What's in Season at the Farmers Markets: Variegated Pink Lemons

Variegated Pink lemons from J.J.'s Lone Daughter Ranch
Variegated Pink lemons from J.J.'s Lone Daughter Ranch
Felicia Friesema

Variegated Pink lemons eschew a few citrus norms, even if the name is a bit uninspired. For one, they come into season in the summer instead of the usual winter citrus season. Also then there's the obvious: pink flesh and a stripey green and gold rind. They're a standout in the market stand, and pretty much nowhere else. The lemons aren't commercially viable as a mass-produced crop, so only a few local growers have them, including Walker Farms and J.J.'s Lone Daughter Ranch.

The Variegated Pink is a local mutant discovered in a Burbank orchard in the 30s. The stripey variegation extends to the leaves and is thought to be the reason why this particular tree is such a poor producer -- not enough green in the leaves for decent photosynthesis -- and as such is limited to local markets for public sale. Young fruit has a pretty, carnival striped rind but as the fruit matures, the green in the striping gives way to a softer pink blushing that mimics the flesh within.

That pinkness comes from lycopene, the same bright red carotene that gives us red tomatoes, watermelons, and pink grapefruit. Flavorwise, expect a Eureka-like lemony tartness. Some say it has a more floral or berry like taste as the fruit ages. We caught a little of both, but mostly it's because the acidity mellows with time and allows the fruit to show off an aroma that makes us think of pink limoncello. Both the rind and the leaves of the Variegated Pink are intensely aromatic and can be used in everything from candies to tisanes, though we're currently preserving a batch in salt, North African style.

The Variegated Pink will be around until mid-August, though because the trees are such sporadic producers, growers generally plant only a small number of trees. Thus, available quantities are pretty limited.

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