Centuries of History
The lemon’s botanical roots are in Burma, in SE Asia, but it spread, over the centuries, through Mesopotamia, to Iran, to Palestine, before reaching Sicily, where it found very favourable growing conditions: the right climate – with mild winters and humid, salty sea air, plentiful water, and suitable soils.
The lemon had long been cultivated in Siracusa by the time the Arabs and then Normans came to Sicily over a thousand years ago.
Yet it was the Jesuits in the 1600s who noticed how the lemon flourished here and, building on the centuries of expertise already accumulated, set about farming more intensively.
At the end of the 1800s, exports started, first to England and then to Russia. By the 1870s, owning a lemon or citrus grove became a solid source of income – and a factor in people’s economic and social advancement. Then, the early 1900’s saw the creation of the first mechanical processors of lemon juice for food and drink, calcium citrate and citric acid. Fortunes were made processing and shipping lemons, principally to England and the United States of America.
Since those boom-times, lemon-growing has experienced periods of development and decline, but Siracusa has seen consistent growth in hectares under cultivation, and the lemon still retains a major role in the agricultural economy of the region.
Click here for our leaflet on the history of the lemon in Siracusa