Lemons are beloved the world over for their characteristic sour kick as well as their versatility in juices and beverages, cooking, and baking. The old adage may suggest that one make lemonade when given lemons, but there are certainly countless other options available as well. For lemons to truly pack the most flavorful, nutritious punch it is important that they be properly cooled after harvest and then stored at suitable temperatures until use. Let’s take a look at some key information about lemons and their proper cooling and storage.
General Facts About Lemons
Lemons grow on small evergreen trees that were originally native to southeast Asia. Scientists believe that the lemon may first have developed as a hybrid of the sour orange and the citron. The lemon first entered Europe around the first century AD and by the 1100s they had spread throughout the Arab and Mediterranean regions. Christopher Columbus eventually introduced the lemon to the Americas when he brought lemon seeds to Hispaniola during one of his voyages. By the 1700s lemons were prized by the seafarers for their ability to fight scurvy. Lemons haven’t declined in popularity since and today they can be found all over the world with various year-round cultivars available.
Nutritionally lemons are most well-known for their high concentration of vitamin C. However they also contain other vitamins and minerals and are occasional additives in some traditional medicines, particularly in India. Due to their high acidity their juice is sometimes used as an antibacterial agent. Additionally lemons are extremely popular for their scent and are frequently used in aromatherapy and in cleaning products. Lemons even possess a curious scientific phenomenon: when they are attached to electrodes they can be converted into low-power batteries.
General Information About Cooling and Storing Lemons
There are a number of factors which affect the freshness, quality, and shelf life of lemons. One basic factor is the color of the lemon at harvest. Lemons that are harvested while still green have a longer shelf life but a lower juice content. Conversely lemons that are harvested after they have begun to turn yellow have a higher juice content but a shorter shelf life. However, even disregarding maturity at harvest there are a number of important cooling and storage factors which affect lemons.
Temperature – Lemons should be kept at a temperature of about 50°F to 54°F. Lemons will freeze at 29°F and suffer freeze damage. Meanwhile temperatures that are too warm may hasten degradation and loss of quality.
Relative Humidity – Lemons do best with a relative humidity of about 90% to 95%. If the relative humidity is too low lemons may suffer moisture loss which will result in shriveling and drying out. If the relative humidity is too high lemons may be more vulnerable to problems such as mold.
Handling – To avoid damage lemons should be handled carefully and should not be over-packed. Additionally it is important to begin cooling lemons within a few hours of harvest to slow down respiration and degradation.
Shelf Life – Lemons have a relatively long shelf life when handled correctly. Depending on the maturity of the lemon at harvest it may last up to 6 months in storage. Lemons that are more mature at the time of harvest often have a shelf life of about 4 months.
Methods of Cooling Lemons
Compared to other fruits and vegetables lemons are relatively easy to cool and store. The two most common and suitable methods are:
Room Cooling – Room cooling involves placing the lemons in a refrigerated room such as a cooler and allowing them to naturally acclimate to ambient temperatures. For room cooling to be successful lemons should be placed in the cooler with proper ventilation and space between them.
Forced-Air Cooling – Forced-air cooling is a popular alternative to room cooling because it more rapidly lowers the temperature of the lemons, thereby resulting in faster, more thorough cooling and in some cases extending the shelf life and enhancing the quality of the lemons. Forced-air cooling is accomplished by placing the lemons in a cooler around a fan and then turning the fan on such that it pulls – not pushes – air through the lemons, thereby cooling them much more quickly thanks to the forced circulation.
Semco is an experienced provider of cooling and storage equipment for the produce industry. We have the systems and equipment necessary to provide outstanding, dependable cooling of lemons and other produce. We can also customize our systems to best fit the scale and demand requirements of the particular customer. Please contact us for more information.