Species and part of lemon Citrus Limon (L.) Burm. F.
The Citrus Limon (L.) Burm. F.
lemon tree belongs to the Rutaceae family which includes many species. Coming from the Latin citrus, the name "citron" dates back to the 14th century and has gradually replaced the old term borrowed from the Italian limon
, and the Arabic li mûn
A medium-sized shrub with shallow roots, it can grow to between three and six meters in height. Its green shiny evergeen leaves are also fragrant. The scent of its small white flowers with five petals is characteristic and much appreciated. Its fruits, yellow lemons, have an acidity that differs depending on the variety.
Known from the 1st century , the fruit of the lemon tree is mentioned by Pline l’Ancien and was already indicated for its therapeutic virtues by the Greeks and Romans. Ancient Chinese writings refer to its precious fruits, which attests that the lemon tree was introduced to China around the 10th century.
Its thousand-year-old geographical origin is supposed to come from the eastern Himalayas, between China, India and Burma. Introduced via the Silk Road to the Middle East, lemons became the symbol of perfect beauty for the Hebrews who cultivated them during their captivity in Babylon.
It would seem that at the time the plant species was rather a citron (Citrus medica), especially since the lemon tree we know today comes from a graft between a citron tree and a bitter orange tree carried out around 5000 BC (1).
After the invasions, it was the Arabs who introduced the lemon to Africa and throughout the Mediterranean basin, except in France and Italy. Europeans then discovered citrus fruits during the Crusades and brought these delicious fruits back to their countries. In 1493, the lemon was introduced by Christopher Columbus in the Dominican Republic and Haiti, while citrus cultivation in Brazil was developed by the Portuguese. Finally, in the 16th century, the lemon tree spread to Florida, making this American state one of the largest lemon producers in the world. Today 14.3 billion kilos of lemons and limes, i.e. 14.3 million tons are produced each year, including 3.1 million tons by India, the world's largest producer. India is followed by Mexico with 1.9 million tons produced annually and by Argentina with 1.1 million tons (2).
Species and varieties of lemon
For thousands of years, the Citrus Limon (L.) Burm. F. genus is hybridised, and includes about fifteen species and cultivars that produce yellow lemons.
Its flowering period is spread over several months, however the best fruiting takes place in winter. The lemon tree is a grafted shrub and is cultivated in such a way as to perpetuate its variety and protect it from disease. Without this, the first fruits would only appear after about ten years.
The main cultivated varieties are called "four seasons” because they produce flowers and fruits: from October to January for the Primofiore, pale yellow and very juicy lemons with thin skins; from December to mid-May for the Limoni invernale, lemons with an intense yellow peel and few pips; from mid-May to mid-September for Verdelli, less fragrant and harvested green late fruits.