Sicilian lemons are the most traditional Sicily’s fruits and are cultivated in my beloved island along with other Sicilian products, such as red orange, almonds, pistachio from Bronte and Modican dark chocolate. In Sicily, lemons are also used to season many recipes, not only the common salad of lettuce.
Furthermore, Sicilian lemons are also the main theme of many products made in Sicily, from clothes to accessories. However, nowadays, it is always harder and harder to find authentic and organic Sicilian lemons to buy. If you are interested in discovering more, read this helpful post about the juicy lemons of Sicily.
Sicilian Lemons: Information and History
Lemon (Citrus Limon) is an ancient plant born from the hybridization between Pomelo and Cedar. That is a tree that can reach the height of 3-6 meters. The plant has small leaves, with a lightly winged stem, white and highly scented flowers. With right temperature and proper climate, lemons bloom and bear fruit for two months, two times per year.
The mature fruit can remain for two months on the tree before being picked. These customs allow to postopone the harvest and obtain oval and rounded fruits with many healthy properties. I planted one of these small lemons trees, on a bucket, just in front of my home.
Last year, the tree blossomed and fructified. Today, instead, the vegetative cycle resumed with a few green leaves. I look forward to picking the lemons.
Lemon is in reality a fruit coming from India which was cultivated for the first time in Sicily and afterward in Genova (Italy) and even in the Azores, in 1494.
Sicilian Lemons Properties
Sicilian lemons have antihemorrhagic, hypoglycemic and disinfectant properties. These fruits also relieve arthritis and have the power to detoxify the entire human body. 1oo grams of lemon pulp have only 50 calories and contain 90 grams of water, 149 mg of potassium , 51 mg of vitamin C, 28 mg of magnesium, 11 mg of calcium and 45 grams of flavonoids that depurate and detoxify our organism, blocking the growth of tumors.
The peel of lemons contains a high quantity of limonene, the chemical compound which is responsible of the strong and typical smell of these fruits. Lemons also contain the so called pinenes in addition to limonene. They are the so called beta-pinene, alpha pinene and gamma terpinene. An oil is extracted from the seeds of lemons and the remainings of these fruits are used to feed animals.
Umberto Veronesi, the scientific director of the European Institute of Oncology, when he was still alive, confirmed that “lemon is rich in limonoids having a direct capacity to block some types of cancer cells.
This fruit is also helpful to fight recurrent inflammations and, thanks to the relevant presence of antioxidants, is also able to counteract free radicals which can alter the structure of cells and cause cancer. The ideal is a lemon juice per day. A splash of lemon on the salad is a thing we must remember more often”.
A study published on NaturalHealth365 also proved that the pectin of citrus fruits, contained both in the pulp and the peel, is able to inhibit the spread of cancer in breast, skin and prostate.
Name and Varieties of Sicilian Lemons
There are many lemon varieties in Sicily. Here are the features and the names of the lemons cultivated in my island.
Femminello: typical lemon of Sicily, it is the most cultivated variety, with a long and pointed fruit. Femminello gave rise to the other varieties.
- Zagara Bianca, a variety derived from the vegetative mutation of Femminello.
- Common Femminello, from which the two varieties Bianchetto and Verdello derive. Bianchetto has a clear yellow peel, while Verdello has a green peel.
- Femminello of Syracuse, also called Femminello Masculuni. It has big and high quality fruits.
- Femminello Apireno Continella. It is a valuable variety of lemon with few or no seeds discovered by farm Saverio Continella in Acireale.
- Femminello Dosaco, with small and juicy fruits.
- Femminello Santa Teresa, discovered in the picturesque village of Santa Teresa di Riva in Messina.
- Femminello Scandurra, another vegetative mutation of Femminello found in the province of Catania.
- Femminello Sfusato, a long shaped fruit without seeds, also called Sfusato Amalfitano, because the farmers of Amalfi and Sorrento used it to produce the popular liquor Limoncello for the first time.
Aside Femminello, the other varieties of Sicilian lemons are:
Bastard lemon, with smooth peel and intense yellow color.
Maiolino, with a yellow pale peel, few seeds and low acidity.
Marzano, winter lemons that are picked in March. Indeed their name derives from the Italian translation of March, namely Marzo. They have a wrinkled peel and a large, flattened and long shape.
When Are Sicilian Lemons in Season?
The most cultivated Sicilian lemons are mainly everbearing varieties which are also harvested five times per year, with 700 fruits per tree produced during this seasonal calendar:
Bianchetto and Majolino are produced from the end of April to the end of May.
