Nutrient-rich, refreshing and zesty, lemons are a very versatile fruit and have many health benefits. They are full of vitamins, antioxidants, minerals, and phytonutrients. Their intense, sour taste adds that extra kick of flavor to many dishes, drinks, and desserts.
But unfortunately for us, lemons go bad, and it’s only a matter of time before they show some signs of spoilage. So, what if you purchased more lemons than you can handle, and after some time, you are not really sure whether they are safe to use?
Well, perhaps life didn’t give you bad lemons after all, and maybe you can still use them! To make sure, we examined this topic thoroughly to find out how to tell if a lemon is bad, what is the lifespan of lemons and what can you do to preserve them. It’s time we make some lemonade, so read on!
How To Tell If A Lemon Is Bad?
It’s quite easy determining whether a lemon is spoiled or not. There are a few sure signs that lemons are spoiled:
Changes In The Color
- First and foremost, take a good look at your lemon. If you notice some lighter or brighter spots, the lemon has started to rot and lose its moisture. Fresh lemon will always have a bright yellow color.
- However, if your lemons turned bright green (like lime), they aren’t necessarily spoiled. It can happen because of the temperature changes, and that’s why it is essential to keep the lemons appropriately stored in a cool and dry place.
- On the other hand, if you notice some white, dark green or brown spots, this is definitely a mold, and you should throw those lemons away.
Changes In The Texture
- Lemons lose their water over time, and thus their firmness. If your lemons bend slightly when you apply pressure, they are perfectly fine.
- However, if your lemons have the following signs they have definitely gone bad:
- Soft and squishy texture
- The slimy outer skin
- Shriveled and wrinkled texture
- Powdered and dusty surface
- Also, if the lemons are very firm to touch and shrunk in size, that means that they’ve lost their moisture and are not suitable for use anymore.
Changes In The Taste And Smell
- Another sign of decay is the loss of the lemon’s specific citric taste. If the lemon has lost some of its aromas, it is up to you whether you will use it or throw it away.
- If the lemons have developed an unpleasant, fermented like odor, they are spoiled and should be discarded.
What About Squeezed Lemon Juice?
- Fresh lemons should have a vibrant and bright yellow color, a firm texture, zesty aroma, and tart taste. If your lemons have started to go bad it is better to squeeze the juice as soon as possible and properly store it in the fridge.
- Lemon juice indeed has citric acid that is a natural preservative, as it prevents bacterial growth. However, bacteria will start multiplying over some time and finally spoil the juice. Some of the pathogens from the yeast and mold category can also spoil it. In the end, the lemon juice can also go bad, and that’s why you need to make sure it is correctly stored if you want it to last.
How Long Do Lemons Last?
Surprisingly enough, lemons do have a pretty long shelf life. Lemon’s rind is very thick, so it will take some time before it goes bad. However, any citrus will start to lose moisture over a few days if stored in hot and humid conditions.
A whole fresh lemon should last about one week at room temperature on your countertop, for example. Whereas if you store it in a cool pantry or cabinet, it can last up to 2 weeks.
Cold temperatures will help the fruit stay fresh for longer, so storing it in the fridge is the best option.
On the other hand, cut lemons will last for 3-6 days in the refrigerator. After that period, they will start to shrivel and dry out after some time. Don’t leave them at room temperature, because they will lose their color and become soggy. Also, keep them in an airtight container filled with water to maintain the moisture, or seal them with aluminum foil or plastic wrap.
You can also seal the whole lemons tightly and put them in a freezer. That way, they will last for 3-4 months.
Freshly squeezed lemon juice will stay fresh for 2-3 days if stored in the refrigerator. If you keep it at room temperature, it will last only a few hours before it starts to taste bad. Make sure to transfer the juice in the covered plastic or preferably a glass jar before putting it in the fridge.
As for bottled lemon juice, if unopened, it can last up to a year. When opened, it can keep good for 2-6 months in the fridge, since it was processed, concentrated, and contains preservatives.
Can I Use Lemon That Is Going Bad?
Lemon is actually a very versatile food product, and people use it for many purposes, from health benefits to cleaning and polishing.
Lemons are rich with vitamin C and antioxidants that reduce the risk of stroke and cardiovascular diseases, improve digestion, and promote healthy-looking skin. On the other hand, you should not consume moldy or rotten food. If you notice some spoilage signs, throw it away and don’t use it for a drink, or anything else.
However, lemons that are starting to go bad can still be used for drinking or even some cleaning and cooking. Those are the lemons that only have slight changes in the texture or color.
Nevertheless, you may not like your lemonade’s taste, so here are some of the uses for lemons that are starting to go bad:
Use The Zest
- Next time you squeeze some fresh lemon for a drink, zest it with a microplane or citrus zester and store it in the refrigerator or even freezer. As long as the lemon’s skin is still yellow, and doesn’t have mold spots, it is safe to use it. You can use it for many recipes, toppings, and cocktails.
- Squeeze the lemon juice out (if the lemon is still good from inside), and store it in the refrigerator. You can use this juice for multiple purposes, such as making lemonade or add a few drops of it for lemon water.
- The lemon has antibacterial and antiseptic properties due to its acid, which also acts as a bleach. That makes it a great DIY cleaner. Just add a few drops of old lemon juice into the spray bottle and add some vinegar. It gets rid of the bacteria and can clean even the most persistent stains! Clean your cutting board, garbage disposal, blender container, countertop, or stains from any textile.
- Slice the lemons into wedges and put them in the freezer. These slices can be used as a quick shot of lemon juice or decoration for your drinks and food. Make sure to wash the lemons first.
Keeping Foods From Turning Brown
- Some fruits, such as apples, bananas, and avocados, turn brown after they are cut. That’s because of the oxidation process; when the air hits the flesh of these particular fruits. To prevent this, simply squeeze a small amount of lemon juice on the cut sides of them, and the citric acid will help keep the color. Store those fruits in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
- As you can see, throwing away lemons that are slightly different in appearance is unnecessary. These tips are pretty easy to follow, so write them down and consider giving them a chance the next time you think of throwing away the whole batch of lemons!
How To Tell If A Lemon Is Bad? – Final Word
In general, fresh lemons have quite a long shelf life. Although fresh fruit doesn’t have a best-by-date, you can easily spot the spoilage.
Usually, the signs are discolorations, mold, squishy and soft texture, and fermented smell. However, spoiled lemon is quite suitable for other uses, so don’t throw it away!
Always store your lemons in a cool and dry place. Room temperature is fine, and you can keep the lemons on a countertop or in the pantry.
But if you want to exceed the shelf life of lemons for a few extra weeks, you will need to refrigerate them. You can also freeze them, and they will stay fresh for a few additional months. Also, keep the cut lemons in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Ultimately, if you have a batch of lemons sitting on your countertop, it may be a time to make some refreshing lemonade, homemade lemon pie or even polish some things in the house. The choices are endless!