It’s all in the zest!
Although originally thought to be from Myanmar, the Mediterranean is without doubt the spiritual home of the lemon tree. Nothing speaks more of the Mediterranean diet than olives and their golden oil, garlic, fresh green herbs and lemons.
Here in Liguria the lemon has been entwined with the region’s history, culture and landscape since it was cultivated commercially in Genoa in the 15th century. They feature in many dishes and are seen in displays all over. Just over the border from our olive farm Bestagno into France is the historic town of Menton where since 1934 the Menton Lemon Festival uses over 145 tonnes of citrus fruit to create spectacular floats and sculptures.
This "Queen" Cookery Book which belonged to my great grandmother, is a compilation of recipes published in the cookery columns of the "Queen" magazine between 1895 and 1902. The preface assures the reader that all the recipes are well within the capacity of the ‘good plain cook’.
It suggests an ingenious way to keep lemons for a longer time in its ‘Lemons to Keep’ method, using just resources from the land which I love:
"These may be kept by the same recipe as is recommended for walnuts, i.e. in sand. Put a layer of very dry sea sand at the bottom of a jar and on this a layer of lemons, then more sand and more lemons till the jar is full, but be careful that the lemons never touch each other in any of the layers."
Maybe it was the salt in the sand that helped preserve the lemons? Here is my recipe for preserving lemons, not with sand but still with salt!
Thinking about the benefits of the Mediterranean way of eating, lemons are certainly up there at the top of the list of essentials alongside Extra Virgin Olive Oil. They are packed full of antioxidant and anti-cancer properties, have an impressive list of essential nutrients, and are respected for their antibiotic properties. Scientists believe that it is the zest that holds all of the health giving properties so try and buy unwaxed lemons and always cook with the zest.
Is the consumption of lemons another reason why the Mediterranean way of eating is proven to be so health giving? I believe it is.
The combination of these Mediterranean essentials of lemon and Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) was something that inspired Nudo's Lemoni, our most popular flavoured oil, an agrumato bursting with pure lemon flavour. It is made by crushing whole Sicilian lemons with the olives in the traditional cold-extraction method of producing EVOO. This process, vs. infusing, creates an oil with flavour that is pure and intense; you can really taste the whole lemons. Although not technically an EVOO anymore as it EVOO must always be pure and meet specific guidelines, this 'condiment' is made with high quality olives in the EVOO process. It is particularly delicious on fish and chicken, or tossed through pasta or salads; see our recipes here.
Katharine, Nudo Director & Bestagno Olive grove