This week's look at what's new, bountiful or mysterious in the produce aisles.
There's a logical argument to be made for never even trying to track down a Meyer lemon: Once you've tasted one, it's hard to go back to regular lemons.
This citrus fruit, with its floral fragrance and rather rotund appearance, has a vibrant almost-orange cast, a decidedly unpuckery flavor and a load of juice. It is said to be a hybrid of a lemon and a mandarin.
Meyer lemons were first introduced to this country in 1908 by Frank Meyer, a USDA food researcher, upon his return from China.
HOW TO SELECT: Meyer lemons look like common lemons that are more vibrant in color and more spherical in shape. Look for brightly colored fruits that have no traces of green, mold or mushiness. They are thinner skinned and slightly larger than their acidic, everyday counterparts (some Meyers can approximate grapefruit poundage).
Locally, Meyer lemons seem to be available sporadically between November to May and fetch a princely $3.99 per pound.
HOW TO STORE: Ripe lemons may be kept at room temperature for up to one week or, if beginning to show signs of overripening, refrigerated for a couple of days.
HOW TO PREPARE: Lest the sweet-tart tang of the Meyer be overwhelmed, simple does it. And though the juice is the cause for most clamoring, the zest also has ample flavor and fragrance. Think candied peel, basil and lemon risotto, Moroccan preserved lemons, an unforgettable glass of freshly squeezed lemonade or, more seasonally, a remarkable hot toddy.
At some restaurants in town, Meyer lemons figure large in sauces for fish and seafood dishes and are the starting point for ice creams and tarts.
At the Inn at Little Washington, in Washington, Va., which is celebrating its 25th anniversary next week, chef Patrick O'Connell has been known to use the fruit in Meyer lemon marmalade; scoops of Meyer lemon sorbet served in dishes fashioned from lemons; a lofty Meyer lemon souffle; risotto enhanced with a Meyer lemon and shallot confit; and a chilled lobster salad topped with avocado, napped with a Meyer lemon vinaigrette and embellished with pearls of caviar.
-- Renee Schettler