6 surprising uses for lemons

I'm convinced the gods must have been wanting for a little sun when they invented the lemon. Lemons evoke sunshine in every way—from their cheery, yellow complexion and squeaky-clean scent to the fresh, bright flavor they impart to any dish.

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Though lemons are available at the supermarket year-round, their peak season comes at the perfect time of year, in winter, when most of us are suffering from too many gray days in a row. That's when I'm craving them most—when other fresh produce is harder to come by and I need a hit of vitamin C. (Vitamin C is well known for helping to protect you from infection and heal wounds and cuts. It may also keep skin smooth, improve heart health and even help reduce risk of cancer and stroke.)

Related: 19 More Foods for Beautiful Skin

I always tend to keep a few lemons in the produce drawer so I have them on hand for salad dressings, soups and stir-fries. You never know when a lemon might come in handy. Here are EatingWell staffers' favorite uses for lemons—beyond cooking, including some from the January/February 2011 issue of EatingWell Magazine. What would you add to the list?

Related: 5 Recipes to Use Up Your Leftover Lemons, Celery and More

Uses for Lemons:

  1. Make lemon powder to season rice, meat and vegetables. Use a Microplane grater to remove the zest from a lemon. Spread the zest out on a plate and let dry for 2 to 3 days. Once dry, use your fingers to crumble the zest into a powder; store in an airtight container.
  2. Keep sliced apples or pears from browning by squirting a little lemon juice on them. The acidity of the lemon juice helps prevent the fruit from oxidizing.
  3. Freshen breath naturally. Candying lemon zest turns it into a tasty treat. Use it to garnish your morning yogurt, add flavor to tea or even freshen breath.
    Related: 5 Foods to Fight Garlic Breath
  4. Soothe a cold by adding lemon juice and honey to hot water or tea. The vitamin C from the lemon may help boost your immune system and the hot drink may reduce congestion.
  5. Make your tea healthier. Tea is rich in a class of antioxidants called flavonoids, which are most potent when tea is freshly brewed. Give your tea a healthy boost by adding lemon juice to your brew. The citric acid and vitamin C in that squeeze of lemon help preserve the flavonoids.
  6. Remove stains and odors from cutting boards. Rub half a lemon on the surface, leave it for 15 minutes, rinse and repeat as necessary.

What interesting uses have you found for lemons, beyond cooking?

Penelope is a web producer and writer for EatingWell.com. When she's not busy geeking out at the computer, she loves cooking and trying new recipes on her friends. Some of her favorite foods are dark chocolate, coffee, apples, sweet potatoes and cheese.

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