Do you remember la signora Maria from Calabria? I featured her last summer making passata and making bread in her stone oven at her farm in Calabria.
Now is the season of lemons and oranges and Maria and her husband Antonio, are very busy harvesting their beautiful perfumed citrus fruits.
Italian lemons are unique, of a superior quality, very juicy, with a deep yellow skin and have an incredible perfumed taste. In Naples the liquor “Limoncello” is made using the best lemons with thick yellow skin. These types of lemons also make excellent creams, soaps and perfumes.
When I was in southern Italy, to be exact in Sicily some time ago over the lemon season I remember picking lemons from a tree, cutting them and squeezing the precious juice straight into my mouth.
You know what? The taste was so fresh and aromatic and the lemons had an interesting sweet taste. It was addictive and left my hands heavily perfumed of citrus for quite some time afterwards!
It was better than Chanel No 5 perfume 🙂
You see here Antonio cutting a lemon. I feel happy just looking at these photos. The bright colour of the lemon with the blue sky in the background makes me want to jump on a plane and be there too right away!
Lemons are actually native to India and Indochina and were known in Italy since Roman times. The presence of lemon trees is found in some paintings in Pompeii dating back to the first century AD, although the first real Italian cultivation dates back to the fifteenth century in the area of Genoa.
Lemon juice is also used as a condiment for salads, in fish dishes and in marinades. Squeeze some lemon juice over game or some red meat to remove its wild taste and add it to water to prevent fruits and vegetables from oxidating (turning black), this is common for instance with artichokes, apples and bananas.
I grew up drinking the juice of lemon and oranges in the morning. I was kind of shocked when I grew up and realized that people would buy juices in cartons and pretend it was “proper, healthy real juice” without bothering to squeeze it !
As always when you rush with food and think you can take shortcuts you are going to be disappointed. Juice in a carton is something created and well marketed by the industries and branded as healthy; often it has sugar added and plenty of additives too!
Lemons act as a natural disinfectant, have antibacterial, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties; they are used in pharmacology to produce creams or medicines useful for mouth ulcers, warts, calluses, cold and flu.
We all know the classic “hot water with lemon and honey” when we have a cough or cold. It soothes and makes us feel better straight away. I have learnt to grate a little fresh ginger too in my drink and that is better than most over the counter medicines.
Maria and Antonio also have many orange and mandarin trees.
Oranges are rightly called the queen of citrus fruit because they are packed with vitamins, they are juicy and so beautiful. They literally decorate the garden in an explosion of bright orange and sunny colours! An adult orange tree can produce up to 500 oranges a year.. which I think is quite a lot!
Oranges are great in the kitchen. Think of the classic “orange duck“, orange risotto, jam and marmalade, candied orange or many cakes like my ricotta and orange tart I seemed to be making over and over again!
Chocolate and orange is also a perfect combination!
Here are a couple of tips from Maria:
-put the peel of an orange on top of your stove or heater and your house will smell divine!
-when doing roast chicken stuff the bird with a lemon, you will see how aromatic it will taste!
Thank you Maria and Antonio. The food, fruit and vegetables you produce at the farm are the perfect example of what real food is and should be.
We mustn’t forget that.