Lemonade out of Lemons

You’ve heard the saying, “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.” It means you should try to make the best of a bad situation.

For example, if you’re sheltered in place during a global pandemic, you can use the opportunity to read easygoing, light-hearted books like Crime and Punishment, War and Peace, or Signs Preceding the End of the World. And plan time to reconnect with loved ones.

But we all know you won’t finish those books and your loved ones drive you nuts.

The “lemonade” trope also gives the impression that lemons are good-for-nothings that can only be redeemed by sugar water.

False. And insulting to lemons everywhere.

And don’t get me started on calling a piece-of-junk car a “lemon.”

Lemons are a lovely food that can improve your health, beauty, and sense of well-being. They contain vitamin C and flavonoids, one of the most fun words to say EVER.

Their potential health benefits are:

Lemons also add that little extra something to make a meal or drink just right.

Ever smelled the air after someone has squeezed a lemon?

Lemonade out of lemons indeed.


What do you do with your lemons?

That’s not a philosophical question. Literally, what do you do with the yellow, oval, palm-sized citrus fruit? 

If you’re like most people, you cut them into one wedge at a time as needed, then attempt to squeeze some juice from the slice without blinding a nearby cat or littering your Long Island Iced Tea with seeds. Once you’re done apologizing to the Siamese about the citrus spray, you spend the next five minutes mangling your seafood while trying to delicately remove that rogue seed nestled, permanently it seems, within your beer-battered tilapia’s fleshy flakes.

After all the drama, you decide you’ve had it with lemon for a while and let the remains of your fruit harden into a small weapon with desiccated lemon-pulp spears jutting out at odd angles until you throw it in the trash, tired of seeing it day-after-day as a mute, hunchbacked resident of the refrigerator.

The result is lemon juice in unwanted places and a lot of wasted potential. Besides freshening a drink and blinding everyone else at the dinner table, lemons have a number of uses:

  • Zest
  • Infusions
  • Citrus Cubes
  • Pith “Filler”
  • Hair Dye
  • Room Freshener

Learn these new ways to prepare and store your lemons, and you can enjoy more of their benefits for longer!



Lemon zest comes from the peel (or skin) and is packed with vitamin C and flavor. It tastes horrible on its own (Try It!), but makes a refreshing late addition to recipes.

Grate the lemon’s rind (i.e., peel, skin). This process is WAY easier if you can splurge on a decent instrument. I spent about twenty bucks on a Microplane grater that I use five times a week. It turns the zesting process into a piece of cake. Lemon cake.

  • SAFETY TIP: The grater’s cutting edges are sharp. I wear a protective cutting glove and recommend you do the same.

Collect the zest onto parchment paper, cut the paper into smaller squares, and store them in a Ziploc baggie in the freezer.

Then pull out a square and break off a frozen piece to smear onto avocado toast or top some pesto. Or about a million other dishes.



Want to flavor a beverage? Consider lemon peel infusions. First, peel the lemons.

For best, most flavorful results, peel only the rind. Get as little of the pith as possible. The pith is that white, foamy, rubbery layer between the peel (skin) and pulp (flesh).

Here’s what not to do if you can help it.


Now we’re talkin’.

Before inserting into the container maximize the flavor, I like to bend the peel in half lengthwise until the pith splits. This accesses more of the flavor and makes it easier to slide in the container opening.

Now just cram as much lemony flavor into your alcohol as you can handle. Or into your lemonade, but let’s be serious. This pandemic just begs for booze.

I have chosen to infuse a shy, coquettish little drink called “vodka.”

I added leftover peels to the overflow vodka in a mason jar. This is how to look like a moonshiner.  

So liven up your drinks with lemon rind!


Citrus Cubes

They are exactly what they sound like. Squeeze the lemon juice into a container, then pour it into ice trays and store when frozen.

The cubes can freshen a drink while adding some color, and be tossed into meals for flavor. Most of all, they can be stored and used over months.


Pith “Filler”

Once you’ve removed the peel for zest or infusions and squeezed the juice into cubes, you’ll have a big ol’ pile of pith. The pith is white, spongy layer between the peel (i.e., skin or rind) and pulp (i.e., flesh). It tastes awful on its own (Try It!) but will add heft, fiber, and antioxidants to your diet.

Chop the pith and throw pieces into quinoa, a smoothie, stew, or other recipe as filler. Use a little at a time and bury the flavor in something else.


Hair Dye

“Lemon juice can give your hair a sun-kissed effect. Rinse clean wet hair with ¾ cup of water mixed with 4 tablespoons of lemon juice. Sit in sun until your hair dries.” (Dr. Penny Stanway, The Miracle of Lemons: Practical Tips for Health, Home & Beauty, (London: Watkins Publishing, 2011), 80.)

My wife, a natural blond, applies lemon juice to her wet hair with a cotton ball and sits in the sun for 45 minutes. The difference is marked. She gave me “that look” when I asked to get before and after pictures so you’ll just have to trust me.


Room Freshener

Two minutes before your next visitor arrives, throw that old, helmet-like lemon wedge into the garbage disposal. Enjoy your new citrus-smelling kitchen!


Worst Segue Ever

I live in Southern California, where lemon trees are abundant and prolific. Click here to see gorgeous, flowering trees from around the world on full display in the heart of San Diego!



I considered not writing this post. Thought it was a little too specific. Felt frivolous. Silly. Who would ever write more than a page about lemons’ accomplishments?

Turns out our little citrus friends have become a popular book topic:  

  • The Secret Benefits of Lemon and Honey
  • The Natural Apothecary: Lemons
  • Lemons and Lavender: The Eco Guide to Better Homekeeping
  • The Miracle of Lemons: Practical Tips for Health, Home & Beauty
  • The Lemon Juice Diet

The Lemon Juice Diet? Seriously? Who sees that title and thinks, “Yeah, that’s the meal plan I’ve been seeking for years?”

Anyway, if this post has given your life purpose, you’ll be glad to know there are entire books devoted to your new guiding fruit.


Lemons can provide health and wellness benefits. You can enjoy them by using more of the fruit and preparing it in novel ways.

So the next time you’re in a tough situation and your know-it-all buddy, the one with that insipid, glib tone, says, “Just make lemonade out of lemons,” you can retort, “Only lemonade?”


Thanks for reading and stay tuned!

2 thoughts on “Lemonade out of Lemons

    1. Hey Lauren,

      Thank you! Glad to provide some entertainment. Honored you found it useful.



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