Sorrento lemons, Campania’s lemony gold

Sorrento lemons are the symbol of the Campania region and are P.G.I. (Protected Geographical Indication) certified.

Lemons are one of the most iconic symbols of the Campania region and the Amalfi Coast. Sorrento lemons, in particular, are P.G.I. (Protected Geographical Indication) certified. This particular citrus fruit symbolizes a local ecotype of the Citrus Limon species (common lemon), also known as Limone di Massa or “Massese”, or as Ovale di Sorrento.

But what are the characteristics and unique qualities of Sorrento lemons? And what are the beneficial properties of this extraordinary citrus fruit?

Lemons of Sorrento PGI, what are the peculiarities?

Sorrento Lemons are a medium to large oval-shaped citrus fruit. The peel is quite thick and has a citrine yellow hue. The Sorrento lemon’s exterior is one of the peculiarities of this incredible kind of citrus fruit; the peel is in fact rich in essential oils, making it extremely fragrant. The pulp is very juicy, and the juice contains a high level of acidity as well as vitamin C and mineral salts. Sorrento lemons belong to the “femminello” family, i.e. they are particularly fertile lemons, and differ from other citrus varieties of the Amalfi Coast both for their organoleptic properties and above all for the way they are grown.

Sorrento lemons are native to the Sorrento Peninsula, from Vico Equense to Massa Lubrense and the island of Capri and Anacapri. In particular, the Protected Geographical Indication label applies only to Sorrento lemons grown in Massa Lubrense, Meta, Piano di Sorrento, Sant’Agnello, Sorrento and Vico Equense, as well as Capri and Anacapri on the island. This area is characterized by green slopes stretching out to the sea, where reed structures are built, called “paglierelle”, which are supported by wooden poles; in fact, this is the technique used to grow Sorrento Femminello lemons. This process, while protecting the plants from the elements, allows the fruit to slowly ripen as the organoleptic properties improve. This gives the lemons their distinctive GIP quality, whereas lemon groves have become territorial symbols and are known as the “pergolato sorrentino” or arbor.

Sorrento Lemons: historical facts and benefits

Sorrento lemons can be traced back centuries; in fact, their presence in the Sorrento area has been confirmed by historical documents dating back to the 1500s, while their genetic predecessors to the Romans. Numerous paintings and mosaics found during the excavations of Pompeii and Herculaneum testify to the presence of lemons very similar to the present-day “massesi” and “ovali sorrentini”. This implies that Latin ancestors were already using these fragrant and succulent citrus fruit at their own tables. However, the most significant sources regarding the Sorrento lemons date back to the Renaissance even if it was not until the 1600s when it became evident the lemons were cultivated in this particular manner, as demonstrated in the acts of the local Jesuit Fathers.

As for their benefits, one of its peculiarities is that they contain vitamin C. This is essential for the absorption of iron contained in green leafy vegetables and legumes. The peel has considerable amounts of vitamin C as well as being rich in fiber and calcium. The peel also contains limonene, a molecule from which the distinctive citrus fragrance is dependent and which is the principal component in lemon essential oil. The intense yellow color, is linked to the presence of beta-carotene, another beneficial element found in lemons. This is a precursor to vitamin A, which is essential for eyesight and for cell growth and healing processes, as well as having excellent antioxidant qualities.