A little lemon juice or lemon zest goes a long way. Luckily, you can easily store leftover, cut lemons up to three or four days in the refrigerator and up to three to four months in the freezer. With some potassium and lots of vitamin C, lemons are a powerhouse of both healthiness and flavor. Don't forget to use the zest as well as the juice in your recipes because that's where you'll find the phytochemicals that may help reduce your risk of cancer.
Wrap the Lemons
To keep your lemons the freshest they can be and to reduce the loss of vitamin C, try to avoid oxygen when storing the fruit. Wrap a cut lemon tightly with plastic wrap, foil or wax paper, and refrigerate the lemon within two hours of cutting it. It's important for both safety and freshness to ensure that your fridge stays at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below. Invest in an appliance thermometer to make sure your fridge is doing its job.
Check on Quality
It's always better to err on the side of safety when checking the quality of your cut lemons after they have been in the fridge for a few days. If you see any bits of mold growing on the cut surfaces of the lemons or if the cut surface feels slimy, toss the fruit in the garbage. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, soft fruits like lemons and oranges transfer mold from the surface into the interior of the fruit even if you don't see discoloration.
Juice the Lemons
If you don't plan to use your cut lemons within a few days, juice the lemons and store the juice. Like the lemons themselves, the juice retains its quality for up to three or four months in the freezer. To freeze the juice, squeeze it into an ice-cube tray. Once the cubes are frozen, transfer them to a plastic bag and keep them in the freezer so you can easily use one or two as needed.
Use the Whole Lemon
Truth be told, once you begin using lemons in your cooking, you may never need to worry about storing them at all—everything tastes better with a squeeze of lemon. Stir a tablespoon of juice into pureed vegetable soups, chicken broth or even beef stew. Grate the zest into risotto, mac and cheese or any baked bread, cookies or cakes. Use lemon juice in homemade salad dressings and fish sauces. And pop cut lemon wedges into a pitcher of iced tea or iced water.
Susan Lundman began writing about her love of cooking, ingredient choices, menu planning and healthy eating after working for 20 years on children's issues at a nonprofit organization. She has written about food online professionally for ten years on numerous websites, and has provided family and friends with homemade recipes and stories about culinary adventures. Lundman received her M.A. from Stanford University.