“Lemon” is the name for the lemon tree as well as the name for the fruit it carries. The lemon belongs to the kingdom of “Plantae”, its order is “Sapindales”, the family is called “Rutaceae” and it’s genus is “Citrus”. The binomial name of the lemon is “C. × limon” but it’s often abbreviated as “C. limon”. The lemon has found to be a hybrid between a sour orange and a citron.
Where do lemons originally come from?
It’s not sure where the lemon originally came from. However, it is thought that lemons first grew in China, Southern India and northern Burma.
The history of lemons
We know that lemons entered Europe no later than the 1st century AD. Around 700 AD they were brought to Persia, Egypt and Iran.
In the middle of the 15th century the cultivation of lemons in Europe grew substantially.
Lemons came to America when Christoph Columbus brought lemon seeds with him on his journeys. In the 18th century James Lind began experimenting with lemons in order to heal and prevent scurvy. Because of of the success he had, the British navy started taking lemon juice on their cruises.
Also, wealthy Victorians started growing lemon trees indoors as a sign of prestige. The lemons would be constantly giving a fresh scent to their homes.
The demand in North America became especially high in the 19th century during the California Gold Rush. In order to prevent scurvy, miners would pay high prices for lemons. As a result an abundance of lemon trees was planted throughout California.
In 2010 most lemons and limes where grown in India (2,629,200), followed by Mexico (1,891,400), Argentina (1,113,380), China (1,058,105), Brazil (1,020,350), the US (800,137), Turkey (787,063), Iran (706,800), Spain (578,200) and Italy (522,377). (Sorce: http://faostat.fao.org/site/567/DesktopDefault.aspx?PageID=567#ancor)
Lemons are not simply lemons. There are many varieties with different characteristics. Here are some of them:
- Eureka: This is the typical supermarket lemon. It grows all year and abundantly.
- Femminello St. Teresa, or Sorrento: This type of lemon is rooted in Italy. The zest of the fruit is high in lemon oils. Traditionally this is the type of lemon that is used to make limoncello.
- Meyer lemon: Meyer lemons are thin skinned and less acidic than the Eureka lemon. They are a cross between lemons and possibly a mandarin or an orange. They require more care when shipping, however they are a little more tolerant to frost than other lemon varieties.
- Ponderosa lemon: The Ponderosa lemon is probably a hybrid between a lemon and a citron. It’s thick skinned but quite frost sensitive.
- Variegated Pink:
Uses for lemons
Todays uses for lemons are quite varied. Now that we know about Vitamin C and the food supply has improved in many parts of the world, we usually don’t need to worry about scurvy. We rather appreciate lemons for their taste and use it in many food products, for example in cocktails, soft drinks or sauces. One of the most popular uses is lemonade, of course. Besides that there are lemon cakes, lemon tea, lemon sweets and all kind of lemon desserts.
But lemons are not only used in foods, they are used in a multitude of cleaning products, in body care products, for example in shampoos and soaps, or as an ingredient for aromatherapy products. Check out the individual links for more information about products that use lemons and about where you can use lemons.