Lemons are small, bright and versatile fruits that you can use for cooking and cleaning.

Lemons remind you of summer days, sipping iced tea and lemonade, of course! But the versatile citrus fruit is worth more than its weight in kitchen and home uses. Here are a few we like.

Lemons for Cooking

Lemon zest can flavor up all kinds of sweet and savory dishes. The zest holds lemon oil, which packs lots of flavor but no liquid. You can use a grater to gather the zest, being careful not to grate the spongy white layer below. A zester works even better, especially if you’re using the bright yellow peel to add color and flavor to a dish. Scrub and dry the outside of the lemon before zesting.

Lemon juice is useful in cooking too. We don’t even need to mention the flavor or lemon pies, tarts, bars and cakes. And adding lemon to seafood dishes is genius. It’s a healthy alternative to butter or a great addition to butter for crab and lobster!

Add a spoonful of lemon juice to boiling water to prevent your rice from clumping and sticking and to keep boiling potatoes from turning brown. A squeeze of lemon juice over apples and other fresh produce can help preserve the sliced fruits and vegetables a little longer. Just beware – some of the tart flavor comes through.

Of course, nothing beats lemon slices in water or tea. Or freeze freshly squeezed lemon juice in iced cube trays to freshen up flavored teas and sodas.

Lemons for Cleaning

When you use your grater to shred cheese, it’s a pain to clean. Enter the lemon. Cut a lemon in half and run the inside pulp over the grater. The acid breaks down the fat in cheese. Adding a little table salt by dipping the lemon in it or sprinkling some over the grater gives you some scrubbing action.

There’s a reason that lemon scent goes into nearly every detergent and cleanser on the market. Get rid of funky smells in your house with the juice of a lemon and a bag of tea in a spray bottle. It’s a natural air freshener. Avoid spraying it on your upholstery.

You can spray lemon on most surfaces, though. Mixed with vinegar, it makes a great window cleaner. A half-cup of lemon juice mixed with a cup of olive oil in a spray bottle makes a natural and freshly scented wood furniture polish.

Surprising Uses for Lemons

Add lemon rind or thin slices to your potpourri for a fresh scent. Just lay the slices and rind out on a sheet pan to dry. Lemon looks and smells great when mixed with roses, cinnamon sticks or lavender.

It’s said that lemon can cut dandruff flaking. Use just two tablespoons of fresh lemon juice massaged into your scalp and rinsed, followed by another massage with one tablespoon of juice and then regular shampooing. Do this every day until your dandruff clears up.

Boiled lemon juices should repel mosquitoes and mites when you’re camping or enjoying your patio in the evening.

Storing Lemons

We said “in your fridge,” right? Lemons look terrific in bowls, vases and other decorative arrangements on your countertops. But they ripen and harden much faster at room temperature. The best way to store the fruit is in the refrigerator in a sealed plastic bag, and in your fruit drawer. Of course, they’re great for display too, so grab a few extra when they’re on sale and display some lemons and key limes in a summer bowl, just for fun!

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