Foodwaste Lemons

Use these tricks to keep lemons fresh

Imagine you only need one lemon, but have bought a whole net. Or you only need some zest, but don’t know how to use the rest of the lemon. We’ll tell you what you can do.

Marlies Seifert

Lemons are one of those fruits that always seem to have a bit too much left over. One recipe requires a little lemon zest, another the juice of half a lemon.

And then there’s the fact that lemons usually come in nets containing three, four or five of them. Luckily, there are various tricks you can use to keep lemons fresh for longer.

Whole lemons

“Lemons will easily stay fresh for two weeks. You just need to store them dry in the fridge”, says chef Andi Handke, co-founder of Gastrofutura and a pioneer of the anti-food-waste movement. Remove lemons from their net immediately after purchase, wash them in warm water, rub them dry and wrap them individually in kitchen towel. This absorbs any moisture and prevents them from going mouldy in the fridge.

If you want your lemons to stay fresh for longer, you can soak them in cold water. Simply place them in a sealable container, fill it up with water and pop it in the fridge. The only problem is that you have to change the water every two or three days. “That’s not particularly sustainable”, says Handke. You can use the water to water your flowers, though. As an alternative, Handke suggests preserving the lemons in salt. You’ll find a simple recipe here.

Cutting lemons

Half lemons

What if the recipe only requires the juice of half a lemon, or you only need a few decorative slices for a cocktail? “The simplest thing to do is squeeze the rest of the lemon juice into an ice cube tray and freeze it”, advises Handke. That way, it’s already split into portions for future use. Find out what else you can freeze in an ice cube tray.

If you want to use up a partly used lemon in the next three of four days, there’s an easy trick to stop the cut fruit from drying out. Simply keep the used piece and reattach it to rest of the lemon using a toothpick. That way, it acts like a lid. “This also works with pineapples or avocados”, says Handke.

Of course, you can also put your lemon on a plate with the cut side facing downwards. Adding a little vinegar to the plate will make the lemon last around four to six days longer. Outside the fridge, partly used lemons will only keep for about a day.

Zest lemons

Partly used lemons

The recipe says you need the zest of half a lemon. Whatever you do, don’t cut the lemon in half! “Zest can easily be grated off without significantly affecting the shelf life of the lemon”, says Handke. So simply grate what you need, then store the lemon as normal.

If the lemon is already very soft, you can pop it in the freezer for half an hour. This makes the peel easier to grate. Pro tip: store lemon halves in your freezer after juicing – so that you always have lemon zest to hand.

Incidentally, lemon zest is also very easy to dry. “Simply put it in the oven at 70 degrees Celsius for three hours, leave to cool and then store in a sealed container”, advises Handke. Brilliant! You won’t even have to buy lemons next time you need a little lemon zest.

Photos: Getty Images