How to know if lemons are spoiled

In this brief article, we will discuss ways to tell if lemons are spoiled or not and will also discuss in detail how to properly store lemons and what happens if you consume spoiled lemons. 

How to know if lemons are spoiled?

You can tell that lemon has gone bad if it has a soft texture and some discoloration. Once the lemon becomes soft it will start to develop mold. You should throw away moldy lemons immediately. Spoiled lemons will turn slimy, squishy with dents on the surface with time (1,2).

What is the shelf life of lemons?

  • Fresh, uncut lemons may typically be kept at room temperature for 7 to 14 days when stored properly (3).
  • Refrigerating lemons can extend their shelf life to approximately 60 days or even longer, especially if kept in the vegetable compartment or crisper drawer (4). 
  • Properly wrapped or sealed half-cut lemons can typically be stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 to 2 days (4).

It’s important to note that these timeframes are general estimates, and the freshness and quality of lemons can vary. It’s always advisable to perform visual and sensory checks to determine if a lemon is still fresh before using it in recipes or consuming it.

How to tell if lemons have gone bad?

One of the first indicators of spoiled lemons is their appearance. Conduct a visual inspection and look for the following signs (5, 2, 4):

Visual Examination

Look for fuzzy or greenish mold growth or dark spots on the skin. Changes in color and texture such as dull or faded color, wrinkled texture, or excessive softness also indicate spoilage. Note lemons that have become shriveled and dried out, lacking flavor and juiciness.

Smell Test

Fresh lemons should have a pleasant citrusy scent. If you detect foul odors like fermentation or rotting, it indicates spoilage. Watch for off-putting scents like sour or pungent aromas, suggesting the lemon is no longer fresh.

Touch and Texture

Fresh lemons should be firm, excessive softness or sponginess when gently squeezed suggests they are past their prime. Moreover, excessive dryness and leathery texture indicate moisture loss while excessive mushiness or squishiness may indicate decay.

How to properly store lemons?

Proper storage of lemons is crucial to maintain their freshness and flavor. Follow these guidelines to store lemons effectively (6, 7, 4):

  • Storing at room temperature: Lemons can be stored at room temperature for up to two weeks, especially if you plan to use them relatively quickly. Choose a cool area away from direct sunlight. Kitchen countertops or fruit bowls are suitable options.
  • Storing in the fridge: Lemons should be placed in a plastic or permeable produce bag before being chilled. This aids in moisture retention and keeps them from drying out. Lemons are best kept in the vegetable drawer or a separate area of your refrigerator, but be careful to keep them away from strong flavors from other meals since they have a tendency to pick up those flavors.
  • Extended storage: Freezing lemons is an option if you have too many of them or wish to keep them for a longer time. Wash and completely dry the lemons beforehand. Lemons should be sliced or juiced and kept in sealed containers or freezer bags. For easy reference, mark the containers with the date. Lemons that have been frozen can be kept for several months and their juice or zest can be used in recipes as needed.

How to store half-cut lemons?

To store half-cut lemons and minimize air exposure, as well as stop oxidation and bacterial growth, tightly wrap lemon halves in plastic wrap or put them in a container with a tight fitting lid. To preserve their flavor and freshness, instantly refrigerate, ideally in the crisper drawer, and use within a few days (6, 7, 4).

How to store squeezed lemon juice?

To store freshly squeezed lemon juice, transfer it to a clean, airtight container, leaving space for expansion if freezing. Seal the container tightly to prevent air exposure and oxidation, then refrigerate it promptly to slow down spoilage. Label the container with the date of storage and aim to use the juice within a few days for optimal flavor and quality (6, 7, 4).

Alternatively, freeze the juice for longer storage and safely thaw it in the refrigerator before use. Discard any juice that shows signs of spoilage.

What happens if you consume spoiled lemon?

Consuming a spoiled lemon is not recommended for health reasons, although the outcome may vary depending on the quantity ingested. In some cases, no symptoms may occur, but consuming a significant amount could lead to the follow symptoms (2,5):

  • stomach discomfort
  • respiratory issues
  • allergic reactions

It is uncommon to fall ill from consuming a bad lemon since its spoiled appearance is unmistakable. When Penicillium, Cladosporium, or Alternaria affect the fruit, it becomes covered in green dust or powder (2, 4, 5).

If you consume a spoiled lemon, keep an eye on your symptoms and get medical help if they get worse or last longer. Remain hydrated, get plenty of rest, and eat small, easily digested meals. If you have worries or significant symptoms, speak with a medical professional (4).

Other FAQs about Lemon that you may be interested in.

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Conclusion

In this brief article, we discussed ways to tell if lemons are spoiled or not and also discussed in detail how to  properly store lemons and what happens if you consume spoiled lemons.

References

1. Sharma, Vikrant, et al. “Preservation of microbial spoilage of food by biosurfactant based coating.” Asian J. Pharm. Clin. Res 11.2 (2018): 98.

2. Palou, Lhuís. “Chapter 2 – Penicillium digitatum, Penicillium italicum (Green Mold, Blue Mold)”. in: Postharvest Decay, Academic Press, 2014, 45-102.

3. Serna-Escolano V, et al. “Effects of Degreening Treatment on Quality and Shelf-Life of Organic Lemons.” Agronomy. 2022; 12(2):270. 

4. Freezing and Food Safety. USDA, 2023.

5. Plascencia-Jatomea, Maribel et al.”Chapter 8 – Aspergillus spp. (Black Mold).” In: Postharvest Decay. Academic Press, 2014, 267-286.

 6. Evans, Judith A., ed. “Frozen food science and technology”. John Wiley & Sons, 2009. 

7. Cichello, Simon Angelo. “Oxygen absorbers in food preservation: a

review.” Journal of food science and technology, 2015, 52, 1889-95