The lemon of Sorrento

As yellow as the hot Summer sun. Indigenous to India and Indo-China, the lemon is a symbol and a representation of Mediterranean countries.
Known for its therapeutic properties and considered sacred in Islamic countries, the fruit of the colour of the sun spreads throughout the West around the year 1000 thanks to its Arabian importation to Sicily.
Oval typical of the Mediterranean vegetation, it owes its name to the Persian “limu”. The earliest European cultivation was planted in Genoa in the first half of the 15th century, also its appearance in the Azores goes back to this date.
The yellow fruit comes to America at the end of the 15th century, after Christopher Columbus’s discovery, thanks to its introduction by the Spanish.

The development of lemon cultivations in the regions of Southern Italy, from Sicily to Campania, occurs after the discovery of the numerous beneficial properties of the fruit. In fact, it reveals itself a miraculous medicine of scurvy, a pathology caused by lack of C vitamin the lemon, instead, is rich in.
In the Italian territory the lemon cultivation boasts a long tradition and an incomparable quality level. Needy of modest cares and suitable for poor soils, the lemon tree cannot stand the cold but it does not need any particularly high temperatures to give its fruits. Thanks to these characteristics, it has well adapted itself to the mild and temperate climate which characterizes the seaboards of Southern Italy which soon, since antiquity, began a prosperous production of the citrus tree. For centuries, in particular from 1400 to 1800, Italians exported huge quantities of lemons at a world level, above all to Northern Europe and America.

Among the so many varieties present in the national territory, the lemon of Sorrento IGP. An integral part of the landscape of the Sorrento Coast, fragrant scent of the atmospheres of the Coast, the “femminiello comune ovale di Sorrento”, with a medium- thick peel, rich in essential oils, is one of the elements making part of the cultural identity of inhabitants in the Sorrento Coast. Sorrento lemon plantations and the ones of the Amalfi Coast, which in the course of centuries have increased in number and width, represent one of the main resources for inhabitants in the area, who have removed steep and impenetrable soils from the impassable nature of coasts, to fit them on the cultivation of lemon trees. Protected by the logo of the Protection Authority, the lemon of Sorrento IGP is one of the most precious products of Campania, so that its production is very often sold before its harvest. It represents, for Sorrento and Amalfi agriculture, one of the most profitable and performing resources under the economic point of view.

Besides numerous therapeutic properties, which make it an efficient remedy to depurate one’s body, to improve immune defences, to protect vascular walls, to be a very good hypotensive and a natural antirheumatic, the yellow fruit boasts a wide use in various fields. Basic ingredient of Mediterranean cooking, it is used for the preparation of delicious first and second courses, but also of tasty alcoholic and soft drinks and of very good cakes.

The Sorrento Orange

The Sorrento Peninsula, and Sorrento in particolar ,is noted for its citrus production. The cultivation of oranges and lemons has ancient traditions and represents centuries of principal economic resources for the territory. The famed citrus from the peninsula are in fact exported to the major Italian markets and to the rest of Europe.
The Sorrento orange, like the famous lemon, are cultivated according to the traditional way of protecting the plants from the wind and the cold using a wooden scaffolding system – usually chestnut wood is used – with a height of 7 metres and a pergola-cover of straw.
Growing the fruit under these pergola’s gives the product a particolar uniqueness, a particolar maturation, that allows the fruit to be sold throughout the different seasons and therefore has earned a wide respect in comparison to other Italian citrus products.
The production along the Sorrento Peninsula see’s principally two ecotypes of tree: The Sorrento Yellow and the Equense Yellow.
Both types of plant have a vigorous growth and reach a height of 7 metres. The fruit they produce have an intense yellow-orange colour with a peel of medium thickness. The Sorrento oranges reveal numerous sections rich with seeds which give a generous amount of sweet juice.
The harvesting period for the Sorrento orange is done in the period from May to August. Like the lemon, the orange is also used as a base for a delicious liqueur and is noted as one of the typical local products.

Sugared almond palms

Among the dates which are most deeply felt by Sorrento people, the Holy Week in Sorrento and in the whole Coast is rich in ancient rites and thousand-year usageswhich are re-proposed and much enhanced still today. On Palm Sunday in Sorrento, besides its traditional olive-tree twigs, there is the habit to bless also characteristic palms, made by hand with coloured sugared almonds, linked to a suggestive legend.

It is told, in fact, that during an attack to the coast of Sorrento by the Saracens, the inhabitants of Sorrento took shelter in the Cathedral. They prayed long for the town to be saved by the pirates’ attack: the ships were wrecked and the pirates died in the waters close to Sorrento. The only survivor was a young lady, a slave, who swam to Sorrento and, after reaching the Cathedral too, was welcomed and taken care of. The young lady, in order to thank the population, gave them the only thing she had: some coloured sugared almonds. According to the myth, this happened during Palm Sunday and since then, every year in Sorrento, palms have been made with coloured sugared almonds to be blessed together with olive-tree twigs.

The making of sugared-almond palms has become, in the course of centuries, a real art typical of Sorrento Coast. The craftsmanlike processing is meticulous and includes the making of flowers whose multi-coloured petals are made with sugared almonds which are threaded into metal sticks covered with tissue paper and decorated with any kind of lace and braid.