Every summer, young and old alike look forward to Baltimore’s annual FlowerMart, but not for the same reason. Some are there to wander among the fresh flowers and plants ready for depositing into the summer soil. Others gather their giddiness for Saturday afternoon’s “Grand Hat” contest. But almost all Baltimoreans look forward to one juicy, yellow, and striped treat, often considered a summer rite of passage: the licking of the lemon stick.
In short, the lemon stick is nothing more than a peppermint stick lodged into half a lemon. Though simple, the combo is not only flashy on the presentation but also vibrantly flavorful. The sweet and sour pairing both surprises and delights. As one poet puts it, the flavors of the sweet peppermint and the citrus are so distinct that, as you eat the treat, it’s almost as if you’re experiencing “each taste as if for the first time.” But how does one actually go about eating a lemon stick? Most eaters hold the lemon base and start by sucking on the peppermint stick. As it begins to melt away, the porous stick acts as a straw, allowing the eater to sip the juice, which becomes a mysterious and tongue-tingling medley. Some sips are more sour, some more sweet, and on and on until the eater is left with a small puddle of peppermint in a tiny lemon teacup.
Despite their fresh flavor, the treat has been beloved by Baltimoreans for more than a century. Historians don’t know the precise origins of the mouth-puckering sweet, but the lemon stick is referenced in a child’s essay from 1911 (the first year of FlowerMart). And according to one Baltimore Sun article, girls in “sprightly costumes” were seen selling them along with caramels and boutonnières in 1924. So when summer rolls around, don’t forget to don your hat, fasten your boutonnière, and gear up for gardening season with a lick of the lemon stick.