The Amalfi Coast lemon is scientifically known as Sfusato Amalfitano and the body responsible for its preservation is the Consortium for the Promotion of the Amalfi Coast Lemon or 'Consorzio di Tutela del Limone Costa d'Amalfi I.G.P.'
When buying the lemons, lemon liqueur or lemon by-products look out for the I.G.P. logo which is the official acknowledgement that the lemons used were grown in the territory and according to the traditional rules of production.
Although known in Roman times and introduced from the Middle East during the Crusades, the lemon industry along the Amalfi coast really got going during the golden age of discovery. The fruit was grown to provide vitamin C on long sea voyages to prevent scurvy. Nevertheless, the Arabic words stuck and limuczello and jardeno entered the language.
Botanist G.B. Ferrari was the first to record the qualities of the local lemons in 1646. He wrote: 'the nipple is prominent, the rind is rough, pleasantly scented with a sweet taste, the flesh has 8 or 9 segments, the taste is pleasantly sour'.
By the 19th century the lemon has assumed a great social and economic importance and the enormous work of transforming the previously unproductive rural landscape was complete. Production involved the whole town. Every lemon was sold individually and women would carry the fruit downhill in 50kg baskets on their shoulders. Fishermen would transfer the harvest to larger ships moored offshore.
The production of Amalfi Coast lemons is limited to 25 tons per hectare. The harvest is done by hand from February to October. The fruit yields no less than 25% of its volume in juice and the Amalfi Coast lemon has the highest content of vitamin C than most other lemons.
A comparative study by the Dept. of Chemical and Food Engineering at the University of Salerno demonstrated that the peel of the Amalfi Coast lemon has a superior aromatic potency than any other and an elevated number of oil glands.
There is in fact another type of lemon grown on the Amalfi coast and the Sorrento Peninsular. They are called the 'limone di Massa or 'Massa Lubrense'. Slightly more acidic than the Amalfi Coast lemon they were cultivated by Jesuit priests in the Guarrazzano valley near the Lubrense rock outcrop.
In Sorrento, you can't move for stalls and shops selling lemon liqueurs in untold bottle shapes, but they are so good they can be eaten like bananas or oranges. Simply peeled and cut into segments. The geographic area of production includes the towns of Atrani, Cetara, Conca dei Marini, Furore, Maiori, Minori, Ravello, Scala, Positano, Praiano, Tramonti and Vietri sul Mare.
The video below was produced to highlight the new Lemon Tour organised by the Circolo Legambiente "Vivi la Natura" di Amalfi and the Consorzio Tutela Limone Costa d'Amalfi IGP. Aimed at discovering the 'Sfusato Amalfitano' close up it is a great opportunity way to visit the lemon gardens of Amalfi and understand the relationship between territory and sustainable agriculture.