I've got my first California Meyer lemons of the season. They cost between 50 cents and 75 each. I couldn't be happier.
(UPDATED 12/20: I paid $1.29 for a Meyer lemon today. $1.29. I still love the lemon.)
Much sweeter and juicier than the commonly available Eureka and Lisbon varieties, Meyer lemons are completely edible from peel to pulp and are perfect in cooking and baking, with subtly complex hints of lemon, lime and mandarin.
I grew up eating Meyer lemons and didn't even know it. Picked off the backyard tree, quartered and sprinkled with salt, Meyer lemons were tangy winter treats on foggy days in Central California. It wasn't until I went to culinary school, studied restaurant menus and ended up paying 65 cents for a single citrus at my local yupscale market that I realized Meyer lemons were a fruit to be fancied.
Originating in China, Meyer lemons are believed to be a hybrid of lemon and manadarin orange. They're generally smaller and rounder than conventional lemons and have a softer, smoother rind that lacks the typical lemon peel oil aroma. The pulp is darker yellow and less acidic. At peak season -- January and February -- Meyer lemons contain up to 45 percent juice content.
The Meyer lemon is named after Frank Meyer, a plant explorer for the U.S. Department of Agriculture who introduced the citrus to America in 1908. A virus discovered in the 1940s restricted the sale of Meyer lemons in the United States. A virus-free Meyer lemon was developed in 1970. Even though Meyer lemon trees produce heavily, they remained pretty much ornamental until the early 1980s when California chefs put Meyer lemons on the culinary map.
Meyer lemons are grown mostly on small farms from Sacramento to Fresno and are available from November through March, and sometimes into April. Unlike their large commercial cousins from Texas and Florida, Meyer lemons don't contain color-enhancing skin dyes. Meyer lemons are greenish when immature and rich yellow-orange when fully ripe.
I got mine at Trader Joe's, a buck-99 for four. I also saw them at Metropolitan Market, $2.99 a pound (four Meyers, with leaves and stems, weigh about a pound).
Pucker up. Meyers are worth it. And, as a reader pointed out to, Meyers cost about the same as conventional lemons, whose price has been escalating these past few years. So go for the Meyers while they last.