rough lemon

Rough Lemon – A Rare and Unique Citrus

Have you ever heard of Rough Lemon? I hadn’t either until one of my organic small farmer friends said she had some lemons for our Harvest2U customers. I asked what the variety was, and she said she didn’t know. I asked her to send me a picture, and when I saw it, I doubted very much that it was a lemon but rather some form of a mutant orange.

After doing research, I identified this curious-looking citrus as a Rough Lemon. Rough Lemon (Citrus jambhiri) is a tree of a citrus hybrid, a cross between mandarin orange and citron. It’s a favorite fruit in parts of India and South Africa, but here in the U.S., it’s used as a rootstock for Orange trees. A rootstock is a plant (tree) that is used to graft the desired tree onto it. The Rough Lemon is cold hardy, a large tree and does well in dry environments once it’s established.

What is The Difference Between Rough Lemon and Other Lemons

But what about its fruit? Yes, these lemons are on the ugly side, but in my opinion, they taste sweeter than other lemons yet still retain the sour taste. It makes excellent lemon juice.

Is there a real difference between lemon and Rough Lemon? Both citruses originated in Burma, in a region of North-Eastern India (foothills of the Himalayas),  and northern China. At the end of the 15th or early 16th century, Rough lemon may have been transported to southeast Africa by the Portuguese and then taken to Europe. It reached the New World not long after that.

The acid content of these citrus fruits is different with Rough Lemon being more acidic than the ordinary lemon and easier to peel. Other lemon hybrids, such as Meyer Lemon is a hybrid between citron and sweet orange with the juice being less acidic.

Rough Lemon Uses

Rough lemons can be used just like other lemon types. Slices can be served as a garnish on meat or fish or with hot or iced tea, squeezed for its flavorful juice.

Lemon juice is widely known as a diuretic and astringent and when used in hot water is widely known as a daily laxative and preventive of the common cold. Concentrated lemon juice or lemon juice and honey, or lemon juice with salt or ginger, is one of the best cold remedies. It was the juice of the Mediterranean sweet lemon, not the lime, that was carried aboard British sailing ships of the 18th Century to prevent scurvy.

Harvest2U Citrus Recipes

Sharing is caring!

About Randy Farrar

Randy Farrar is the CEO and farmer at Harvest2U. He is a seasoned micro-farmer with over 35 years of experience. When he isn't farming and managing Harvest2U, you'll find him writing content for blogs and social media. You can follow him on: ● Facebook ● Instagram ● Linkedin


  1. Cindy Lou on January 11, 2019 at 9:19 am

    Wow babe, this is A LOT of great, simple, valuable information you’ve given here.
    Thank you!

    • Randall Farrar on January 11, 2019 at 9:20 am

      Thanks! Looking forward to having Rough Lemons in our boxes this coming week.

  2. Lana on July 16, 2019 at 8:53 pm

    This is awesome. I just bought a house in LA with a lemon tree and these are my exact lemons. Thanks for this great information.

    • Randall Farrar on July 26, 2019 at 11:10 am

      Fantastic. Lemon trees are very productive and one single tree is more than enough for a family to use fresh and “Put Away” (Canning). We have citrus in our boxes as much as we can for our customers for this very reason. Have fun in your new house!

    • Mike Bloodworth on January 30, 2020 at 5:07 pm

      One of my neighbors had a Rough Lemon growing in an orange tree. Now I know how that was possible. It must have been an offshoot coming up from the root. I agree the the R.L. had a very sweet, almost delicate flavor, yet much more “lemony” than a Meyer. I also enjoyed eating the peel. It was much less bitter than other citrus. Unfortunately, my neighbor removed that branch and a subsequent owner cut down the tree completely. I still see them, RARELY, around the San Fernando Valley. But, it has been at least thirty years since I’ve had one. (No exaggeration)

      • Randall Farrar on January 31, 2020 at 1:47 pm

        Thank you for a great memory. I never thought about the peel. Thank you for sharing that.

        Keep on the lookout for our rough lemons coming up soon. I’d love to try to get you some.

      • Cindy Shilkoff on June 15, 2022 at 10:10 am

        Did you ever get your rough lemons? I think the lemon tree in my yard (Simi Valley) has them and I would be happy to share.

