From India to Italy, the importance of citrus trees touches every continent and crosses from the kitchen table to medicine cabinet. The oldest citrus trees grew in Asia and the modern lemon was actually created by a series of hybridizations of citron and sour orange possibly in India. By the 1st century AD, lemons had arrived in Italy and were featured in Roman mosaics of North Africa.
Their cultivation was described in Qustus al-Rumis Arabic treatise on farming in the 10th century, and the Cantonese recorded the lemons uses in the 12th century. The personal physician to Muslim leader Saladin wrote a treatise on the lemon at the end of the 12th century. In spite of the nickname limeys by which they came to be known, the British navy used sweet lemons, not limes, to combat scurvy at sea in the 18th century.
Christopher Columbus brought the first lemon seeds to Hispaniola in 1493, and Spaniard explorers brought them to St. Augustine, Florida. Today, most of the worlds supply of lemons is grown in Italy and California.
Types Of Lemons
The lemon was born a hybrid, and it continues to evolve. The lemon you are most likely to purchase at a grocery store is the Meyer lemon, which is prized for its versatility in cooking. There are approximately 17 recognized varieties of lemon, whose Latin name is Citrus Limon. While much of the literature on the uses of lemons fails to designate the species being used, there is a growing interest in establishing the purity and origin of certain lemon species, which conditions optimize the valuable oil gotten in the extraction process and which are most potent medicinally.
The lemons extreme sourness is taken in small doses, but that small dose comes loaded with nutrients. Low in calories, the lemon is twice as rich in vitamin C as oranges and contains a very high amount of potassium. Lemons also contain bioflavonoids and anti-oxidants such as beta-cryptoxanthin and lutein and zeaxanthin. Vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, folate and calcium are all present as well.
The peel of the lemon is also nutritionally valuable. Just 1 tablespoon of the peel contains 9.6mg of potassium, 8mg of calcium, 7.7mg of Vitamin C and 0.6g of fiber. The peel also contains magnesium, phosphorus, plant sterols and essential fatty acids. It is most valued for its flavonoids, which have strong anti-oxidant properties.
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