The origin of lemons is still a great mystery. Lemons are actually natural hybrids between bitter oranges and citron. Some studies revealed that they came from India or China. In Europe, lemons were first cultivated by Romans and then distributed and cultivated throughout the Mediterranean Region. In the rest of Europe, like the UK, lemons existed only in indoor gardens (orangeries) mainly as ornamentals, due to their sensitivity in cold. Later, Columbus brought lemon seeds to the Americas and now Florida and California are among the top producers thanks to the ideal weather conditions.
Many scientific studies revealed the flavonoids in flesh lemons, juice, and flowers which protects blood vessels. In lemon juice citric acid (vitamin C) is what made lemons so famous. Scurvy, a condition due to malnutrition from vitamin C was a common disease of sailors. This is why British and other ships were required by law to carry large quantities of lemons. Vitamin C is a very sensitive vitamin and fresh lemons maintain it with proper storage.
Lemons are rich in nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, and carbohydrates but also essential oils and flavonoids. These make it a powerful antibacterial and antiseptic fruit. It is true that many DIY environment-friendly cleansers that include lemon juice, can be really effective in places like the kitchen. Also, lemon juice is a very effective treatment for indigestion. Soda water with lemon juice can bring relief after a big meal. Also, the juice can reduce one’s diabetes index.
Lemon juice also helps conditions like the common cold, coughs, or sore throats. A lukewarm herbal tea like linden or Greek mountain tea with half a cup of lemon juice and a teaspoon of good honey is ideal for this. But always remember that if you use a citrus juice (i.e. orange, lemon, mandarin), it must be freshly squeezed (use it no more than 10 minutes later) and do not heat or chill it too much. Temperature change and the passage of time destroy vitamin C. You may take the rest of the valuable ingredients, but why not exploit all the power of lemons! In Greece almost all Greek salads are served with a slice of lemon. And meat is also accompanied with some lemon, specifically barbecue, because of its antioxidant activity. Avgolemono is a delicious sauce made from egg and lemon juice in many casseroles like stuffed zucchini or frikase. It is truly magnificent how a native plant from other countries got into our cooking tradition and became the King of Vitamin C!
* The above is not medical advice but mere suggestions for improving your diet. Before reach herbal use you should consult your doctor, especially those who have health issues, are pregnant or are under the age of 6.
Evropi-Sofia Dalampira is an Agriculturist-MSc in Botany-Biology, PhD in Agricultural Economics, Agricultural-Environmental Education and Science Communication.