Look for a lemon that:

  • Is firm and heavy for its size
  • Has a finely grained skin
  • Is yellow all over
  • Has no cuts or bruises
  • Isn’t wrinkled or dull, and has no hard spots

A lemon that feels firm and heavy in your hand indicates that it probably has lots of juice. A finely grained skin indicates that the peel is thin and the lemon contains more fruit than one with a thick peel.  Green on the skin may mean that the lemon is unripe and too acidic. Lemons that are wrinkled, dull, or have hard spots may be overripe.

Use fresh lemons within four weeks or freeze the juice and/ or zest for future use. The amount of juice you can get out of a lemon depends upon its size, age, and condition. For example, a hard and shriveled lemon is probably old and won’t have a lot of juice. A lemon that feels light in your hand will probably have less juice than one that feels heavy. Most recipes that call for the “juice from one lemon” are really calling for two or three tablespoons of lemon juice, which should be the approximate yield for lemons that meet the criteria above.

As long as it doesn’t have mold or other evidence of spoilage, a lemon does not need to perfectly meet all the criteria above to be edible or usable in a recipe. The closer it is to meeting these guidelines, however, the higher its quality should be.

When You Get Your Lemon Home

An uncut lemon should stay fresh for about one week at room temperature or for four weeks in a refrigerator. Store lemons out of direct sunlight.

Freeze lemon juice in ice cube trays. Once frozen, transfer the cubes to resealable freezer bags and return to the freezer. Freeze the zest in a freezer bag from which all air has been removed or in a piece of wrapped plastic. Use within three to four months for best quality.