Those whole lemons sitting on your counter will stay fresh for at least a week, but once they're cut into, they need to be stored properly to maintain freshness. Whether the lemons have been cut in halves or slices, when the flesh is exposed, they must be stored in the refrigerator or the freezer. Wrapping them securely in the appropriate materials before storing ensures the cut lemons stay fresh for as long as possible.
Lemon halves, wedges or chunks should be tightly wrapped individually in plastic wrap or aluminum foil for basic storage. As an added layer of protection, you can place the individually wrapped lemon wedges in an airtight plastic container. If you have several cut lemon pieces and prefer not to wrap them individually, you can place them together in a resealable plastic bag, removing as much air as possible to prolong the freshness.
Refrigerator and Freezer Storage
If you plan to use the cut lemons in a few days, you can store them wrapped individually or together in the resealable plastic bag, in the refrigerator, where they will stay fresh for at least three to four days. However, cut lemons will last much longer if you store them in the freezer. For best results, cut up the lemons entirely into slices or wedges and spread on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Place in the freezer until the lemon pieces are fully frozen, then store the pieces in an airtight container or resealable freezer bag. Lemon pieces can be stored for about three to four months in the freezer.
More Freezing Options
You can also freeze cut lemons in a number of other ways. You can freeze slices or wedges into large ice cubes for pitchers of water, iced tea or lemonade. Place one or two small slices or wedges of lemon into each cup of a muffin tin and fill the rest of the way with water. Place the muffin tin in the freezer until the water is fully frozen. If you just want to store fresh lemon juice to use later, you can juice the lemons and pour the juice into ice cube trays and thaw out the amount you you need for a recipe.
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A Few Tips
Whether you've stored the cut lemons in the refrigerator or freezer, always check for freshness before using by checking the peel for soft spots and discoloration. Check for any appearance of mold on the cut sides, which may appear white in color. Do not use the lemons if they have any appearance of spoilage. Once frozen, allow cut lemons to come up to room temperature if you wish to extract as much juice from them as possible. If you need to thaw the lemons faster, put them in the microwave for just a few seconds.
Based in Los Angeles, Zora Hughes has been writing travel, parenting, cooking and relationship articles since 2010. Her work includes writing city profiles for Groupon. She also writes screenplays and won the S. Randolph Playwriting Award in 2004. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in television writing/producing and a Master of Arts Management in entertainment media management, both from Columbia College.