Lemons: History and Etymology

Lemons are the edible fruits of the arboreal plant belonging to the Rutaceae Family, Genus Citrus and Species C. x limon .

The origin of the lemon is still unclear, although it is likely to think that the first trees were grown in Assam (a region in northeastern India), in northern Burma and in China. A genetic study on the origin of lemon has concluded that it could be a hybrid between bitter orange and cedar.

The lemons were already known to the Jews of Jerusalem who, according to Giuseppe Flavio (Roman historian), used them to strike a wandering priest during the '90 BC festival; the Jewish tradition states that the fruits used were "Balady" cedars.

Lemons entered Europe from southern Italy no later than the first century AD (at the time of ancient Rome); however, they did not immediately arouse great interest.

Shortly after they reached Persia, then Iraq and Egypt around 700 AD. Here, the first evidence of the lemon was recorded in a tenth century Arab agricultural treatise. In addition to being a fruit tree, lemon was also cultivated for ornamental purposes in the first Islamic gardens.

Later, it was widely distributed throughout the Arab and Mediterranean territory starting from 1000 until 1150 AD.

The first important cultivation of lemons in Europe began in the Genoese territory in the mid-fifteenth century.

The lemon was then introduced to America in 1493, when Christopher Columbus brought the lemon seeds of "Hispaniola" during his journeys of discovery. The Spanish conquest of the entire American continent has therefore contributed to spreading the lemon seeds on the other side of the globe.

In the "New World", lemon was used primarily as an ornamental and medicinal plant.

In 1747, James Lind added lemon juice to the diet of sailors suffering from scurvy, although for obvious reasons vitamin C was not yet known.

In the nineteenth century, in California and Florida, the first lemon citrus groves appeared.

The origin of the word "lemon" should be Middle Eastern. One of his first occurrences appears in an English customs document dating back to 1420-1421.

The noun "lemon" originates from the ancient French "limon", which also gave rise to the Arabic name "laymun" and the Persian word "limun" which generally means all citrus fruits (akin to the Sanskrit "nimbu").