The Truth About Pink Lemons

Just when we were getting oh-so-bored in the produce aisle as winter wears on and the same old offerings are starting to pall — wait, what's this, something new in the citrus section? It's labeled a "pink lemon," but on the outside, at least, it isn't even remotely pink, and doesn't look too much like a lemon, either. Okay, so it's the size of a lemon, and the shape of a lemon, but it's striped more like a watermelon. What is this freaky new fruit, and where did it come from?

To answer the last question first, it probably came from California — at this time of year, what fruit doesn't? According to Specialty Produce, however, the pink lemon actually originates in the Golden State. It was a "spontaneous mutation" (mmm, doesn't that sound appetizing!) discovered on a Eureka lemon tree in Burbank around 1930. Another name for pink lemons is zebra lemons, an obvious homage to their green-and-white striped rind. The term "pink lemon" refers to the flesh, which is described as being "rose-hued" although it appears to be more or less the same color as the inside of a grapefruit. As the lemons ripen the pink color deepens, but the lemons become less tart.

What can you do with pink lemons?

Well, when life hands you a pink lemon... you know. The pink lemonade made from these lemons won't really be quite as bright as that made with the intervention of food coloring or other pink-hued fruits like raspberries or strawberries, but at least it's bound to be way more appetizing than the original pink lemonade, which was said to be accidentally colored by dye leaking from the tights of a 19th-century circus performer. Gross.

Delish notes that pink lemons' sweeter-than-ordinary lemon flavor makes them perfectly suited for use in desserts such as lemon bars or lemon pie, and The Kitchn got all giddy over the idea of using them to make boozy vodka cocktails, possibly ones involving pink lemonade popsicles. However you choose to use them, pink lemons are a lovely (and yes, highly Instagrammable) harbinger not only of springtime color, but of summer's lazy lemonade days to come. And the best news? You can pick them up a bag of three at Trader Joe's for just $1.69.