National Geographic : 1951 Sep
The Ade Fruits, Lemon and Lime LEMONS and limes probably have more varied uses than any other citrus fruit. In many parts of the world, one or the other is used to flavor fish, meat, pies, puddings, and other food. In the United States lemon juice is a popular ingredient in salad dress ing, and also goes into much of the tea drunk. Both form the basis of ade drinks, popular in hot weather. Their richness in vitamin C makes both valuable additions to the diet. Sales of lemons in this country are noticeably linked to the prevalence of colds as well as to hot weather. British sailors were first called limesy" because of the quantities of limes furnished them on shipboard to prevent scurvy, a disease caused by lack of vitamin C. Yet, despite their value and versatility, both fruits are limited to a comparatively small share of the citrus market. The rea son is obvious: in a beverage glass one small lemon or lime does the work of two or three good-sized oranges. The Orient Grows a Sweeter Lemon The lemon. Citrus limon, and the lime, C. aurantifolia, are closely linked botanically and historically. Both occur as sweet fruits, as well as the highly acid fruits we know. The sweet varieties are chiefly prized in Oriental countries. Their native home is believed by most au thorities to be the warm, humid district to the east of the Himalayas, in northern Burma, and possibly in eastern India. Both of these fruits, however, have tended to naturalize in any country in which they are well adapted, so the exact original home cannot be deter mined. The Arabs established the lemon, and ap parently the lime also, in Persia and Pales tine, and both undoubtedly were growing in those countries at the time of the Crusades. European writers mention lemons and limes only after that time, and there is strong evi dence that the returning Crusaders carried these fruits, as well as sour oranges, to Europe. By the middle of the 13th century they were recorded as well known in Italy. The date of the introduction of citrus fruits, including lemons and limes, into the Western Hemisphere is well established. On his sec ond voyage to the New World, to establish a colony, Columbus took seeds of many plants. It is recorded that he stopped at the island of Gomera, one of the Canary group, from October 5 to October 13, 1493, and while there secured seeds of oranges, lemons, and many vegetables. He landed on the island of Hispaniola and established his settlement at Isabela, not far from the present town of Monte Cristi. Apparently the pered, for some of citrus trees citrus that he planted pros 30 years later the abundance on the island was described as beyond counting. The Spanish conquerors carried citrus fruits to the mainland of Mexico and Central Amer ica in the early years of the 16th century. The Portuguese had established them in Bra zil by 1540. They were planted at St. Augus tine, Florida, when the Spanish settled there in 1565. Soon groves of seedling citrus, spread by the Spanish and Indians, were pres ent in various parts of Florida. It was two centuries later that the Francis can padres established at San Diego the first mission in what is now California. They moved there from Mexico and presumably took with them the fruits they had been culti vating, among them, lemons and limes. Under commercial culture the lemon is subject to serious diseases in hot, humid cli mates. An early lemon-growing industry in Florida was wiped out by a great freeze in 1894-95. It was never re-established, partly because of the disease problem which had harassed growers even before the freeze. Today two great centers of lemon produc tion have grown up, both with equably warm climates. One of these is southern Italy and Sicily. The other is in southern California, mainly in the counties near the coast, where the Pacific tempers both the winter cold and the summer heat. Curing Improves the Flavor Though lemons were introduced in Cali fornia more than a century earlier, commercial production did not expand much until about 1880. For years California lemons were regarded as inferior to the Italian. This has been blamed on the fact that growers there did not "cure" the fruit before shipping, a practice commonly followed in Italy. The curing process consists in picking the fruit while still green and allowing it to ripen in cool storage before packing for ship ment. After adopting this practice, the Cali fornia lemon industry grew rapidly; the State now supplies more than half the world's lemons. The lime thrives better than the lemon in hot, humid climates, being more resistant to fungus diseases. Thus in humid, tropi cal countries, the lime, instead of the lemon, is the predominant acid, or ade, fruit. Limes are grown extensively in Mexico and the West Indian islands. Production in the United States is mainly in southern Florida, although some are produced in California. Egypt leads the nations of the world in lime pro duction, both sweet and sour kinds being grown there.