The citrus limon is certainly the most cultivated citrus in the world; we all know it.
The sapling is modest in size, usually not exceeding 3-4 meters in height, the foliage is evergreen, dark, shiny and slightly leathery, pointed oval-shaped, the stem is steep and single, quite large, and has a beautiful thick crown, with branches often semi-woody, which in many varieties are equipped with long thorns and sharp; the flowers are white, very perfumed, with the petals of the buds streaked of violet, they bloom by the end of winter, but some varieties bloom also by the end of summer or in other periods of the year, it is therefore probable to be able to see a tree in flower, which carries also ripe fruits and small fruits.
The fruits are very typical and difficult to confuse with other citrus fruits: they are oval or pear-shaped, quite small in size, when ripe the skin is light yellow, shiny and usually thick; even when ripe, the taste of the pulp remains very sour and aromatic.
The fruits of the lemon have the particular characteristic of continuing to ripen even if already detached, so they can be picked still green and firm, and transported or stored until the time of marketing, which can take place weeks later. Most of the lemons that are cultivated are then utilized by the industry, for getting the juice, or also citric acid and pectin, to be utilized in the canning industry.
For this reason, the most appreciated and cultivated lemons have a very sour taste and pulp very rich in juice; there are dozens of varieties of lemons, some of which have a sweet pulp, but unfortunately they do not have also the characteristics of preservability typical of the other lemons, and it is therefore difficult to find them on the market, if not in the production areas.
Classification of the lemon
Lemons or citrus lemon and other citrus fruits have been cultivated by man for thousands of years, so it was difficult to understand which citrus was the progenitor from which all the others were derived, thanks to numerous hybridizations; the lemon is not a botanical species, but a horticultural hybrid, produced by man.
The hybridizations which have led to this fruit are so far away in the time, that nowadays we tend to consider it as a distinct species, with particular characteristics, which, however, remain unchanged only if we propagate it by cutting or by grafting, as the wild linons, obtained from seed, usually do not produce flowers and fruits.
The botanical name is therefore citrus lemon The Saracens brought the plant to Europe, and even today their presence in cultivation is stronger in the Mediterranean areas, where they have been cultivated for centuries. There are several varieties of lemons, with botanical names attributed centuries ago, or even with names of commercial fantasy, for contemporary varieties.
Typically, the new varieties of citrus limon, have very juicy fruits, with very acid pulp and very aromatic skin, and also tend to be very re-flowering, producing fruits virtually throughout the year.
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Some varieties :
The vanilla lemon is one of the uncommon varieties, which is difficult to find from the greengrocer, but quite cultivated in Italy, the fruits are almost round, and have a very thin skin and light color, the pulp contains large amounts of juice, and the flavor is averagely acid. The plants are of medium size, and usually this variety is kept small, to be sold as an ornamental plant.
The lemon volkameriano, citrus x volkameriana, is a citrus quite particular: the appearance is that of a small orange with thick skin, while the flavor is that of citrus lemon, sour and aromatic. Often this variety is used for hybridization. Like the meyer variety, citrus x meyeri, it is very resistant to cold (or at least, more than other lemon varieties) and is very fruiting.
The feminine variety is the most cultivated in Italy; very famous is the lemon Femminello del Gargano, but there are also feminine varieties in Sicily and in other parts of our country; these lemons are very re-flowering, and produce throughout the year; the fruits are of medium size, firm and compact, with fairly thin skin. The shape can be round or elongated, and often have a pointed apex. Very juicy, these lemons are sold for home consumption or even for the canning industry.
This variety of citrus limon is also widespread in our country, typically lemons Primofiore, as the name suggests, are the first to bloom in the year, as they are in bloom throughout the autumn and winter, from October, until March or April. LA shape of the fruit is roundish, the pulp scented and the skin thin. Sicilian lemons often belong to the Primofiore variety.
A variety of Californian origin, the eureka lemons are easily distinguishable even when the plant is not in fruit, in fact the foliage is conspicuously variegated in white or cream, even the fruits are variegated, and carry dark green stripes, very showy, in addition to this, the flesh of the lemons eureka is pale pink, which makes them even more special.
In Italy, unluckily, they are still difficult to find, but, by sure, they are destined to become a variety of lemon, much utilized as ornamental plant.
Cedar is a citrus very similar to lemon, but not belonging to the same species, cedar, citrus medica, is one of the original species, from which descend all citrus grown today. The fruits look like lemons, but the size is much larger; the pulp is a small part of the fruit, which consists almost entirely of peel and albedo (the white skin that in many citrus is bitter), some varieties of citron are completely sour, others are very sweet (both pulp and peel).
It is difficult to find cedar on the market for fresh consumption, more easily you can find candied cedars or jam. These citrus fruits are mainly cultivated for the extraction of essential oil, used in the food industry and in the production of medicines.
A very particular cedar is that of the ethrog variety, utilized for the festivity of the tabernacles in Palestine: it has enormous dimensions, a fruit can weigh some kilograms, and all the fruit is sweet and juicy, both the pulp, and the skin, and the albedo.
Lemons, and many other citrus fruits, have become typical vegetation of the Mediterranean area for thousands of years; for this reason, in the collective imagination, they should be trees that love a Mediterranean climate, that is, very hot and little water. In reality, lemons originated in India, where the seasonal minimum and maximum temperatures are similar to those of the Mediterranean, but the rainfall and humidity are decidedly different.
