Most people love nutrient-rich lemons and use them to make a refreshing drink, yummy desserts, and delightful dishes. If you like having this fruit at your disposal at every moment, you may wonder do lemons go bad.
Properly stored lemons can stay at low temperatures for long, and you will have enough time to use them properly. It is said that you should enjoy when life offers you a lemon and find a way to make delicious lemonade. The question is what to do when that lemon is spoiled. Let’s see.
Do Lemons Go Bad?
Once you look at lemon, you can see that it consists of flesh and bright yellow peel. Its flesh is juicy, and the largest percentage, about 89%, is water. Unfortunately, that means it is highly prone to microorganisms’ growth. In other words, sometimes your lemon can look just fine, but it is actually rotten inside.
Another option is to see squishy fruit with the wrinkled peel. Your lemon has probably changed its smell, texture, and taste and become inedible in such a case. However, it is not the only problem you can face of. When you forget to use lemons on time, they will lose water and become firm and chewy, and you won’t be able to squeeze any juice out of them.
How Long Do Lemons Last?
It may sound surprising, but you can prolong your lemons’ life significantly when storing them appropriately. Always buy high-quality fruit and keep it in your pantry, fridge, or freezer, depending on your consuming plans.
Lemon shelf life
|Whole||2 to 4 weeks||Up to 2 months|
1 to 4 months
|/||2 to 4 days||4 months|
|Fresh lemon juice||/||2 to 4 days|
Lemon juice in a resealable bottle
|/||Up to 6 months||/|
|Squeezed, fresh lemonade||/||7 days|
Unopened processed lemonade
|/||10 to 14 days||/|
|Unopened bottled lemon juice||/||12 to 18 months|
Opened processed lemonade
|/||7 days||4 months|
|Opened bottled lemon juice||/||2 months|
Cut or zested lemons won’t last more than 3 to 4 days in the pantry, but you can store them in the fridge for the whole two months. Be prepared that cut lemon always lasts shorter and becomes dry and tough over time.
Finally, you can consume commercially prepared lemon juice before the ‘best by’ or ‘best before’ date printed on the label. On the other hand, never store freshly squeezed lemon juice for more than a few hours at room temperature or 2 to 3 days in the fridge.
Tips to Tell If Lemons Have Gone Bad
Unfortunately, lemons have a short shelf-life when stored inappropriately. Therefore, always check this fruit when it stays for long in your home.
A bright and smooth yellow skin is proof that your lemon is still edible. Don’t worry if it turns bright green because it is a typical result of temperature changes it has been exposed to. On the other hand, brighter or brown spots are always a bad sign.
Once your lemon goes bad, it will turn soft, squishy, and moist with slimy skin. Another option is to lose water and become small, firm, wrinkled, and shriveled. Both changes can develop depending on the humidity level in the environment.
Smell and taste
The foul fermented odor is the sure sign that lemon has become spoiled. As soon as it loses its specific citric taste and aroma, you should throw it away.
A dark green or dusty lemon surface almost always means that mold has grown over your fruit. It is unhealthy to use it for any purpose.
Squeezed Lemon Juice
Fresh lemon juice has a bright yellow color and tart taste. Any change indicates that it has spoiled and is no longer drinkable.
The citric acid in lemon juice is a natural preservative that protects it from bacteria. However, they will begin multiplying over time and eventually spoil the juice. So, be careful.
Tips to Store Lemons
Ensure to buy the best quality lemons to keep them fresh and healthy as long as possible. Then, store them appropriately, far away from apples, apricots, and bananas that produce ethylene that causes many fruits and veggies to spoil. There are a few ways to store your lemons, including:
It is beautiful having lemons in a fruit basket on your desk or countertop. However, this fruit can keep its freshness for only about 7 to 10 days. After that period, you will get stuck with dry juiceless, and tough-rind lemons. The better option is to place them inside a cabinet where is a bit colder and dryer.
This solution is quite good if you plan to use lemons within a few weeks. Keep in mind that only cold and dry pantries are a proper place for storing these citruses.
When you have a bunch of lemons, you should keep them in the fridge to stay fresh longer. When you plan to keep them up to a month, the best way is to put them in a drawer.
However, you can store your fruit this way for six weeks if you pack it in an airtight bag. Seal it tightly after squeezing the air to prevent lemon from dehydration.
Once you cut a lemon, you should store leftovers in a tightly-closed plastic container. Ensure to place the fruit with the flesh facing the bottom to slow down the surface dehydration. That way, you can use these pieces for additional few days.
There is also an option to keep lemons fresh by storing them in a glass jar filled with cold water in the fridge. Once you squeeze the lemon, the juice will last in the refrigerator for a couple of days.
Avoid using that juice to make lemonade after four days of storage, but you can use it for cooking and baking.
It is not a good idea to put whole lemons into the freezer. A better option is to squeeze them and pour lemon juice into an ice tray. Let it freeze and use it whenever needed since the flavor and taste won’t change much after thawing.
In short, the storage methods will vary depending on the lemon form. Let’s see.
- Whole lemons – You can keep them outside the fridge for a few days. Always choose a dry and cold area, away from too much light and high temperatures. The best solution is the pantry separated from the kitchen. When you need lemons fresh for longer, you should store them in the fridge drawer.
- Half a lemon – Cover the cut lemon half’ flesh with plastic wrap and aluminum foil or keep it in the fridge in a sealed container. A better option is to squeeze the lemon without entirely cutting it.
- Lemon slices and wedges – Always put lemon pieces into a sealed container and keep them in the fridge. Remember that they can’t stay fresh for a long time, so you should use them within a week.
- Zested lemon – Wrap freshly zested lemons with plastic wrap and store them in the fridge. It is even better to place zest in a plastic container to prevent it from drying out.
- Freshly squeezed lemon juice – You can choose to keep the lemon juice in a jar, stored in the fridge when you plan to use it within three to four days. Otherwise, the best option is to freeze it and use it when needed.
- Store-bought lemon juice – You can keep shelf-stable unopened bottles with lemon juice on the countertop or in the pantry. Once you open the bottle, keep the juice in the fridge until using it.
The Risk of Consuming Expired Lemons
It is rare to get sick of sour lemon because it looks undoubtedly bad once it becomes spoiled. Once Penicillium, Cladosporium, or Alternaria affect this fruit, it will be covered with green dust or powder.
Eating lemon with mold is not healthy, but the result will depend on the consumed amount. Sometimes, it will pass without symptoms, but drinking a large amount may cause stomach pain, respiratory problems, or allergies.
Can You Freeze Lemons?
There is no need to freeze the whole lemons since it is impractical, and they won’t be pleasant to use after thawing. However, you can cut them in slices or quarters, put them into a freezer bag, and use them frozen in water and various drinks.
An even better option is to squeeze lemons and make a juice. Pour it into ice cubes trays. Once juice freezes, transfer cubes in an airtight bag and use them when needed. When you want to add some exotic into your drink, you can grate the lemon zest over the juice and let it freeze that way.
Lemon is an excellent, highly healthy fruit you should consume regularly. However, carelessly used rotten and moldy lemons may cause unpleasant health problems. Therefore, buy only healthy fruits, store them appropriately in a cold and dry place, and always check them carefully before use.