Have you ever heard of the Buddha Hand lemon or the Lisboa lemon? Learn more here.
History of Lemon
It was born in Asia and multiplied in varieties – there is one named Lisbon. Discover the health benefits that have given lemons a medicinal reputation over the centuries.
The sentence has already been said, written, and rewritten: “If life gives you lemons, make lemonade”. As for the life lesson, nothing to point out, but the adage is unfair for lemon, an ancient fruit that goes far beyond juice. It was a commodity bought by the weight of gold by the countries of northern Europe and elected by popular wisdom as a medicine, long before it became a staple in the pantry.
The birth took place in Asia, between China and India, and genetic studies indicate that this is the result of crossing sour oranges with cedrat, a citrus fruit without juice, with rough skin, widely used in the cosmetic industry. It is possible that, before Christ, it had already reached the Roman Empire, although it was certainly a rare fruit on the Italian peninsula.
In the ’50s, a mosaic was found in the excavations in Pompeii with a lemon tree, which proves that, at least in AD 79, the date of the historic explosion of Vesuvius, the Romans knew the tree and its fruit and probably used to decorate gardens.
The first colonization, crusades, and migratory movements made lemon known to the Mediterranean basin and, among the Arabs and Romans, it gained the status of an antidote. One of the legends that reinforces this idea of a remedy for all ills says that Emperor Nero was a frequent consumer of lemons because he was obsessed with the possibility of being poisoned. It is legitimate that the frequency with which emperors and powerful men betrayed each other has left Nero in the hands of any homemade solution, and lemon was already well-known in Asia and North Africa, where it was associated with cleaning and warding off pests.
The Arabs left the lemon in the south of the Iberian Peninsula between 1000 and 1200, but the significant cultivation of this fruit, perfect for subtropical climates, only gained strength in Mediterranean Europe around the 15th century, with the first fields in Genoa. Over time, this culture made the parts of the Amalfi Coast and Sicily famous – the lemon is an image, a taste, and a smell practically identical to these corners of Italy. It’s in its sweets, in its landscapes, in fashion (the patterns of lemons by Dolce & Gabbana are iconic) and suffice it to say that, in Brazil, the lemon is known as “Sicilian lemon”.
The western limit of Europe will, however, have its responsibility for popularizing the lemon around the world – and one of the commercially preferred varieties. It is not clear why the Lisboa variety is named after the Portuguese capital which, incidentally, except for the lemon trees in the courtyards of some houses and the fado of Rosinha dos Limões, is not famous for its acid and yellow citrus.
One of the theories justifies this name with a graft taken from Lisbon, in the 19th century, to California, currently one of the zones with the highest lemon production in the United States. There is reproduced and changed slightly: today, countless varieties are derived, with slight nuances, from the Lisboa variety, with an acidic flavor, thin skin, and very juicy, almost seedless.
The Lisboa variety is precisely one of those used, together with Eureka and Verna, in the new Compal Origens Limão do Algarve.
The journeys of lemons from Europe to the Americas were by this time already a habit. European colonization introduced almost all the citrus fruit on this continent and, with all the diseases that afflicted on board ships, it was later discovered that lemons would have been good food for sailors.
It was only in the 18th century that James Lind, a Scottish physician, tested the effectiveness of lemons in the treatment of scurvy. Its effectiveness dictated that it became a must-have in the British navy. By that time it was an important medical ingredient and bought by the weight of gold by northern European countries. Only in the 20th century, with the identification of vitamin C, initially named as ascorbic acid, was it discovered the reason why lemon was the indicated treatment for this and other diseases.
During the Spanish flu epidemic in 1918, faced with the paralysis of the medical community, without effective medications or treatments, popular culture also applied the lemon. A hundred years later, it is even safer to praise it, with the certainty that everything that comes in its juice and rind: it is rich in vitamin C, important for the strength of the immune system; in potassium, a mineral very useful in controlling blood pressure, and in citric acid, a strong antiseptic and bactericide. The habit of those who start the day with the juice of half a lemon in a glass of water is explained.
Lemon in Traditional Portuguese Cuisine
The reign of lemon as medicine from the undernourished sailors to the constipated was long and more recently it entered the seasons. It is easy to see the taste of the times for their cookbooks and Maria Margarida de Abreu’s master’s thesis, “Traditional Portuguese Cuisine, by Maria de Lourdes Modesto: contributions to the construction of identities and Portuguese culinary heritage”, allows us to understand how lemon has become one of the Portuguese’s favorite acidic flavors.
In the “Book of Cooking of Infanta D. Maria”, from the 16th century, it appears in only 4.5% of the recipes, but 100 years later, in Arte da Cozinha, by Domingos Rodrigues, it is in 32% of the recipes. The population’s taste for acidulated foods, in general, has diminished and in Maria de Lourdes Modesto’s “Traditional Portuguese Cuisine” (1982), lemon is only in 14.9% of recipes, although the acid is always on hand, in all regions of the country – along with vinegar.
As a seasoning, lemon refreshes and brings out other flavors, it is sharp in the acidity of the juice and aromatic in the peel. However, it doesn’t stop there. The variations of what is a lemon surprise those who immerse themselves in its ancestry and in the relatives it left for the world. Caviar lemon, for example, is finger-shaped and when cut, it explodes into hundreds of tiny spheres, similar to sturgeon roe, and with a subtle lemon flavor.
buddha hand lemon
If you want a handful instead of this finger, look for the lemon hand of the buddha: a bunch of gnarled yellow fingers and a rough skin – it’s in the skin that all its fragrant flavor is found since the inside is only white pulp bitter.
From Asia, the birthplace of this citrus comes the best-known Japanese lemon, also called yuzu. It has taken Europe by storm in recent years (especially the part of Europe that likes sushi restaurants) because of the high concentration of aromas in its peel, a slightly sweet acid.
These lemons are not yet ready to dominate everyday kitchens – they are more expensive to produce, they are more susceptible to water scarcity and temperature variations – but, all over the world, they are already conquering signature cuisines and high-end restaurants. kitchen, always looking for the most surprising and exquisite ingredient. As if a common lemon, with all its history and body benefits, wouldn’t drop anyone’s jaw.