It’s happened to all of us: You need a lemon for your recipe, and you remember that there’s one in your fridge, rolling around in the crisper drawer. You slide open the drawer and find said lemon – only it’s wrinkled, soft, and smells a little off. If you’re wondering how to store lemons to stop this from happening, there’s a simple trick you can use. It may keep your lemons fresh for over a month! Instead of tossing them in the crisper drawer, submerge them in a container of water and place them in the fridge.
Why does this work? Lemon skin dries out over time, which causes the fruit to lose moisture and eventually grow moldy. Some sources say that this trick keeps them fresh for up to three months. However, Cook’s Illustrated states that lemons in water won’t last much longer than a month.
Still, even a month is impressive. To find out just how long a lemon will last in water, I tested it out for myself.
How to Store Lemons in Water
For the experiment, I used a medium-sized lemon and a large glass jar. I washed the lemon with fruit and vegetable wash. (Washing your fruit and vegetables before you eat them removes pesticides and prevents foodborne illness!) I also used filtered water to fill up the jar, because I was worried that the small amount of chlorine in the tap water would affect the experiment in some way. Then I dropped in the lemon, screwed on the lid, and stored it in the fridge.
At the two-week mark, I pulled out the jar to see how things were. The water smelled very lemony, and the lemon itself looked great. I put it back in the fridge for another two weeks. At four weeks, the lemon still looked wrinkle-free and smelled good.
At five weeks, I decided it was time to take it out. The jar of water still had a good smell, but I noticed that the exterior of the lemon had lost some of its color and felt a little slimy.
I pulled it out of the jar and rinsed it off. It definitely felt softer than when I had first bought it, which wasn’t too surprising. When I sliced it open, I was impressed. The interior was full of moisture and perfectly good to use!
How long can lemons sit in water?
While some chefs and bakers claim that whole lemons can last for up to three months in the fridge, this is probably a bit of stretch. I could have let my lemon go for another week, but after that, I don’t think it would have lasted much longer. Five weeks in water is my personal maximum, but yours might be six!
Don’t have the fridge space for a large container of lemons in water? Try putting your lemons in a sealed plastic bag instead. Chefs state that sealed containers will also do a good job of trapping in moisture and keeping lemons fresh for four to six weeks. Those extra weeks will give you the time to use these versatile fruits in more ways than one.
No matter which method you use, you have a new trick for preventing food waste. And if you need to store lemons for even longer, try placing them in your freezer!