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Making the most of Meyer’s magic, with 10 recipes

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At the farmers market with Food Editor Russ Parsons as he shares insights on Meyer lemons.

If someone were to redesign the California state flag, particularly if that someone was a slightly crazed foodie, they would probably start with a bright golden Meyer lemon in the center. It’s hard to imagine a fruit more emblematic of the state.

They’re the kind of fruit that drives cooks around the bend. I am hardly immune to their charm, but I bow in Meyer-mania to another local food writer who once came up with 100 ways to use them.

It wasn’t so long ago that Meyers were strictly backyard fruit (I just found a clipping from 1993 where I reported on some of the ones starting to show up at local farmers markets). Today you can even find them at some supermarkets.

RECIPES: 10 great Meyer lemon dishes to get you started

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They’re a special fruit, no doubt. Where most lemons -- especially ones grown commercially -- offer little more than a jolt of acidity, the flavor of a Meyer is softer, rounder and more floral.

Think of the taste of a lemon crossed with a tangerine. That’s not the actual lineage -- DNA tests have shown it to be a cross between a lemon and an orange -- but it is a fair summation of the flavor and aroma.

In many ways, the best part of the Meyer is the peel, which is soft and smooth and contains the oils that carry so much of the fragrance. It’s not that the juice isn’t nice, but it’s not quite as special as the peel. To get the full impact of the Meyer, be sure to use some of that zest as well.

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How to choose: Meyer lemons should be firm and the peel should be soft and smooth. Rub the peel with your fingernail and you should get a strong whiff of that distinctive Meyer perfume. Watch out for fruit with soft spots, or fruit that’s been harvested haphazardly -- no holes where the stem was plucked.

How to store: While most lemons have thick rinds and can be left at room temperature for days without ill effect, the peel of a Meyer is thinner and more delicate. Refrigerate them, wrapped in a plastic bag. If you’ve got backyard trees and have too much fruit for one time, you can juice the lemons into ice cube trays and zest a little of the peel over the top. Freeze in an airtight bag and you’ve got Meyer flavor for months.

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