It consists of pausing the watering of the most vigorous lemon trees in June and harvest only the remaining plantation. Unfortunately, this treatment endangers the quality of Sicilian lemons.
For this reason, several Sicily’s farmers, who produce organic Sicilian lemons, cultivate everbearing species such as Femminello and Lunario. The latter fructifies under the light of the moon, but that is a lemon from Tuscany.
These lemon varieties bear fruits more frequently and without the need of the aforementioned treatment.
There are also the lemons called Agostani in Sicily, they fructify in August. We also have a variety called “Primofiore” (the prime flower). The latter fructifies from September to October. The winter lemons, instead, are available from November to April-May.
The spring blossoming always produces the best fruits. These ones are then picked all along the winter. Hence, if you want to know when Sicilian lemons are in season, you know the answer, now!
Usage of Sicilian Lemons on Recipes
Lemons are used for many purposes in Sicily. The most important is the one to season typical Sicilian dishes. Sicilian lemons are used to prepare the Sicilian sorbet, Sicilian granita, Sicilian ice-cream and marmalade, for example.
A slice of lemon from Sicily is always added to the herbal tea by Sicilians. You can drink a glass of water with lemon juice in the morning, as soon as you wake up, in order to detoxify your body. You can add lemon to your fish recipes, also. Sicilians sprinkle lemon on chicken and fish dishes, but not on red meat recipes. They prefer adding winegar to these dishes.
Organic Sicilian Lemons
The best lemons are surely organic. Unfortunately, many lemons are treated with pesticides, especially the ones coming from abroad. Pesticides accumulate on the lemon peel and always are carcinogenic. Organic Sicilian lemons are instead cultivated without pesticides and contain all of the healthy properties mentioned at the beginning.
It is not easy to find and buy organic Sicilian lemons at the supermarket. I always check the label, before buying them. The label always specifies if the lemon are Sicilian and organic or if they arrive from foreign countries and are treated with chemical compounds.
You should do the same thing. You could be lucky and find Sicilian lemons in your Country, also, even in the UK. However, lemons are perishable products and could be treated with chemical wax on the surface of the peel.
Hence, always check the wording “Organic Sicilian Lemons” before buying them. Organic Sicilian farmers always take care to sell well preserved Sicilian lemons without any chemical preservatives.
Lemons and Sicilian Mafia
Cultivation and exportation of lemons and oranges are closely linked to the rise of the Mafia in Sicily. In the early years of this rise, mafia bosses gained power and money by producing lemons and oranges to be sold abroad. Truth to tell, nowadays, the Sicilian mafia controls every type of business, especially the one of food and drink.
Many plantations of tomatoes, for example, such as the popular Ciliegino from Pachino, are managed by local mafia families. Hence, the hands of the Mafia are not only on lemons, but on any else activity which can produce money. As regards this matter, you can read an interesting article titled Origins of the Sicilian Mafia: The Market for Lemons, where the topic is explained in detail.
Sicilian Lemons for Sale and Online
If you fail to find Sicilian lemons for sale in your supermarket, you can buy them online. I noticed many online shops that sell Sicilian lemons. They declare these products are organic and unwaxed, but I don’t know them and I can’t be sure about that.
As said, lemons are perishable products and it is hard to find them completely organic. To avoid troubles, I suggest that you buy only Sicilian lemon juice online. It is in small bottles and you can easily use it to season your recipes.
You can also buy the stunning marmalade made with authentic Sicilian lemons. I ate this marmalade and the flavor is unforgettable. It has also the scent of the lemons of Sicily. That is another product you can easily buy online.
Sicilian Lemons as a Symbol of Sicily
Lemons are a strong symbol of Sicily, more than oranges. All this depends on their colour, they are yellow like the sun, and the latter is the most important symbol of my island.
For this reason, you find Sicilian lemons depicted on clothes and accessories, such as bags and jewels. You can find a stunning collection of Sicily lemon-themed accessories and products on this online shop.
The earrings put on the lemons (see the image) are a creation by Gessica Giangrasso, a true Sicilian artisan living in Nicosia, in the province of Enna, in Sicily. She creates gorgeous handmade and handpainted ceramic earrings with Sicilian themes, such as lemons. You can find her creations on her online shop called TaleBijouxDiSicilia.
Try making a purchase (you’ll help Sicilians artisans craft their creations) and let me know if you enjoyed this post!