The varieties of Lemons

Lemons are cultivated all over the world in countless varieties: differences among varieties of lemons are observable only in the external aspect, while their qualities and the economic importance are the same. The main differences in the lemon fruit are recognizable in shape, thickness and colour of the skin, the thickness of the albedo, the number of seeds, the composition of the juice, the acidity and the quantity of juice, the period of ripening. The lemon is rarely consumed as a fresh fruit, while it is largely used in the industrial and pharmaceutical processing: for these purposes, almost all the varieties of lemons produced on the world fruit and vegetable market are suitable.
The varieties of red lemon and sweet lemon are almost unknown. Their fruits are always bitter, but sufficiently sweet to be eaten as fresh fruits, also because when ripe these fruits deteriorate quickly in two or three days. Therefore they are consumed above all by local population, being almost unknown on the larger market.
Lemons are often divided in yellow lemons and green lemons. However, it is only a commercial distinction, as these two lemons grow on the same tree: the green lemon is a product of the summer flowering, that is often artificially induced by eliminating water during summer months to obtain fruits with a thin skin and a very juicy flesh. Green lemons can be stored for long time and tolerate quite well transports and jumps in temperatures. Therefore, they are exported all over the world.
Yellow lemons, those harvested in winter, cover the internal fruit and vegetable market requirements.
It is also possible to divide lemons according to the period of harvesting of the different varieties of lemons cultivated for the world fruit and vegetable market: lemons ripen in three different time of the year. The first fructification, called winter fructification or “primofiore”, ripens in October; the second fructification in in March (these lemons, known as “bianchetti”, are usually less important from a commercial point of view), during the third fructification, between June and July, ripen the lemons called “verdelli”, because of the colour of their skin, which is particularly hard and adherent to the flesh.

In general, the major varieties of lemons produced on the world fruit and vegetable market are:

  • Femminello: typical of Sicily, it is the most cultivated variety of lemons in Italy. Its fructifications have different names and the most important produces the lemons called “winter lemons”, because they ripen from October to March. The fruit is elongated, the epicarp is more or less wrinkled. It contains a different number of seeds and is very acidic, with a juicy flesh.
  • Femminello Zagara Bianca (orange blossom)): variety of lemons that derives (because of a vegetative mutation) from the Femminello and is characterized for its high level of production: in fact, it usually produces 18% of “bianchetti”, 36% of verdelli and 46% of lemons, the latters with a good commercial value;
  • Femminello siracusano (or Femminello masculuni)): variety of lemons coming from the Femminello, whose fruits are great in quality. Therefore, they are really appreciated on the world fruit and vegetable market also for the high production level and for the fast growth of fruits;
  • Seedless Femminello Continella: it is a very exquisite variety if lemons as it is almost seedless. It was discovered by the farmer Saverio Continella from Acireale, who gave to the lemons his name. This cultivar is very widespread. Lemons have a quite thick skin and are small. The production is constant and they have a good yield in juice and acidity;
  • Femminello Dosaco: another variety of lemons selected by Saverio Continella and loved for the high production of “verdelli” with few seed and a high yield in juice.
  • Femminello Santa Teresa: variety of lemons found in Santa Teresa Riva (Messina, Italy).
  • Femminello Scandurra: it is a variety of lemons coming from a vegetative mutation found in province of Catania (Acireale, Italy).
  • Femminello Lunario: it is a variety of lemons that blooms during almost all the year. It is the plant of lemons cultivated the most as ornamental plant in vases;
  • Sfusato from Amalfi (or Femminello sfusato): variety of lemons produced in the area between the Lattari mountains and the Southern side of the coast of Amalfi. The fruit is almost seedless and is elongated. Compared to the lemons coming from other Mediterranean areas, this fruit is bigger, it can be preserved for longer period and has a skin, rich in essential oils, thicker and more wrinkled. From the skin of this variety of lemons, the farmers of the Amalfi Coast produced the lemon liqueur Limoncello for the first time;
  • Monachello: it is a variety of lemons that is difficult to preserve and is used above all for the production of “verdelli”. The fruits are elongated. The yellow skin is medium-thick and smooth. The umbo is protruding and there are several seeds.
  • Interdonato: it is a variety of lemons whose fruits are elongated and big, but not very juicy. It is used above all for the production of “primo fiore” lemons.
  • Verdello: it is a summer variety of lemons, whose epicarp is smooth and yellow-green. The acidity level is low and fruits are almost seedless. Usually, this variety of lemons is the most used to produce the popular liqueur Limoncello;
  • Bastardo: variety of lemons that ripen after about one year. The fruit skin is smooth and yellow.
  • Maiolino: these lemons have a light yellow skin with few wrinkles, few seeds and a low level of acidity. This variety of lemons is usually harvested between April and May: its name comes, in fact from the months in which fruits are harvested.
  • Marzano: variety of lemons that hare usually harvested together with winter lemons. They have a more or less round shape, a wrinkled epicarp, a large and flattened umbo, a certain number of seeds and a high level of acidity.

Other varieties of citrus lemon cultivated in small quantities, above all from amateurs, are:

  • Procida lemon
  • Calaniculata lemon
  • Peretto lemon
  • Variegato lemon
  • Salicifolia lemon
  • Carrubaro lemon

The most widespread varieties of lemons in Italy are: Femminello , Monachello, Lunario, Interdonato, Sorrento and Procida . Among the varieties of lemons that arrive in Italy from foreign cultivations, there are:

  • Volkameriana lemon (Citrus volkameriana): it is an hybrid between lemon (Citrus limon) and bitter orange (Citrus aurantium). The leaves are intense green, elliptic and medium-small. Sprouts and flowers have violet hues. The fruits are roundish, medium, with an orange skin and an acidic flesh similar to that of lemons. This fruit is more rough than lemons and this variety is used as root stock for other species;
  • Meyer (Citrus meyeri)): it is a variety of lemons native to China and probably a natural hybrid between lemon (Citrus limon) and sweet orange (Citrus sinensis). The inflorescences are violet and are produced all year long. The fruits are similar to lemons, but less bitter and very rich in juice.
  • Genoan lemon
  • Masero lemon
  • Verna lemon
  • Eureka lemon
  • Lisbon lemon
  • Karystini lemon

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