color coded so I always know whether it’s a lime or a lemon. If you wrap them tightly, they last weeks.
https://food52.com/shop/products/3951-bee-s-wrap-reusable-food-wraps
 
Don K. April 10, 2021
Any writer or column that uses the word, “hack,” is a writer or column that I do not want to read.
 
MoMoWack April 10, 2021
I agree 100%. Over "hack"....enough!
 
Nicole May 22, 2021
100% agree - I’ve had enough of the ‘hack’... ugh. That word makes me cringe.
 
Cynthia March 25, 2021
Yep zip lock bag works I could keep them for three months if I didn’t use them all the time. But all kidding aside I have gotten to 2 months (when I ran out). Trick with the zip lock is....squish all the air out and then store in a crisper drawer, trust me I have been doing this for 4 years now and no more shriveled moldy lemons.
 
tastysweet May 21, 2021
I do that too, when I bring them home from Costco.
 
naneki May 22, 2021
Suck the air out thru a straw?👍🏼
 
J September 4, 2020
A HACK is putting a police car (lights flashing, box of Dunkin’ Donuts inside) atop the Great Dome of MIT. An idea for how to store lemons is a TIP.
 
FS September 13, 2020
That's a very strange example of a hack ...
 
Erika H. December 22, 2020
*eyeroll*
 
Sharon May 22, 2021
Huh ???
 
Marilyn G. May 31, 2020
Don't know about lemons but to keep limes fresh and green i wrap them individually in a paper towel and then put them in a zip lock bag. Works like a charm.
 
Marilyn R. May 30, 2020
yes, saving lemons to be good and fresh will be great and I'll for sure try some of these methods! Thanks for a great post!
 
Anne J. May 29, 2020
Well keeping it in a ziplock guarantees moisture, but moisture is bad. Methinks there is some talking out of both sides of the mouth here.
Perhaps squeezing and freezing, and peeling or grating and freezing, for cooking. And just go get some more if you need fresh ones. What could be so difficult?
 
maritoni May 28, 2020
I've been able to keep lemons for over half a year in the ref. I put it in a thick brown paper bag, fold it, put it in a plastic bag and knot it. I change the paper bag when it's absorbed a lot of moisture, which is about 2 months. Ziplock doesn't keep the lemons as long as the plastic bag that's knotted. The peel stays crisp and I am able to grate it on the zester.
 
Lauren B. May 28, 2020
We get bags of lemons from Aldi, and we use ‘em up, no problem.