Lemons arrived in Egypt and Palestine in the 10th century and were first cultivated in Europe in Genoa in the 15th century. This fruit soon spread to the warmer climates in Europe and even further afield thanks to travelers in the 15th and 16th centuries. Columbus must have spread seeds of this fruit on his journeys as lemons were recorded on the Azores in 1494 and in the Antilles in 1557. Already well entrenched in the Caribbean, lemon plantations began to spread throughout Latin America as from 1587. Today they are grown mainly in California, Florida, Israel, Spain and South Africa, although they are cultivated in all tropical areas mainly for consumption in their own home markets.
Citrus fruits that belong to the Rutaceae family are small, have green leaves and perennial. One of this family’s characteristics is the glands in the leaves which secrete perfumed oil. The fruit trees’ flowers are small, white and take the form of a star. They exude a very intense aroma and turn into the fruit over the space of a year. Depending on the species, citrus fruits swell to a size that can vary from that of a cherry to that of a human head.
The lemon is a yellow fruit and presents a very characteristic oval shape with a prominent end which used to be the flower and a mildly acidic taste. The most common are the lemons Lisboa, Eureka and Villafranca. The hardest and most suitable type of lemon for making marmelade is the Meyer.
By the way, the limes which we normally come across are really only lemons sold before they have ripened. Real limes grow on smaller trees of up to about 3.5 meters high and their fruit, small, green and without the tell-tale bulge at one end, does not transport easily and is consumed locally or is turned into concentrates.
A single lemon contains up to 30 milliliters of Vitamin C, a deficiency of which can lead to scurvy, the official name for Vitamin C insufficiency and the scourge of mariners for time immemorial. This illness can lead to anemia, exhaustion and general weakness, spontaneous bleeding, pain in the limbs, especially the legs, swelling in some parts of the body and sometimes ulceration of the gums and loss of teeth.
1) Lowering the risk of strokes
According to a 2012 study, the flavonoids in citrus fruits may help lower the risk of ischemic stroke, caused by an obstruction of blood flow by blood clots to the brain. A study of nearly 70,000 women over 14 years showed that those who consistently ate citrus fruits had a 19% lower risk of suffering an ischemic stroke than those who did not. A 2019 population study showed that long term, regular consumption of foods that contain flavonoids might help protect against cancer and cardiovascular disease.
2) Blood pressure
A 2014 study found that women in Japan who walked regularly and consumed lemons or other citrus fruits every day had lower blood pressure than those who did not. More research is needed to identify the role of lemons in this context and to discover whether consuming lemons can help reduce blood pressure since the act of walking itself can also lower blood pressure.
3) Cancer prevention
Another benefit of the antioxidants in Vitamin C is their potential ability in preventing cancer by blocking free radicals from causing cell damage. However, exactly how antioxidants can help prevent cancer remains unclear.
4) Weight loss
In a 2008 study, rodents who consumed lemon peel with a high-fat diet for 12 weeks gained less weight than those which did not. In 2016, 84 premenopausal Korean women with a high body mass index (BMI) were divided into two groups one of which followed a lemon detox diet and the other a completely different diet for 7 days. Those who followed the lemon detox diet experienced greater improvements in insulin resistance, reduction of their body fat, BMI, body weight and waist-hip ratio than those on the other diet. However, further research is needed to confirm whether lemon can contribute to weight loss, and if so, how.
5) Maintaining a healthy complexion
Vitamin C plays a vital role in the formation of collagen, the basic building block of skin. Sun exposure, pollution, age, and other factors can result in skin damage. A 2014 study on mice suggested that either eating vitamin C in its natural form or applying it in the form of lotions can help prevent this type of damage.
6) Preventing asthma
People with asthma who consume higher amounts of vitamin C may experience fewer asthma attacks in general according to one review. The authors found evidence that vitamin C also benefitted people with bronchial hypersensitivity when they also had a common cold. However, they called for more research.
7) Increasing iron absorption
Iron deficiency is a leading cause of anemia. Pairing foods that are high in vitamin C with iron-rich foods maximizes the body’s ability to absorb iron. However, a high intake of vitamin C can trigger gastrointestinal problems in people who are taking iron supplements. For this reason, it is best to obtain iron from dietary sources, such as beef liver, lentils, raisins, dried beans, animal meats, and spinach. Squeezing a little lemon juice onto a salad containing baby spinach leaves can help maximize the intake of both iron and vitamin C.
8) Boosting the immune system
Foods that are high in vitamin C and other antioxidants may help strengthen the immune system against the germs that cause the common cold and the flu. One review found that, while vitamin C supplements do not appear the reduce the incidence of colds in a population, they may help reduce the period of a cold. Vitamin C may also helps boost immunity in people who are undergoing extreme physical activity. Squeezing a whole lemon into a glass of hot water with a large spoonful of honey makes a soothing drink for someone with a cough or cold.
Apart from contributing to your health, lemons give flavor to many different dishes, such as baked goods, sauces, salad dressings, marinades, drinks and desserts. Since I absolutely love desserts and warmer weather is approaching, I will provide you with an incredibly easy-to-make lemon sorbet that can be prepared with or without alcohol. Additionally, I will link an extremely quick and easy shortbread recipe which you can spice up with lemon.
- 1 bottle of fizzy wine (Prosecco, Champagne)
- 1 lemon
- 500 grams of lemon ice cream
In a blender fuse the fizzy wine, the lemon ice cream and the lemon juice until a homogenous liquid is created. Then, fill the liquid into the readily placed glasses. For decoration use a straw and place a slice of lemon on the glasses edge. Lastly, place the drink in the fridge until it is served.