Other Common Names:
The other common names for the lemon tree are lemon and lime tree.
The name is derived from the Arabic 'laimun' or the Persian 'limun'. The tree was brought to Europe by the Crusaders in the Middle Ages and the fruit has a good content of vitamins A, B and C - an ounce a day was given to sailors in the Royal Navy to alleviate scurvy and other vitamin deficiencies.Citrus is derived from Greek kedromelon "apple of cedar" (Greek melon is cognate to Latin malum "apple"); this name, however, did not signify lemon, but citron, whose cultivation in Egypt is reported by Greek travellers.
The Romans, then, shortened the Greek name to citrus. The name "lemon" and limonum is derived from the Arabic Limun or Limu, which in its turn probably comes from the Sanskrit Nimbuka.The extremely bitter yellow fruits have been popularly added to drinks and cuisine in Egyptian and Arab recipes dating back hundreds of years. Lemon trees may have been cultivated in ancient Greece and in 4th century Rome for decorative and medicinal purposes, but the evidence for this is patchy and debated. Some of this confusion may have resulted from the work of 18th-century Swedish botanist Linnaeus, who thought the lemon to be a variety of the citron (Citrus medica), which we now know to be a separate species.
Citrus limonum is a thorny evergreen tree with irregular branches bearing shiny oval leaves. The lemon tree is about 15 or 20 feet in height, with branches easily bent. The leaves are alternate, ovate-oblong, usually serrulated, smooth, glossy, and dark-green, with a winged petiole. It produces white, pink-tinged strongly perfumed flowers, which turn into berries the lemon fruit. The flowers are middle-sized, white, purple externally, and odoriferous. The calyx and petals are similar to those of the orange. The fruit is an oblong-spheroid, sometimes almost globular, with a thin, pale-yellow rind and a juicy, very acid pulp. The exterior rind of the lemon and the juice of its pulp are official. The finest lemons are those which are smoothest and thinnest in the skin.
The origin of the lemon is unknown. Some think it originated in north-western India, others think it came from India's north-eastern parts. It is reported to have grown in southern Italy in the third century A.D. and in Iraq and Egypt after 700 A.D. The first reliable information is from Sicily where it is known to have grown around 1000 A.D.Large-scale commercial cultivation of lemon began in Florida and California in the early days of the 19th century. In Europe the island of Sicily and other parts of southern Italy have exported lemons for several centuries.
Plants grow optimally on well drained soils with good exposure to incumbent sunlight. The lemon attains best quality in coastal areas with summers too cool for proper ripening of oranges and grapefruit. Therefore, the lemon has a relatively limited climatic range. The lemon tree has the reputation of tolerating very infertile, very poor soil.
Lemon is a very demanding plant to grow, totally intolerant of frost. The fruit and flowers are destroyed already at minus 1-2 C degrees. Nor does it do well in extreme heat. It thrives in areas which are too cool for oranges and grapefruit. The lemon belt is a narrow area on the cooler side of orange growing districts in both the northern and southern hemispheres. In best conditions the lemon tree produces flowers and fruit almost around the year. The immature fruit is green and during the cool nights of autumn and winter the colour slowly turns yellow. The harvests can be controlled by regulating the irrigation. The main harvesting period is winter and new flowering starts in spring. In dry areas the trees can be left to dry in the summer for 6 - 8 weeks until they look shrivelled and sickly. When they are then watered and fertilized heavily a new flowering appears in August - September. The fruit of this flowering will mature in the following summer when lemons are in short supply. The length of the harvest period can be prolonged in this way to increase productivity. In Italy some trees produce four crops a year (see Femminello). Lemons suffer less from diseases than other citrus types and the picked fruit are not easily damaged by transportation or storage.
The flowers, which possess a sweet odour quite distinct from that of the orange, are in part hermaphrodite and in part unisexual are in bloom throughout the year, the outside of the corolla having a purplish hue.
Pests and Diseases
In damp valleys it is liable like the orange (q.v.) to be attacked by a fungus sooty mould, the stem, leaves, and fruit becoming covered with a blackish dust. This is coincident with or subsequent to the attacks of a small oval brown insect, Chermes hesperidum. Trees not properly exposed to sunlight and air suffers most severely from these pests. Syringing with resin-wash or milk of lime when the young insects are hatched, and before they have fixed themselves to the plant, is a preventive. Since 1875 this fungoid disease has made great ravages in Sicily among the lemon and citron trees, especially around Catania and Messina.
The fruit, the rind, juice, oil and the leaves
of the lemon fruit is commonly used parts of the
tree for its commercial and medicinal purposes.
• Lemon oil can be very beneficial to the circulatory system and aids with blood flow, reducing blood pressure and helping with nosebleeds.
• Due to lemon's antispasmodic properties, it can help when asthma is present.
• Lemon oil has been show in some scientific tests to genuinely improve mood and is particularly recommended for stress and depression.
• It can clear catarrh from the respiratory tract and aid in the treatment of bronchitis.
• Digestion can be improved due to the ability of lemon to alkalinize the body.
• It can help bring down fever; helps relieve throat infections, bronchitis, asthma and flu.
• The juice may be used in diaphoretic and diuretic draughts.
• It boosts the immune system and cleanses the body, improves the functions of the digestive system, and it is helpful with constipation, dyspepsia and cellulite.
• Lemon oil soothes and relieves headaches and migraines and is helpful for rheumatism and arthritis.
• It is said to be the best cure for severe, obstinate hiccough, and is helpful in jaundice and hysterical palpitation of the heart.
• It is also used for clearing acne, cleaning greasy skin and hair, as well as removing dead skin cells, easing painful cold sores, mouth ulcers, herpes and insect bites.
• It can be great to use as a mouth wash or gargle to sort out mouth ulcers.
• Lemon juice is used in marinades and provides a great alternative to vinegar in salad dressings.
• Lemon peel is used in cookery and confectionery, and also in medicine to correct the taste and augment the power of bitter infusions and tinctures, its virtues being similar to that of the orange peel.
• Lemon isolates useful to the perfume industry include Limonene, which is one of the key components of the characteristic lemon scent.
• It is employed in the manufacture of face masks which is used in toning of the skin.
• Lemonade is a refreshing summer drink, traditionally made from lemon juice, water and sugar.
• Lemon is excellent for adding shine, cleansing and degreasing hair and it also tones the scalp.
• The juice of the fruit is used for polishing bronze and other metals that have been neglected.
• It can also be used for removing ink stains.
• The juice is used as a bleaching agent.