Lemons possess bright, bold, zesty brilliance and versatility which extend far beyond the kitchen and into the realms of health and well being. Lemons and other citrus fruits are called into service as prevention, remedies and sometimes even cures for minor and some major ailments.
When the zest and juice are combined with warm water (not too hot and not too cold) to assimilate to the temperature of your body, the effect is very detoxifying. Taken in the early morning, lemon water is a natural diuretic which encourages and supports the healthy function of the liver and kidneys and helps to flush out the nasties. In addition, it keeps the body and skin hydrated and if you sip it 10–15 minutes before breakfast, it will also help to kick start enzyme production in the gut and aid digestion. Once ingested, the alkaline properties of lemons can really help to balance pH levels, regulate cholesterol, aid digestion and generally make the body more alkaline, allowing it to function at its optimum best. It is thought that consuming lemons may also help to fight organ deterioration and ageing, and help to resist the onset of arthritis and rheumatism.
Lemons are also high in Vitamin C, with each lemon providing about half the required daily intake, essential for the immune system and our cold-fighting abilities. Lemons also contain a boost to potassium and folate levels while lutein and zeaxanthin will help to keep eyes healthy. They contain significant amounts of calcium, thiamin, niacin, Vitamin B6, phosphorus, magnesium and copper, all of which contribute to health and vitality.
Scurvy, a gruesome disease with symptoms including fatigue, extreme sensitivity and pain, purple skin spots, swollen gums and loose teeth, is often associated with sailors hundreds of years ago. It is caused by a deficiency of Vitamin C (which the body can only store for just three months) and is now incredibly rare due to the presence of fresh fruit and vegetables, most notably lemons, in modern diets. While James Lind, the Scottish doctor for the British Navy, first proved in the 1700s that citrus fruit protected against scurvy, he did not distinguish between lemons and limes, nor was he able to pinpoint the ingredient in citrus fruit that prevents scurvy. This led to many investigations and experiments and the eventual isolation of Vitamin C or absorbic acid being credited to Albert Szent-Gyorgyi who was awarded the 1937 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for identification of Vitamin C. Such are its complexities that Haworth and Karrer also received the Nobel Prize that same year, this time in Chemistry, for determining the structure of Vitamin C.
Citrus fruits contain dozens of other useful chemicals, including lycopene, a molecule of the carotenoid family which is valued for reducing the risk of atherosclerosis and coronary heart disease. With so many benefits to health and wellbeing, perhaps the humble lemon really is the ‘Prince of Fruits’.
Butternut Squash with Lime Dressing and Toasted Seeds
a 1-kg/2¼-lb. butternut squash, peeled and sliced into even-sized wedges (seeds reserved and rinsed)
3 tablespoons olive oil
a handful of sesame seeds
zest and juice of 2 limes
1 teaspoon fragrant clear honey
2 tablespoons fruity extra virgin olive oil
a handful of flat-leaf parsley leaves, roughly chopped
sea salt and freshly
ground black pepper
a baking sheet lined with
Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F) Gas 6.
Arrange the slices of squash on the prepared baking sheet and drizzle over the oil. Bake in the preheated oven for about 15 minutes, until tinged brown around the edges and the flesh is tender.
Meanwhile, put the sesame seeds and reserved butternut squash seeds (patted dry with paper towels) in a small frying pan/skillet set over a low heat (you will not need any oil). Toast until lightly browned.
Mix together the lime zest, lime juice, honey and fruity olive oil in a small bowl and season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour the dressing over the warm squash. Garnish with the parsley and toasted seeds and serve.
This extract is from Lemons & Limes by Ursula Ferrigno.