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In the land of lemons

These California farmers and chefs are adding a little zest to your life!


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With more than 7,000 acres of lush lemon trees, Limoneira isn't just the biggest lemon grower in California—it's the biggest in all of North America. Based in Santa Paula, the farm is a testament to what hard work and determination can do.

Founding fathers Nathan Blanchard and Wallace Hardison first bought the land back in 1893 and named the ranch Limoneira, which means "lemon lands" in Portuguese. The farm was also once called the "home of the lemon," but surprisingly it took 15 years before those first farmers even turned a profit. Yet they persevered.

Many things at the Limoneira ranch have obviously changed over the years, but one thing hasn't—and that is the desire to explore innovative programs. The farm invests significant time and research into improving lemon production through innovation. In 2008 they completed work on a solar panel project that stretches across nearly 5 acres and can help to power their lemon storage facility and packing house. And despite being the oldest continuous citrus packing operation in North America, it nonetheless is state-of-the-art.

"We have a camera that basically takes a picture of each piece of fruit," said Ryan Nasalroad, Limoneira's operation manager. "It can tell color and size and how much blemish might be on that lemon itself. Anything that's not perfect isn't packaged."

California is the No. 1 state for producing lemons, and Limoneira farmers account for nearly 13 percent of the state's total lemon production. Which begs the question, what do you do with all of those lemons? For bartender Ryan Seng of Grange Restaurant and Bar in downtown Sacramento, you make lemonade—with a twist, of course. His favorite is a pink margarita (known more formally as the Daisy Lemongrass) that uses lots of fresh lemon juice.

Over at Rick's Dessert Diner, also in Sacramento, they use more than 20 pounds of fresh California lemons each week in their delectable desserts. Lemons are featured in everything from lemon bars to their rich and gooey lemon cake with lemon butter cream frosting.

So the next time you indulge in lemon meringue pie or sip some lemonade, pay tribute to California lemons. After all, being a little bitter never tasted so sweet.

For more information about Limoneira, visit www.limoneira.com.

For more information about Grange Restaurant and Bar, visit www.grangesacramento.com.

For more information about Rick's Dessert Diner, visit www.ricksdessertdiner.com.


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