Lemon - The rebel fruit
When life gives you lemons, eat them.
If you've been keeping up with the Equal Food blog, it's quite likely that you've been smelling garlic. But fear not, Equal Foodie! This sunny superfood may be the best way to keep you feeling and smelling good in these hot summer months.
Lemon (Citrus limon) is perhaps the most regularly consumed fruit in the world. From detox retreats to nightclubs, this bright and versatile fruit seems to follow people wherever they go. But it hasn't always been this way. In fact, while you may associate lemons with the sunny, coastal landscapes of southern Europe and California, this fruit has spent most of human history away from the global spotlight.
The Hidden History of Lemon
Although its exact origin remains a mystery to this day, archaeologists have located the first evidence of lemon and cider, its larger and less juicy ancestor, in the Eastern Himalayas. From there Muslim traders brought the fruit to the Middle East and the Middle East, where it became deeply rooted in the cultures of Jordan, Egypt, Persia, and Jerusalem.
Although the archaeological evidence for this migration is elusive, there are some clues that lead us to believe in this order of events, namely the Persian origin of the word "lemon" as well as the earliest records of lemonade coming from Egypt. Although at the time it was known as Kashkab and made from fermented barley, mint, rue, black pepper, and cider leaf, this popular drink represents the first moment of recognition of the refreshing qualities of the bitter fruit.
It took about half a millennium, until around the first century A.D. for cider and lemon to reach southern Europe via the Muslim trade routes and Greco-Roman conquests. There, they became prized for their fragrance, with a plague-repellent quality and ability to neutralize poisons. Theophrastus of Eressos, the Greek father of botany, described the ability of this fruit to "improve breath," a characteristic use that would persist throughout history. In fact, almost 2,000 years later, during the reign of Louis XIV of France, women would still apply lemon juice to their lips to perfume and redden them.
But in antiquity, the lemon enjoyed an elitist status and was reserved only for the upper classes. In fresco painting lemon trees were often depicted on the walls of the rich villas in the Vesuvius area attesting to the choice status of this fruit. Thus, lemons remained quite rare among society at large due to their exotic origin, medicinal value and unique perfume. Even the use of the fruit was reserved more for medicinal purposes than for daily consumption, a notion that is supported by its symbolic link to longevity and fertility.
The "golden apples," as they were known in Ancient Greece, were even referred to in Greek mythology as the dowry of Hera, the wife of Zeus, who kept them hidden in her garden until Hercules stole them and delivered them to mankind. And while today lemons are universal enough for everyone to enjoy, there are definitely reasons that have made this fruit the target of so much covetousness by those in power. For example, the fact that lemons are so beneficial to people's health.
Although the medicinal value of lemon fruit was widely accepted in ancient times, it was not until the 18th century that this belief was proven in what was one of the first recorded clinical trials in the studies of medicine. Scurvy is a disease caused by a lack of vitamin C that essentially prevents our tissue from regenerating, leading to lasting sores and necrosis. It was a common sight among pirates and sailors who spent months at sea without access to fruits and vegetables. When James Lind boarded HMS Salisbury as a Royal Navy surgical assistant, he conducted several tests and administered various remedies to sick sailors, from sea water and cider to lemon juice. At the end of the tests, the patients treated with lemon juice were cured. As a result, lemon became the first fruit with proven healing effects.
And why so healthy?
The British navy, or "limeys" as they came to be called, thanks to their constant supply of citrus fruits, owes their salvation to the lemon's high vitamin C content. In fact, 100g of lemon juice contains more than half of the daily value of vitamin C, making it a truly powerful remedy for the skin and immune system. So if you ever feel a cold coming on, mix some lemon juice, saffron and crushed garlic in hot water to boost your body's defenses.
In addition to vitamins, lemon also contains several antioxidant phytochemicals, such as polyphenols, terpenes, and tannins. These anti-allergy and anti-cancer chemicals work wonders when it comes to fighting free radicals (known to destroy healthy cells). But juicing doesn't just benefit your health. It can also greatly enhance the foods to which it is added. Lemon juice can make a steak more tender or keep bananas, avocados, and fruits from ripening too quickly and turning dark. In other words, there really is no excuse to avoid this versatile superfood!
Behind the scenes
At Equal Food, we take pride in our lemons, regardless of their shapes and sizes. From round to rectangular, smooth to robust, with a large nipple or a small nipple, each of our lemons is equally essential to a healthy diet. That is why we are so grateful to Carlota Barata of Wizard Agro for providing us with rebel lemons, and assuring us that we will continue to frown when we taste that sour flavor, as if we were healthy pirates.