Of Lemons, Scrubbing, Waxed and Unwaxed

Many recipes call for scrubbed lemons. What exactly are they referring to? I will explain in simple terms what it means to scrub a lemon and if it is necessary at all to do so.

Why Lemons need to be scrubbed

Do You Need to Scrub a Lemon before Using it?

The answer is:

YES, if

  1. You need to use the rind in your recipe
  2. You bought waxed lemons

Although scrubbing them does involve the risk of washing away some of their nutrients.

NO, if

  1. You need only the juice, and not the rind
  2. You bought lemons clearly labeled ‘unwaxed’
  3. You grow your own lemons

In the above 3 cases, you only need to rinse them well, like you would any other fruits and veggies.

Why are Lemons ‘Waxed’ in the first place?

Most lemons are waxed to preserve their freshness for a longer time. So, if you are buying a lemon for its juice, it would be a great idea to buy a waxed lemon since it will keep longer. The wax used is edible and does not do any harm but I’d rather scrub it off (along with other pesticides and chemicals sprayed on it). Waxed lemons can stay fresh for 2-3 weeks whereas the unwaxed will stay only for a week or so.

How to Scrub Lemons

Rinse all the lemons with hot water and give them a real scrub using a brush. Finally, rinse them with cold water. Dry naturally or use paper towels. If you have kids around, give them the job of scrubbing. They will enjoy doing it more than you do.

As I mentioned above, scrubbing does involve the risk of losing some essential oils on the skin of the lemon. Buying unwaxed lemons or growing your own (or having a friend who does) are the only ways that will give you the best of both worlds. And while you are still at it, it would be a good idea to know that these facts hold true for all citrus fruits.