Gardening for Health

Growing Meyer Lemons

By Maria Price

Growing citrus in Maryland, like Meyer lemons, is great fun and easy. I keep mine outside all summer and then bring it indoors just before frost, usually about mid-October. Then it becomes a houseplant until about April when we don’t have any more frosts and I put it back outside in a sunny spot.

Lemons are a familiar food with a high vitamin C content that can help improve resistance to infection from colds and flu. Despite its acid content, once digested, lemon has an alkaline effect within the body, making it useful in rheumatic conditions where acidity is a contributing factor. The volatile oil is antiseptic and antibacterial. The bioflavonoids contained in lemon strengthen the inner lining of blood vessels, veins and capillaries and help prevent the formation of varicose veins. Its ability to strengthen blood vessel walls helps to prevent circulatory disorders and bleeding gums.

Lemons are thought to be native to India and were first grown in Europe in the second century A.D. and are now cultivated in Mediterranean and subtropical climates worldwide. The fruit is best harvested in winter when the vitamins C content is at its highest.

Citrus can bear flowers and fruit at the same time. Lemon flowers are sweetly aromatic and perfume the air. My Meyer lemon had fruit on it in the fall and the lemons have grown and I’ve been able to pick them as I’ve needed them over the holidays and still have more to pick. It’s especially nice when the cost of all produce has risen.

The lemons keep best on the tree. Meyer lemon juice is very mild without the sourness of regular lemons. I used organic fertilizer so that my lemons are truly organic. I make sure to allow the lemon tree to be completely dry before I water it.

The Meyer lemon was found growing as a potted plant near Beijing in 1908 by Frank Meyer, a plant collector for the USDA. It is a hybrid between a lemon and a mandarin. The original Meyer lemon variety was found to carry a virus, so look for Meyer lemon “Improved”, which doesn’t carry the virus.

If you feel a tickle in your throat or feel like you’re coming down with a cold, grate a tablespoon of fresh ginger with a teaspoon of thyme and steep with 2 cups of boiling water for five to 10 minutes. Add a tablespoon of honey and the juice of half a lemon. Stay well.