Nary a person has walked this Earth without hearing some form of the expression, “When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade.” This idiom is meant to be a sort of uplifting mantra, illustrating how even the sourest of situations in life can be turned into something pleasant. But lemonade isn’t the only upside to lemons; lemons have been the basis of natural cures and cleansers since the dawn of time. There are endless ways that you can use lemon in your daily life, but here are a few we think are especially pertinent to the outdoors.
Keep Your Produce Fresh
Many camp cooks like to prepare their food as much as possible before heading out, which means grated cheese, sectioned meats, and chopped veggies and fruit. Veggies and fruit can quickly oxidize once their flesh is exposed to air, so toss the chopped bits with some lemon juice before you store them in a plastic bag or container to keep them crisp and fresh until you’re ready to use them. Lemon juice complements a wide array of flavors, so you needn’t worry about the taste of the lingering juice.
Get Rid of Grease, Stains, and Odors
If you have a camp kitchen that includes a stove and cookware, you’re likely already familiar with the greasy film that accumulates over time, even with washing. The acid in lemon juice is a powerful cleansing agent, which not only cuts through grease and grime, but can also lift odors from wood and plastics, like cutting boards and storage containers. You can use lemon juice to clean by applying the juice directly to the surface, squeezing into dish water, or diluting with water in a spray bottle. For extra strength cleaning power, add a splash of vinegar and watch the dirt wash away.
Ants play a vital role in the health of many ecosystems on our planet, but that doesn’t mean you want to invite them over for dinner. Instead of relying on toxic insect killers in nature, try squirting lemon juice around the edges of the picnic table or anywhere where people gather to eat. Ants leave a scent trail for other ants to follow in their quest for food; the acid in the lemon juice not only obliterates this scent trail, but discourages other members from starting a new one. Not a single ant has to die in the course of this action — everybody wins!
Disinfect and Revitalize Skin
Dirt is a natural part of life, and no more so than when enjoying the outdoors for an extended period of time. Sanitizing gel is all the rage in today’s germaphobic market, but plain lemon juice provides all of the benefits of these products without even a drop of alcohol, which sucks moisture and nutrients out of your skin. Rub your hands with a cut lemon instead, and rinse with water to avoid stickiness. For the face, lemon is surprisingly effective at softening and brightening your skin as it disinfects, so leave those commercial wipes, lotions, and tonics at home on your next camping trip, and pick up a bright yellow lemon instead!
Lemon peels, when dried, make excellent tinder for starting a campfire, and will put off a sunny citrus scent in the air as they burn! Although this article refers to lemons, you can actually use any citrus peels for the same effect. The thing we like best about this use is that it ensures none of the lemon goes to waste, making the humble lemon an all-purpose wonder fruit whose benefits reach far beyond a delicious glass of lemonade.