So if we decide to grow a citrus tree, the main challenge we face is watering and humidity. These plants, in fact, do not like the prolonged drought, and prefer an averagely warm climate; they can bear temperatures of a few degrees below zero, which, however, when spent, affects the fructification, seen that the main and most abundant blooms happen just in winter.
Therefore, let’s place our lemon in a well sunny area, and sheltered from the strong winter winds, in a fertile and loose soil, very well drained, which does not cause the formation of water stagnations, which the plant does not bear in any way.
Let’s remember to water the lemon regularly, therefore little in the cool and humid months, and often and abundantly during the warm and dry months; together with the watering, let’s guarantee also a regular fertilization, spreading some slow release fertilizer around the stem, or with liquid products, to be mixed with the water of the watering; typically the citrus fruits are fertilized adding to the soil some shredded lupins and wetting the foliage with foliar fertilizers, which are very well absorbed by the plants.
In any case, let’s avoid leaving the soil constantly wet, or dry for a long time; we should be regular, watering every time the soil dries.
Lemons and the cold
If we live in an area where the winter climate is very cold, we will have to repair our citrus limon, from October until the arrival of spring. The main problem is that this is precisely the period in which the plants bloom, and therefore need good sunshine, a cool and humid climate and the correct watering and fertilization.
So, if we are forced to close the lemon in a cold greenhouse, let’s not forget it, as it will need to be watered in January, and especially in the dry climate of the cold greenhouse. If we have to cover the plant with cloths or other, we try to leave it exposed to the elements, otherwise it will be too difficult to provide the correct watering.
Lemons are often grown in pots, as ornamental plants, if possible, during the winter months, let’s avoid placing the pot in the house, as in homes the climate is too hot and dry. We can simply move the pot on a terrace facing south, against the wall of the house, without forgetting to water periodically and vaporize the canopy on sunny days. Fertilisation will also continue during the cold months.
Lemons can be pruned in summer, because in the periods when other plants are usually pruned, that is in spring and autumn, lemons are in full vegetation and are usually preparing flowers and fruits. Pruning is minor, and is usually done only to clean the canopy of any broken or damaged branches, or particularly attacked by pests.
In addition to this, the so-called succhions are removed, that is, the strong and vigorous branches growing upright, perfectly straight; these branches are not intended to produce flowers, even if they develop very quickly, and are to be removed or will tend to absorb all the nutrients of the plant.
The lemons we find on the market are usually grafted, as the wild plants, from seed, tend not to bloom ever; it is essential to always and abruptly remove any branches that develop below the grafting point, as they are not floriferous branches.
Parasites and diseases of the lemon
The main problem that lemon growers face is related to watering: scarce, and we will have a constantly suffering plant; excessive, and our citrus limon will suffer from radical rottenness; the more regular the watering, the healthier our lemon will be. In the nursery most of the customers who complain about the death of their lemon tree are people who have closed the plant in the greenhouse in October to February have found it without leaves.
Lemons are often attacked by cochineals, especially if they live in greenhouses, where the climate is very dry and with poor ventilation. Young shoots can be attacked by aphids, and floral buds are often hit by fruit fly lare, which then nests in the fruit.
The lemon fruits contain a lot of seeds, it is therefore easy to get a small plant simply by placing these seeds on the ground, simply extracting them from a fruit and leaving them to dry up in the sun for a couple of days; the sowing takes place in spring or autumn, keeping the sowing bed in a luminous, cool and humid place. The young plants are to be cultivated in pot for at least a couple of years, in the house, before finding a place in the garden or in a capacious pot.
The lemons born from seed tend not to produce flowers, therefore the propagation of a particularly interesting species or variety of lemon must forcibly take place by grafting; the grafting most done by the producers of citrus fruits is the crown grafting, as it allows to graft new branches also on a very old tree, and with very ample stem; for a small lemon, it is possible to carry out also a split grafting, inserting in the trunk one or more small branches taken from a productive tree.
The lemons multiply also by cutting, taking the tips of the branches which have not carried flowers, in late spring or in summer; the small branches are to be deprived of the leaves in the lower part and dipped in the rooting hormone, and therefore in the soil; the trays with the cuttings are to be kept humid and in a luminous place, but not exposed to the direct sun, till when they have started to sprout.
Remember, however, that it is not certain that our lemon obtained from cuttings is healthy and productive, the graft is in fact also practiced to develop a lemon very fruiting on a rootstock little subject to disease, or very vigorous and strong development.
Lemon – Citrus limon: The lemon
Lemons, or citrus limon, are among the most used citrus fruits, in cooking, in herbal medicine, in drugs, in the food industry. Already on the tables of the ancient Romans there were lemons, which was already used at that time for their antibacterial and antioxidant properties; in fact, already in ancient times the properties of this citrus fruit were known.
Lemons are rich in vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant, which makes lemons an essential ingredient when cooking fruit, especially when it comes to fruits that oxidize rapidly, such as bananas, apples, avocados; lemon juice is then added to fruit salads, jellies, jams.
The active ingredients contained in the fruit are also used when preparing meat or fish, both raw and cooked, because the lemon juice kills part of the bacteria present in the carpaccio or fish to be eaten raw, and allows to make the meat softer. The essential oils contained in the skin are used as flavourings, in soft drinks, sauces and detergents.
Lemon juice has a strong cleansing power and in ancient times lemon peels were added to the water to wash dishes, and were also used to clean copper dishes. Lemon peels also produce pectin, a natural gelling agent, which is added to jams or other food preparations.
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