How To Freeze Lemons For Longer Lasting Freshness

Some fruits and veggies have a shorter shelf life than others. Take bananas, berries, and leafy greens for example — one minute they're at the peak of freshness, but leave them alone for a night or two, and specs of brown or even mold will begin to grow. On the flip side, alliums, root vegetables, and citrus varieties are sturdier than most, but even then, any produce that is fresh will eventually go bad at some point — even those juicy new lemons.

Luckily, there is a tip to keep lemons fresher for longer — freeze them. Depending on what you intend to use the citrus fruit for, lemons can be frozen either whole, or as slices, wedges, and wheels. It's also entirely possible to freeze freshly-squeezed lemon juice, lemon zest, and lemon peels.

In general, whole lemons stay fresh for about a week at room temperature and last for about three to four weeks when placed in the refrigerator. Sliced lemons tend to have an even shorter shelf life and will start to dry out in just three to four days after being cut, even when stored in the refrigerator. On the other hand, frozen lemons — whether sliced or whole — tend to stay fresh for up to four months, which is why, anytime you have a surplus of fresh lemons, it's a good idea to put them on ice.

Tips for freezing whole lemons

Lemons can be frozen in a few different ways, depending on what you plan to use them for, but the easiest thing to do is to pop the entire fruit, as is, into the freezer. This is a great option if you want to juice them at a future date. If you plan to freeze whole lemons, you should wash them under running water first and make sure that they're dried thoroughly so that any remnants of water don't freeze into little icicles around the fruit.

Once washed and dried, whole lemons should then be placed in airtight freezer-safe bags before going in the freezer. It's also possible to freeze whole lemons that have been zested, except they should be wrapped in plastic or aluminum foil before being packed in freezer-safe bags to retain as much of their juicy texture as possible.

When you're ready to use your frozen fruit, simply take them out of the freezer and let them thaw in cold water for 10-15 minutes. If you're in a rush, it's also possible to pop frozen whole lemons in a microwave for a couple of seconds to thaw them quickly. 

You can also freeze wedges, wheels, peels, zest, and juice

It's also possible to preserve lemon wedges and wheels as well as lemon zest, peels, and juice in the freezer. All will taste excellent in iced teas, in cocktails, and even in bottles of water. Wedges, wheels, and peels can be frozen the same way as whole lemons, in airtight freezer-safe bags. Before doing so, however, a good way to ensure that these lemon pieces don't clump together into one icy ball is to place them on a lined baking tray and freeze individually first. 

Another way to freeze citrus is using a muffin tin. Place one slice into each cup, add some water on top and any other toppings like mint leaves or berries, and then freeze. The result will be rounded ice cubes with lemon wheels inside that will not only help the citrus stay fresher for longer, but will also add an attractive touch to any kind of drink.

Freshly-squeezed lemon juice and zest can also be frozen into ice cubes and added to cold beverages. A good way to freeze lemon juice and zest is to put small spoonfuls in an ice cube tray and pop the tray into the freezer. They'll last at least four months, but with so many applications in refreshing lemon recipes, you'll probably use them up ahead of time.