A SMALL LEMON SPELLING-BOOK
From A like Astuteness to H like Health, From B like Botanic to G like Gastronomy, here you will find a small alphabet of the Lemon with all you need to know about the real party hero
A like Astuteness
The lemon juice is a natural antioxidant. Thanks to the citric acid he holds, it prevents peeled fruits (like bananas and pears) and raw legumes (like avocados, mushrooms, artichokes, celery root…) to darken. A few drops of lemon are a good hint for beating the egg whites.
Nothing can soften meat and fowls like lemon juice in a marinade. Lemon juice is also very good to clean silver jewels and take away rust spot from linen. And what is the best way to preserve it? Just put it in one of the vegetable drawer of your fridge.
B like Botanic
The lemon tree can fruit several times a year. The Winter Lemon also called “primofiore” is picked from October until December. The “limoni” is picked from December until May; the “verdeli” is ripe in summer while autumn is the season of the “bianquetto” or the “mayolino”. It’s possible to find several varieties on the market: the American ”euréka”, the Sicilian “interdonato”, the Spanish “verna” and the “lime” or green lemon which grows in the tropical areas (Antilles, Ivory Coast, Mexico, Brazil).
Among the big Rutaceous family, the Lemon Tree belongs to the sub-family of the Aurantioides, whose origin is in the Monsoon areas (India, China, New Guinea, and Polynesia). Citrus fruits belong to the Citrus family. The most used species are the sour orange tree (Citrus aurantium), from which it is possible to extract oils (Néroli, small grain, orange flower) and whose fruits are really good for preserves; the bergamot (C.bergamia) from which the citric acid and another oil used to make Eau de Cologne are extracted; the “Chinese”, close to the sour orange tree, whose fruits are usually eaten candied; the sweet oranges (C. sinensis) coming from the Asian South East; the mandarin orange tree (C. nobilis); the origin of the Clementines with no seeds has two different versions: one of them says it’s the fruit of a species of Mandarine Orange tree called Canton (Citrus clementina); while the other says Clementines have been obtained by R.P Clément in 1902 in Algeria, thanks to a crossing between the common Mandarin Orange tree and the Granito sour orange tree.
Among the other Citrus tree, we have to remember the Citron-Tree (Citrus medica), the Lemon-Tree (C. limonia) which contains a high quantity of citric and several anti scurvy vitamins; the grapefruits (C. maxima) native of Polynesia and Malaysia, the lime (C. aurantifolia) with its very acid fruits rich of C vitamin; the grapefruits or pomelos (C. paradisi) born of a mutation of the grape Fruit Tree or its hybridization with an Orange Tree; the kumquat fruits (C. japonica), very resistant to cold …
G like Gastronomy
A round, sweet and yellow sun, the lemon is the fruit symbol of the hot countries. It’s present in the whole Mediterranean Gastronomy; from Morocco, where its acid flavour perfumes the delicate marriages of the sugared-salted tagines (Moroccan slow-cooked meat), to India, where it raises the taste of chutneys together with some pimento; or even in Polynesia, where it keeps company to all the fish meals. French gastronomy has preferred all the sugared versions: cakes, candied fruits, almond pastes, glazed lemons …
In the Menton area many gluttonous products are made with lemon: jams, jellies, syrups, citrus fruits honeys … The “Aiga afra”, or bitter water, is a very old product of this region: this water is obtained from the distillation of the sour orange tree leaves. It’s used in pastry-making like the orange-flower water.
G comme Gastronomie
Rond, doux et jaune soleil, le citron est le fruit symbole des pays chauds. On le retrouve dans la gastronomie de tous les pays de la Méditerranée, du Maroc, où sa saveur acidulée parfume les délicats mariages sucré-salé des tagines, à l’Inde, où il relève les chutneys aux côtés du piment, en passant par la Polynésie, où il tient compagnie à tous les poissons. La gastronomie française en a surtout décliné les versions sucrées : tarte, fruits confits, pâtes d’amande, citrons givrés… Dans la région de Menton, plusieurs produits gourmands sont à base de citron : confitures, gelées, sirops, miel d’agrumes… L’“Aiga afra”, l’eau amère, est un produit du terroir très ancien : une eau obtenue de la distillation de feuilles de bigaradier. Elle s’utilise comme l’eau de fleur d’oranger, en pâtisserie.
