Q. What is the difference between waxed and unwaxed lemons, is the wax dangerous, can you clean it off and are the different types better for different things?
Asks A in London.
A. I will admit that my mailbox is not exactly bulging, but I have picked this question out today to be topical. It was pancake day yesterday and I have a big bag of lemons sitting in my kitchen.
But enough of me, and on to the question!
The simplest answer is that wax is applied to lemons and other fruit for a couple of simple reasons. Firstly so that they look good on the shop shelves, but more importantly to preserve them and give a longer shelf life.
The wax is generally natural and isn’t going to do you masses of harm, but if you are using the lemon peel or zest raw then you can taste it and it does affect the way that it feels in your mouth. If you are worried about the safety of eating the wax and the pesticides, etc. that might be lurking beneath it, but you can’t find unwaxed, then look for organic lemons as they can’t be treated with anything chemical.
The best advice would be that buying waxed lemons is fine if you are using them for their juice, but to look for unwaxed ones if you are planning to use the zest or peel in a recipe or as garnish for a cocktail. Apart from anything else, they are much easier to grate/zest.
You can remove some of the wax by scrubbing the lemons in warm water but the truth is that you will never really get rid of the majority of it.