        • Randy Farrar on August 12, 2022 at 5:34 pm

          Thank you, Cindy. But I believe Simi Valley is a little far for us to coordinate. I appreciate the offer!

  3. Dibbly on January 9, 2020 at 10:52 am

    Makes good marmalade too. I just finished a batch. They’re a bit of a pain to peel, but the result is worth while.

    • Randall Farrar on January 10, 2020 at 4:49 pm

      We agree! Thank you for sharing. A very good underrated lemon. We look forward to proving them in our box again soon

  4. Anna on May 7, 2020 at 8:34 pm

    I have a tree in my home. I’m very confused about rough lemon and yuzu. How I can know the difference , please.

    • Randy Farrar on May 8, 2020 at 5:20 pm

      I’m not an expert, but the Yuzu has very little juice and very rare here in the US.

  5. Jessie Pennington on June 29, 2020 at 9:36 am

    I have a Meyers Lemon in the ground. Bore fruit for two years. We then had a very cold winter (Savannah GA). The grafted part appears to be dead but the stock is coming back. I am uncertain as to how to prune it. The limbs are fairly straight up with large thorns. Is this a rough lemon that was used for grafting??

    • Randy Farrar on July 3, 2020 at 12:57 pm

      Sorry to hear that you lost your Meyer. But the root stock coming up is either a Sweet Orange or rough lemon. Both have thorns and are used as root stock for Meyer Lemons. I would just train it to one trunk and let it start to branch at about 3 feet up. The thorns on the trunk can be pruned off.

      You now have a much hardier citrus tree than the Meyer and it will be edible for Juicing.

  6. Janet Boulton on July 19, 2020 at 11:50 am

    I have fruit on what used to be a citrus fruit cocktail tree until the Meyer lemon took over.
    This year, for the first time, I have fruit that looks like a softball-size rough lemon, with yellow skin and flesh; however, it tastes like a lime.
    Any ideas?

    • Randy Farrar on July 19, 2020 at 8:11 pm

      It’s a rough lemon or some other citrus hybrid used for rootstock. Enjoy it. Very hardy.

  7. Lee Ayres on January 5, 2021 at 5:29 am

    Can rough lemons be grown from seeds?

    • Randy Farrar on January 23, 2021 at 12:45 pm

      Yes you can!

  8. BEV on January 24, 2021 at 3:55 am

    For me, the rough [skin] lemon is the best. It is more alkaline than the others and I could use it more safely than the other types without fear of stomach upset, heartburn or injury to my vocal cords. I have not seen one in over 22 years. It is so difficult to even acquire them on the east coast! It seems this lemon is slowly making a comeback on the list of trending fruits, if you will. Again, it is the best type of lemon I have used to date. I wish more people knew about its sterling health benefits. If I could only get my hands on some!

    • Randy Farrar on February 26, 2021 at 4:42 pm

      Wow! Great feedback.Thank you. I agree I believe home gardeners would benefit more from this species of lemon than others (except for maybe Meyer Lemon).

  9. cass on February 26, 2021 at 5:36 am

    thanks for the info! this is in my family’s orange grove when the root stock takes over. I’m going to sell it at the farmer’s market and i had to find info about it online because i knew nothing about it. this is a great source

    • Randy Farrar on February 26, 2021 at 4:46 pm

      It’s great that you’ve taken a problem and turned it into a benefit (opportunity). I believe if you spend some time educating your customers your sales will definitely increase. one user here commented that “For me, the rough [skin] lemon is the best. It is more alkaline than the others and I could use it more safely than the other types without fear of stomach upset, heartburn or injury to my vocal cords.” This lemon has real benefits.

  10. Tina Hasche on March 1, 2021 at 5:45 pm

    Do you know where one can get a rough lemon tree?
    Or a source for growing one from seed?

    • Randy Farrar on March 1, 2021 at 9:22 pm

      They aren’t available retail, but most all lemon trees use rough lemon as the rootstock. Buy a lemon tree and cut the top part off and let the bottom rootstock grow. That is how I would do it.

  11. Nelly on March 14, 2022 at 6:54 pm

    We moved in with this tree in our yard and had no clue what it was. Really great info. Thanks!!

    • Randy Farrar on March 18, 2022 at 3:06 pm

      That’s great Nelly! You have a unique and rare fruit tree growing for you.

Leave a Comment