Story of the Amalfi Coast Lemon

01 September 2010 Written by   Published in Campania Food
Lemons of the Amalfi Coast Lemons of the Amalfi Coast © Copyright Delicious Italy


Lemon Tour Circolo Legambiente "Vivi la Natura" di Amalfi

The Amalfi Coast lemon is scientifically known as Sfusato Amalfitano and the body responsible for its preservation is the Consortium for the Promotion of the Amalfi Coast Lemon or 'Consorzio di Tutela del Limone Costa d'Amalfi I.G.P.' When buying the lemons, lemon liqueur or lemon by-products look out for the I.G.P. logo which is the official acknowledgement that the lemons used were grown in the territory and according to the traditional rules of production.

Although known in Roman times and actively introduced from the Middle East during the Crusades, the lemon industry along the Amalfi coast only really got going during the golden age of discovery following the discovery of the Americas. The fruit was grown to provide vitamin C on long sea voyages to prevent scurvy. Nevertheless, the Arabic words stuck and limuczello and jardeno entered the language. Minori was the key port and the local lemons were traded across Italy and beyond.

Botanist G.B. Ferrari was the first to record the qualities of the local lemons in 1646. He wrote: 'the nipple is prominent, the rind is rough, pleasantly scented with a sweet taste, the flesh has 8 or 9 segments, the taste is pleasantly sour'. By the 19th century the lemon has assumed a great social and economic importance and the enormous work of transforming the previously unproductive rural landscape was complete.

Production involved the whole town. Every lemon was sold individually and women would carry the fruit downhill in 50kg baskets on their shoulders. Fishermen would transfer the harvest to larger ships moored offshore.

The production of Amalfi Coast lemons is limited to 25 tons per hectare. The harvest is done by hand from February to October. The fruit yields no less than 25% of its volume in juice and the Amalfi Coast lemon has a higher vitamin C content than most other lemons. The geographic area of production includes the towns of Atrani, Cetara, Conca dei Marini, Furore, Maiori, Minori, Ravello, Scala, Positano, Praiano, Tramonti and Vietri sul Mare.

A comparative study by the Dept. of Chemical and Food Engineering at the University of Salerno demonstrated that the peel of the Amalfi Coast lemon also has a superior aromatic potency than any other and an elevated number of oil glands.

The video below was produced to highlight a lemon tour organized by the Circolo Legambiente "Vivi la Natura" di Amalfi and the Consorzio Tutela Limone Costa d'Amalfi IGP. Aimed at discovering the 'Sfusato Amalfitano' close up, it is a great way to visit the lemon gardens or groves of Amalfi and understand the relationship between territory and sustainable agriculture.

Limone di Sorrento © Copyright Delicious Italy

There is, in fact, another type of lemon grown not far from the Amalfi coast, this time the Limone di Sorrento I.G.P. of the Sorrento Peninsular. They are known as 'Femminello Sorrentino' or 'Limone ovale' and are slightly more acidic or 'tangy' than the Amalfi Coast lemon described above. They were notably cultivated by Jesuit priests in the Guarrazzano valley near the Lubrense rock outcrop and the lemons from this comune are still known as 'Limone di Massa'.

In Sorrento, you can't move for stalls and shops selling lemon liqueurs in untold bottle shapes, but they are so good raw they can be eaten like bananas or oranges, simply peeled and cut into segments. From the website below we learn that the lemons used for the production of limoncello in the Sorrento peninsular are guaranteed by the Solagri Cooperative of lemon cultivators.

Together with the lemon liqueur producers syndicate, their joint label 'Terre delle Sirene' is also another indication that the lemons of the famous limoncello have been grown using traditional methods.