Lemon is a very versatile fruit. Not only is it pretty but it's very high in vitamin C and comes with a lot of health benefits. Also, it can be used in many ways in cooking to enhance the flavor of your food. In a nutshell, it's the whole package. If you're thinking about growing lemons and your climate is suitable for that, read on and you'll definitely want to give it a go!
ME AND MY OBSESSION WITH LEMONS
I'm not sure what I like more:
Or picking lemons
Ever since I was a kid, I've always had a thing about brightly colored fruits and vegetables. I love the colors of lemon, orange, watermelon, berries, carrot, red cabbage, you name it. It's a weird obsession of mine but one I'm happy to live with.
When I got my first lemon tree about 10 years ago I was out plant shopping with my mom and my sister in Nakhon Nayok. The tree was about 0.5 meter tall and came with one or two lemons which got me really excited. When I came home with the tree my dad asked me if the lemons were real. Even now I still get people asking me, "can you grow lemons in Bangkok?" and "Can you grow lemons in Thailand?" Yes, of course, you can. To be fair, my reaction when I first saw the tree was pretty much the same as everybody else's.
WHAT MANY THAIS BELIEVE ABOUT GROWING LEMONS
Growing up, I always thought lemons had to be grown in cold places. And the funny thing is I wasn't alone. A lot of people actually thought the same. In fact, many still believe this citrus originated in the colder part of the world. So, clearly, the term "citrus" doesn't tell us anything. 😂
I think this misbelief stems from the fact that lemons are more common in Western cuisine. At one point I associated them with that myself because that's what it seemed like to me. And having only expensive imported lemons available in the past didn't help. It just made me (and maybe also other people) think we were importing them because we couldn't grow them.
Now certain parts of Thailand do grow lemons but definitely not as much as their lime counterparts. We use lime a lot in the Thai cuisine. And when I say a lot, I mean A LOT. Although they're not exactly the same, you can definitely substitute lemons for limes in Thai cooking in many cases. But of course in certain dishes you really need to have that lime flavor and scent.
HOW TO GROW AND CARE FOR LEMON TREES IN THAILAND?
Currently we have only 3 lemon trees, but we are no expert here. Two of them come from the original tree I bought 10 years ago through the method of air layering and are fruiting. (We sadly had to get rid of my much-loved first lemon tree because my mom needed the space we used to grow it for something else.) The other tree is a Eureka but still very young and not fruiting yet.
We grow our lemon trees in the ground where they get direct sunlight all day. As far as watering goes, we water them every day and they need deep watering about once a week. Apart from that, we prune the older trees every now and then to maintain their shape and height. (Pruning lemons doesn't make them fruit well, by the way.)
Fertilizer-wise, believe it or not, we don't really do much. For one thing, I know that whenever my dad mows the lawn, he puts the grass clippings under the trees above the ground. I believe sometimes he gives them the all-natural fertilizer he makes himself from plants, grass, and other natural ingredients (which I'll have to talk about in another post!) as well. Oh, and we use absolutely no pesticides on the food that we grow so they don't always look perfect. That's about it. That's all we do to grow these beautiful lemons.
BENEFITS OF LEMONS
Lemons provide many health benefits, but here are some of the most notable ones you might want to be aware of:
* It's a great source of vitamin C, so it can help boost your immunity.
* It can make your skin healthier. Again, thanks to the vitamin C that's an antioxidant itself and also helps produce collagen.
* It helps with digestion. So if you suffer from constipation, a glass of lemon water in the morning might help.
WHAT CAN YOU DO WITH LEMONS?
Oh, so many things! You can use them in your tea or to make drinks, salad dressings, savory dishes and even desserts. Below are a few examples to get you inspired:
You can click on the pictures to see the recipes.
A LITTLE CAUTION ABOUT CONSUMING LEMON JUICE
Because lemon juice is acidic, it can erode tooth enamel. If you drink lemon tea, juice or consume quite a bit of it in any form, I recommend rinsing your mouth and drinking water afterward. That's what I do when I have a lemon drink. It's better to be safe than sorry!
TO ANYONE THINKING OF GROWING LEMONS
If you live in Thailand or somewhere with a similar climate and want to grow lemons, I hope you find this post useful and that you give it a go. Eating homegrown food is such a rewarding experience. Also, when you grow your own lemons, you won't have to worry about the residues you usually do when consuming the zest of store-bought lemons again!
Happy growing! 🙂