Locavore: Why We Love Meyer Lemons

Dwarf Meyer lemon tree in a pot on my patio

When I moved from San Francisco to a place in Vallejo with a sunny patio, I decided to fulfill a long-time wish to have my own Meyer lemon tree. I bought this dwarf tree about a year and a half ago, and as you can see, it looks to produce quite a few lemons this year. In fact, I need to thin the tiny lemons to allow larger growth for the remaining ones. It has a southern exposure, I feed it with a mix designed for citrus, and last year I pruned it back quite a lot. As meyer lemons tend to thrive in this climate and, legend has it, do well in pots, I hope to have a steady crop for years to come. More on Meyer lemons and a recipe for my vegan Meyer lemon-maple mousse after the jump.

Creamy Meyer Lemon-Maple Mousse (recipe after the jump)

Meyer lemons were introduced to the U.S. from China in 1908 by Frank Nicolas Meyer, a Department of Agriculture employee.  Thought to be a cross between lemons and mandarin oranges, they’d long been appreciated in China, often as a potted ornamental. An improved Meyer lemon was developed in the 1970’s, and in the 1980’s and 1990’s were popularized by well-known chefs such as Alice Waters and Martha Stewart. Because of their thinner skin, they don’t ship as well as the main commercially grown varieties, Lisbon and Eureka (another reason to be glad you live in the Bay Area!). We cooks love them for their juiciness, sweetness and tender skins. Obviously the guy who wrote the song about the lemon being impossible to eat had never encountered a Meyer. When cooked, you really can eat the whole thing.

MEYER LEMON-MAPLE MOUSSE FOR A LIGHT, WARM WEATHER DESSERT

This vegan, low-fat, yet rich and creamy mousse, combines two of my favorite flavors: lemon and maple, gelled miraculously with agar agar, a sea vegetable! If you’re a vegetarian who loves to cook, you probably already know about agar agar, and even if you’re not a vegetarian, I recommend agar agar for I think it yields a more delicate, sophisticated gel. Find agar agar in bar form (less expensive) in Asian markets or in packets of flakes in natural food stores.

Yield: 3-4 servings

Ingredients:

3 cups ( 24 oz.) natural, unsweetened apple juice (a sweet juice works better than a tart one)
2 bars (1/2 oz.) agar agar or 1/4 cup flakes

4 oz. soft or medium tofu

1/4 cup plain soy or rice milk

1/2 cup lemon juice from 2-3 freshly squeezed lemons (Meyer lemons preferred)

4-6 tablespoons maple syrup or to taste (depends on how sweet your apple juice and lemons are and how sweet you want to make your mousse)

pinch salt

1. Tear agar agar into pieces, cover with with water and soak for 15 minutes, then drain the agar agar and stir into the apple juice in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and simmer 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the agar is completely dissolved.

2. Pour this mixture into a large bowl or cake pan and chill one hour or until firmly set.
3. When set, break up this gel into pieces and put into the jar of your blender  with all the remaining ingredients. Blend well, until very smooth and creamy, stopping to scrape down the sides and stir the mousse up from the bottom. Chill until serving time.
4. Serve in dessert bowls or large wine glasses topped with fresh fruit or toasted slivered almonds. A plain, crisp cookie would be a great accompaniment.

Apple juice gelled with agar agar

Bars of agar agar

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2 responses

    • Yes, I’d use 1/4 cup of flakes, that should give you a fairly firm gel which is what you want (if you’d want a softer gel, 1 tablespoon of flakes per cup of juice is probably good–and keep in mind that acidic juices take more to gel them). Thanks for the question–I will add a note about using flakes to the recipe. Gary

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