What Is The History Of Lemons

First used in Arabia, then exported around the world. How a tart, and sometimes bitter fruit became synonomous with refreshment.

Summertime is a perfect time to enjoy lemons--their tartness seems to offer a respite from the heat, whether in lemonade, lemon pie, or lemon chicken.

There are arguments that the lemon originated in either Malaysia, China, Persia, Asia Minor, or the Indus Valley. The latter wins--archaeological evidence includes a lemon-shaped earring from 2500 BC.

Lemons were being cultivated in Palestine as early as the first century a.d, and perhaps in Greece as well. By the second century, Libya was exporting them to Rome. (There is a mosaic in Pompeii that shows a lemon) However, the fruit was expensive and rarely encountered.



In the eighth and ninth century, Arabs planted lemons in the Sahara, Andalusia, and Sicily.

The fruit first became popular in the late Middle Ages, perhaps the result of those returning from the Crusades. Cookbooks advised replacing the excessive spiciness of earlier years with lemon juice.

Other uses for lemons arose--the ladies of Louis XIV's court used lemons to redden their lips. Cesare Borgia sent presents of lemons and oranges to his wife while she was in France, partly to impress Louis XII with his wealth. Sailors used them (combined with rum) to combat scurvy.

There are three types of lemons. The most common are the acidic varieties you encounter at the supermarket, with Eureka and Lisbon being the most popular. Rough lemons are used to proprogate other citrus fruits, such as limes or oranges. Sweet lemons, once considered a curiousity, are growing in popularity with the development of the Meyer lemon. Wonderfully sweet in flavor, this variety is still not commercially grown, thus making finding it very difficult. Juices and sauces containing the Meyer lemon are easier to find, and worth a trial.

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