When I planted a lemon tree in my yard a decade ago, it seemed like a great idea. Eventually, I figured, I'd have all the lemons I could handle.
And how. After several years of modest harvest, the tree exploded last year. This season, there are at least 50 lemons on it — and these are Meyer lemons, sweeter than grocery store lemons and nearly the size of grapefruits.
Last year, I juiced the entire crop. I made lemon-poppy seed bread, lemon-marinated chicken and gallons of lemonade. A bunch of it was frozen, and I was still dropping lemon ice cubes in my tea glass well into summer.
But you can get a lot of juice out of a bucketful of Meyer lemons. Two dozen lemons produced nearly a gallon of juice, and a quick perusal of some cookbooks found very few recipes calling for more than a few tablespoons of the stuff. So, what to do with it?
Here are some suggestions:
Clean your microwave: Put sliced lemons in a bowl and microwave it for five minutes. You should be able to wipe the inside of the microwave clean afterward, and be left with a lemony-fresh scent.
Add some shine to your hair: Add juice of one lemon to an 8-ounce glass of warm water, then use it to rinse your hair after shampooing to add a shine. But be careful — too much lemon juice and not enough water will lighten already light hair and add an orange tinge to darker hair.
De-stink your house: Throw a few lemon peels into the food disposal, then flip the switch to neutralize odors. You can also clean wooden cutting boards and utensils with lemon juice to reduce odors. Or soak a sponge in lemon juice and put it in your refrigerator for a few hours to absorb smells.
Look younger: Mix a tablespoon of plain yogurt, two tablespoons of ground oatmeal, a teaspoon of turmeric and a teaspoon of lemon juice, then apply to age spots for 30 minutes. Repeat weekly.
Banish the scum: Cut a lemon in half and dip it in kosher salt. Use it to scrub hard-water stains a soap scum from your shower door.
Clean your cutting boards: White plastic cutting boards look great — until someone cuts carrots or strawberries on them. Scrub your white plastic cutting board with half a lemon, then set it out in the sun for a few hours.
Make "buttermilk": Don't you just hate it when you're halfway through a recipe and find you don't have any buttermilk? Mix one tablespoon lemon juice into a cup of milk. The acid in the lemon juice will cause the milk to start to curdle after about five minutes, which means it's ready for you to make pancakes.
Make your stainless steel sparkle: Mix the juice from one or two lemons with four or five tablespoons of hot water and use it to wipe down your stainless steel appliances.
Write secret letters: Remember that trick you learned back in first grade where you write a note in lemon juice then expose it to a heat source to reveal the message? It still works. Use white paper and a mild heat source — a lightbulb, a steamless iron or a candle — for best results.
Make a household cleaner: Fill a half-gallon container with lemon peels, then top it off with white vinegar. Store in a cool, dark place for two weeks, strain and you've got a grease-cutting cleaner with some antibacterial properties.
Make lemonade: You don't really even need a recipe to make lemonade. Just mix lemon juice, water and sugar until you find the mix you like best. Note that Meyer lemons are sweeter than most, so you might not need as much sugar as you think (straight-up Meyer lemon juice is a little harsh, but it's not bad when mixed with water and no sweetener at all). Try agave syrup or honey instead of sugar, or add a little mint.