THE LAND WHERE LEMONS GROW – a wonderful book.

The past week or so has taken me through the history of citrus growth in Italy, this via Helena Attlee’s wonderful book which I’m reading. My senses are titillated by her words describing the scents and perfume of different lemons and oranges, their colours vibrant against a blue Mediterranean sky. Descriptions of use of these delicious fruits in local foods, drinks, candied skins, and marmalades bring the book to life. Helene brings one on a journey of the region back in time, and tells how the citrus industry took root there, something I did not know anything about, she tells how the Arabs first introduced the citrus trees to Italy. She covers the growth of them in Sicily and goes into some of the history of the Mafia there which is connected to what was a developing industry of growing citrus fruit and exporting it all over Europe and as far away as Russia.

Recently I caught a whiff of an orange blossom while in a garden centre in Cambridge, the scent was delicate, the flowers pale and beautiful.

One aspect of all I read has delighted me very much. It is the story of the essential oil of Nerola, an expensive oil that I once owned and the scent of which was most pleasant, lifting the senses totally. This oil is even now used as a principal ingredient in the manufacturing of modern perfumes. The Chinotto trees of Savona which produce a sour orange are used in the production of Nerola oil, it’s extracted from the citrus blossoms and fruit skins. Helena devotes a delightful chapter describing all of this.

I also learnt that the best marmalade ever is made from the organically grown oranges called tangelo, the flavour is supposed to be something else, it’s not available everywhere, but supposed to be exported to America, and available in London at Sloane Square under the name San Giuliano marmalade. I’d sure would like to try some one day.

Helene Attlee’s travelogue is exciting and written in a fluent, easy style. Oh and one other result from reading this book, I will never walk into a supermarket again and look at the display of citrus fruits in the same way, and that is a very pleasant result as I do not enjoy grocery shopping.
But honestly there is so much to read up on citrus fruits, the trees, industry, botany, cultivation and so on that it could keep one busy for a very long and pleasant time.


The inside of the cover from the book features Bartolomeo Bimbi’s painting of the many varieties of lemon grown in the garden of Cosimo de’ Medici, and a photo of the author.

DSCF2752   Cover of the book, available in the library system.

22 thoughts on “THE LAND WHERE LEMONS GROW – a wonderful book.

  1. I have a tangelo tree but I can’t say that it makes the best marmalade. My favourite is marmalade from the calamondin, which is a round ‘cumquat’ (actually a cross between a mandarin and a cumquat I think).

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    1. Thanks for that information Mary, I personally don’t know very much about different citrus fruits, but I am now taking more of an interest in marmalade and where it come from. Your favourite sounds interesting, I like cumquats and we are able to buy them in Ireland, but not in marmalade form. I like a real bitter marmalade myself.

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      1. I have the Chinotto, Seville and Bergamot which are not sweet but also different lemons and limes that can be mixed to make interesting marmalade. I have also made pink marmalade by adding dark plums:)

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      2. Oh Mary, for a minute I had forgotten that you are an orchardist. This is lovely as I do like to learn more about all these wonderful citrus fruits. It must be lovely to live in a place where you can experiment with growing and tasting all these. Limes are lovely too. In her book Helena said that the Western supermarkets only get the lower quality citrus fruits, could be but not sure about that. I was eating a clementine from Morocco yesterday, these are sweet and juicy.

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      3. I think you can get some good fruit at the supermarket but generally they are ordinary. I go to a produce market once a fortnight; I can get better quality fruit there, often from the farmers.

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      4. Yes, the citrus fruit we get is adequate, we cannot go to the farmer here but while in Naxos I did eat oranges straight from the trees, an interesting experience 🙂

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      5. Of course sometimes I get rather ordinary fruit off my trees too. The figs on my White Adriatic was bland for the first two years but now it produces delicious fruit. Too bad the birds, possums and all insects seem to love it too.

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  2. wonderful and very informative post, dear Agnes. I have been in Israel for a year when I was young and also picked oranges or lemons. I loved it when they bloomed and all the country was having this wonderful smell. In Greek kitchen, a lot of lemons are used, which is delicious and healthy, too. I love cumquat marmelade (with a little bit of mango). Fortunately we can buy organic cumquats here, but I have never seen the other fruits that you and Mary mentioned . I put this cumquat/mango marmelade into a plain joghurt and it was delicious. Hope you are fine and spring has come to Ireland, kind regards Mitza

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  3. Thank you dear Mitza, it has been lovely to hear about your and Mary’s, and others friends’ above experiences with citrus fruits, it has opened a totally new perspective for me on these fruits. 🙂


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