you can eat a good Amalfi lemon the same way you would eat an orange, should you so wish (although it still packs a puckering punch). The skins are rich in healthy, flavourful oils — which is why a bit of Amalfi lemon zest goes a long way in a bowl of pasta — and they’re both packed with vitamin C to boot. A quirk of nature also means these lemons only grow on the coastlines around Amalfi and Sorrento. As the cool sea breeze comes inland it is trapped in the steep mountain valleys, where it settles and creates a unique microclimate that is perfect for lemon growing. Not only are

Mention Amalfi to anyone with a hint of a food brain, and only one thing comes to mind: lemons. Known as “sfusato Amalfitano” in Italy — sfusato is Italian for “spindle,” presumably an old reference to the lemons’ elongated shape — Amalfi lemons are an iconic symbol of Italy’s bountiful produce and have been coveted for over a thousand years for their sweet flavor and powerful citrus aroma. Head to ancient Roman settlements like Pompeii and Herculaneum, and you’ll see lemons depicted in Roman villa mosaics. It seems likely that lemons first arrived in Italy by way

of Middle Eastern merchants, but these would have been more like the lemons we know in the UK — small and sour. By the turn of the eleventh century, farmers had managed to cross these lemons with local bitter oranges, and were cultivating what we know today as Amalfi lemons. Amalfi was a powerful seafaring republic around this time, with a large network of trade routes weaving across the Mediterranean, not only were these unique lemons a much-desired trade item, they were also popular among sailors as a way to fight o¡ scurvy during long voyages. Not all lemons from the area are necessarily Amalfi lemons, though. In fact, two varieties of lemon are cultivated on the Sorrento Peninsula: sfusato Amalfitano on the southern coast, and limone di Sorrento on the other side of the peninsula. Sorrento lemons are slightly rounder than their spindly Amalfi cousins, but both are IGP-protected and equally sought-after. So, what makes Amalfi lemons — and indeed, Sorrento lemons — so special? Unlike the small, sour varieties you’ll find in your local supermarket, Amalfi lemons are large, sweet and juicy. The skins are softer and the pith not as bitter, meaning that

the lemon trees in the valleys protected from harsher northern winds, they also get blazing sunshine over the majority of the year, while the incoming sea breeze maintains a cool enough temperature to keep the lemon trees happy. While the climate and fertile soils are ideal, the terrain is rather more di¦cult. The rocky outcrops make the use of machinery impossible and lemon growers have to work extremely hard for their harvest, climbing thousands of stone steps every day with large baskets to collect their fruits. Lemons are harvested multiple times a year on the Sorrento Peninsula, so you’ll be able to try them whenever you visit the coast, but it is generally agreed that the best lemons are harvested between March and July. Visit Amalfi or Sorrento and you’ll probably find you’re always within a few metres of a bottle of limoncello — the local lemon liqueur that has become synonymous with the area. A huge percentage of the year’s lemon harvest goes towards the brewing of limoncello, and locals say that di¡erent bottles have very di¡erent flavors, depending what time of year the lemons were picked.



Powered by