Is Lemon A Fruit or Vegetable? A Botanist Weighs In!


Are you having trouble falling asleep wondering if lemon is a fruit or a veggie? Do not worry, you are not alone. There have been numerous ongoing disputes about what lemons technically are – a fruit, berry, or vegetable? In this article, we will shed light on what lemons are, what they grow, what they are used for, and why they are healthy.

Is lemon fruit or a vegetable? Botanical features show that lemon is not a fruit or vegetable, but a hybrid fruit that belongs to the orange subfamily bred by crossing citron. Since it grows on a tree, lemon is a fruit and berry crop. Lemon can be classified as a modified berry since it has seeds. 

Let’s dive into the matter deeper and see what lemons are technically, where they grow, what their health benefits are, and what they can be used for.

Is Lemon A Fruit, Berry, or Vegetable?

The vast majority of people will not have any doubts about answering the question “Is lemon fruit or not?”. However, scientists still can’t make up their minds. Lemon belongs to the subfamily of oranges, which are obtained by crossing various varieties of citrus fruits with an ancient species – citron. Citron has the largest fruits among citrus fruits, and according to the existing classification, it is considered a berry.

Is lemon fruit or not? In the scientific literature, the fruits of the lemon tree are described as hesperidium – multi-celled and multi-seeded fruits, similar in structure to berries. Most often, you cannot divide all plants into fruits, vegetables, and berries as they will share similar characteristics.

Are lemons natural or man-made? Lemons are man-made since they are hybrids of citron and orange. Lemons originate from North India and the first written evidence of people growing lemons was found in a 10th-century Arabic treatise on farming.

See also: Ultimate Guide to Plantains – Taste, Look, Smell & Pairing!

Is Lemon a Tree or a Bush? Where Do Lemons Grow?

Do lemons grow on trees or plants? Lemons grow on 5-8 m trees with evergreen leathery leaves and have a lifespan of 40-50 years. Lemon needs abundant watering, so it grows well in moist soils. To obtain a bountiful harvest, lemon trees should be actively fertilized throughout the growing season.

The Evergreen lemon tree  grows in the tropical and subtropical climate and has been cultivated for several millennia. Lemon trees are often grown in greenhouses; it is not very common for lemons to grow in the wild now. Lemon trees bloom in March and April. The fruits are green at first, but when ripe, they turn yellow. You can start picking lemons in October and November. Sicily is the only place where lemons have two harvests every year!

Where does lemon grow? Lemon grows in regions with tropical and subtropical climates mainly in China, India, the Mediterranean, America, and the Caucasus. The leading producers and exporters of lemons are Italy, Spain, Greece, Turkey, Cyprus, and Lebanon. 

Since lemons need warmth and humidity, they mostly grow in coastal areas with moist soil and cool sea air – the Mediterranean, the USA (California, Arizona), Mexico, and Greece.

Lemons originated from India, where they can still be found growing wild to this day! Spreading out from the mountainous areas, on the edge of the Himalayas, they soon spread to the countries of Southeast Asia and much later to Europe. In the Middle Ages, lemons began to be cultivated in the countries of southern Europe. During his first expedition, Christopher Columbus brought fruit seeds to the New World, and several centuries later, Spanish colonists began to grow lemons in Mexico, Florida, and California. Today, lemons are harvested in India, the USA, Spain, and Mexico.

What Are Lemons Used For?

Lemons are also used in areas other than cooking, for example, cleaning and self-care. Lemon juice is used to polish copper surfaces, remove stains from tiles, cooktops, furniture, clothes, disinfect kitchen utensils, and repel insects. Lemon peels are a natural air freshener. Lemon juice is used for cosmetic purposes to soften and whiten skin, strengthen nails, and add shine to hair. Lemons are used to treat vitamin deficiency, cold, flu, and diseases of the stomach and intestines. The substances contained in lemon peel and pulp improve appetite and aid digestion.

What does lemon do in cooking? Lemon adds fresh citrus notes, improves the texture, and enhances the flavor of meat, fish, vegetables, sandwiches, sauces, rice, desserts, and drinks. Lemon zest is often added to cakes, cookies, pies, muffins, and water and acts as a flavor enhancer. Lemon slices are served with tea and coffee.  

In cooking, all parts of lemon are used – pulp, juice, and zest. Citric acid softens collagen, so it is widely used when cooking meat dishes. Lemons have a strong fresh aroma, which makes them a good addition to fish dishes. Lemon juice is often sprinkled on apples, avocados, and bananas to prevent browning. Lemons are added to salads, sauces, sandwiches, fish, and meat dishes to enhance flavor and add notes of freshness. Lemon is added to alcoholic beverages like vodka and cognac to soothe the taste.

Lemons are widely used in cooking meat, fish, sauces, salads and desserts. Lemon zest is added to baked goods, cakes, creams, and pies. Lemon slices are often added to water, tea, and coffee. Lemon juice is used to make cocktails, soft drinks, tarts, cakes, cupcakes, muffins and cookies. 

Lemon Health Benefits

Why are lemons healthy? Lemons contain vitamin C that strengthens the immune system, accelerates wound healing, slows down the aging process, removes toxins, stabilizes hormones, and lowers blood pressure. These fruits contain folic, ascorbic, pantothenic acid, vitamin D, niacin retinol and riboflavin. 

Scientists from Ohio University have shown that the scent of lemon essential oil can boost your mood.

Lemons contain carbohydrates (3g), proteins (0.9 g), and essential oils. The pulp of lemons contains a large number of organic acids, including citric and ascorbic. Lemons are rich in essential oils, pectin compounds, and dietary fiber. Lemons contain calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc.

Here are some main lemon health benefits:

  • increases appetite
  • stimulates intestinal motility, improves its microflora
  • removes toxins
  • promotes better absorption of nutrients from food
  • invigorates, relieves drowsiness and fatigue
  • fights stress
  • strengthens nails
  • improves blood circulation
  • clears blood vessels from cholesterol plaque
  • reduce oil and dandruff

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