H like Health
The virtues of the lemon are appreciated since a very long time. It was often used to make compositions like antidotes: Nero, who was afraid to be empoisoned, and made a big use of it! During the XVIII century, thanks to the discovery of the Royal Navy Doctor James Lindt, it was considered as an effective cure for the scurvy, which at the time decimated the crews. Made mainly of water, lemons have very few calories (32 kcal / 100g), and are rich of C and PP vitamins, of citric acid and calcium. Its juice is considered as stimulant in case of weariness or colds. The lemon squash is recommended in case of fever, nausea, haemorrhage (1 sliced fresh lemon in a bottle of water or the juice of half a lemon in a glass of sugared water). In case of diabetes, lemon reduces the blood glucose rate.
L like Legend
A very nice legend tells how the lemon took root in Menton. Expelled from Paradise with Adam, Eve took with her a golden fruit. Adam, fearing the wrath of God, begged her to throw the fruit away. She agreed to do that but only she wanted to leave it in a special place chosen by her. They crossed several mountains, valleys and plains … but no place seemed to be good to her. Suddenly Garavan appeared in front of them. The beauty of the gulf, the sweet climate, the luxuriant vegetation … All reminded them their paradise. Thus Eve decided to plant the lemon and the city of Menton rose from there…
O like Origin
of Himalaya. The Arabic countries have spread its culture, and thanks to them the Romans discovered the “Persian apple” and they introduced it in Europe and South of Spain.
Christopher Columbus took a few lemon seeds with him in Haiti. From the Caribbean Islands the lemon managed to reach Florida and South of America. During the Crusades in the Middle-Ages, French Crusaders brought the lemon tree in Palestine.
P like Production
Citron fruits represent the most important fruit production of the world. Their cultivation concentrates in three main areas: Brazil, the main producing country, the Mediterranean basin (Spain, Italy, Morocco, Israel…) and the United States. United States and Brazil are the biggest juice producing countries: Brazil for example is the main world producer of frozen and concentrated orange juice. Some varieties are less common, like the blood oranges, while others like the pomelos (large citrus fruit similar to grapefruit) are developing varieties.
As regards the lemon, the main productive area is the Mediterranean Basin, and Italy (Genoa area) and Spain are the main productive countries. In France the lemon production is developing again in the Menton area
R like References
- “The Citrus Trees – Agricultural Mediterranean Techniques”,
Raymond Loussert (Lavoisier Ed.)
- “The Citrus Trees” by J.C Praloran (Maisonneuve & Larose Ed.)
- “The Citrus Trees ”, by H. Rebour (Baillière & sons Ed.)
- “ The Citrus Trees ” (Rustica Ed.)
- “The Lemon, history, small stories and recipes” (du Chêne Ed.)
- “Gluttony Museum: the painter and the cook”,
Marc Meneau and Annie Caen (du Chêne Ed.)
- “Fruits and Legumes Erotic Dictionary”, Jean-Luc Hennig (Albin Michel Ed.)
In course of publication: the new edition of the Citrus Tree « Bible », “Natural History of the Orange Trees”, realized on request of the Duchess du Berry and published in 1820, with wonderful quality engravings. This edition project is supported by several partners, and the city of Menton is among them.
S like Still Life
Because of it colour and shape, the lemon has often inspired painters. It can often be found in still life paintings, especially in the Dutch ones from the XVII century: half peeled, with the skin in spiral shape, the lemon is on the foreground of the “Still Life with Crab” by Peter Claesz. The Spanish painter Zurbaran puts it in the place of honour among very precious plates. Renoir crunched it in his “Fruits of the Midi”. It has inspired also George Braque (“The Lemons ”) and Matisse (“Yellow Harmony”, “Still Life with Lemons”…) It is often represented together with fish, from Van Gogh (“Still Life with mackerels”) to Georgio De Chirico (“Still Life with fish”).
W like Written
The Lemon tree has not always had a good press. Its yellow colour was once associated to infamy. The Catalan religious men excommunicated it, pretending that since the « devil was not able to make the lemon as round and perfect as the orange, a deformed fruit came out of his hands … ». Virgile, on the other hand, thought it had protective qualities against evil spells: “acid apple with a strong flavour is the best cure when cruel stepmothers have poisoned a drink”. Casanova expected from them aphrodisiac miracles. It inspired lyric words to the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda: “it flows from the hemispheres of a star, it’s a golden universe, and it’s a yellow cup of miracles, the tiny fire of a planet.”
(source : dossier de presse de l'Office du Tourisme de Menton)