This International Food Spy Brought Us Meyer Lemons

On today's episode, author Daniel Stone talks about the mysterious Frank Meyer, and how he brought a coveted fruit to the US.
Image: Lia Kantrowitz

If you walk into a grocery store today, chances are most of the produce you see is not truly American. Some of it might be shipped over from Chile or Mexico, but even the fruits and vegetables grown on US soil are not usually native. This includes the Meyer lemon—a sweet, tangy lemon that has become the favorite of chefs and bartenders. And the story behind the citrus might make you appreciate it even more.


Frank N. Meyer was a Dutch immigrant who left Holland in 1901 for the US. When he got here, the plant lover spent his days walking North America—through the US and Mexico—working at plant nurseries. Eventually, his peculiar passions led him to work at the Unites States Department of Agriculture (USDA), where he became a "food spy"—tasked with traveling across the world and finding viable new seeds to bring back and grow. In 1905, he was sent on a high stakes mission to China—a mission that turned out to be violent, fruitful, and tragic.

We talked to Daniel Stone, author of The Food Explorer, about Meyer's adventures, and the discovery of the Meyer lemon.

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