The Amalfi Coast is not only famous for its stunning, mountainous coastline dotted by picturesque towns and terraced gardens. Those lush terraced gardens house another renowned Amalfi Coast attraction – its luscious lemons. So, what’s so special about the lemons in this part of the world?
Protected under EU law
The Amalfi Coast is home to two varieties of lemons which are protected under EU law and carry the IGP (Indicazione Geografica Protetta) status – the Sfusato Costa di Amalfi and Ovale di Sorrento. The Sfusato Costa di Amalfi lemon, also known as the Sfusato Amalfitano derives its name from its tapered shape with the two pointy ends. Sfusato translates to spindle in English. These Amalfi Coast lemons have quite a thick pale yellow rind which is rich in essential oils and terpenes, resulting in an extremely intense aroma. They are much less acidic than other lemons, giving them a deliciously sweet taste. They also contain a higher vitamin C content than most other lemons.
A research study conducted by the Dept. of Chemical and Food Engineering at the University of Salerno found that the peel of the Amalfi Coast lemon has an aromatic potency superior to any other.
The Ovale di Sorrento or Limone di Sorrento is also very aromatic but is brighter in colour, slightly more acidic and juicier.
Both the Amalfi Coast and Sorrento varieties carry the IGP label which translates to PGI – Protected Geographical Indication.
This classification is based on a legal framework provided by the European Union which defines quality criteria for agricultural and food products. The framework establishes a set of rules and regulations which animal breeders, farmers and food producers must abide by, in order to guarantee the quality of the products which they produce.
These regulations are designed to protect both the quality and reputation of regional foods, foster rural and cultural activity and assist producers to obtain a premium price on the basis that their products are authentic.
If you come across some giant-sized, round, bumpy looking lemons these are most likely Citrons (called Cedro in Italian, Cedri plural), not lemons.
A symbol of Amalfi Coast culture & heritage
Many Amalfi Coast families own terraced lemon groves in the mountains which they have tended for several generations. These families either sell the lemons as they are or use the lemons to make various products which are sold throughout the region and across the country.
My husband’s family has looked after their own lemon orchard for many years but, like many other families on the Amalfi Coast, is now struggling to carry on its heritage of lemon cultivation. It is very common now for the children of those living in these coastal towns in Southern Italy to move away to the cities to study and find professional jobs. As the parents and grandparents who still live here age, many of them are no longer able to work the land as they have done for so long.
It really is a tragedy and I hope that somehow in the near future we will find a way to contribute to preserving this precious part of the Amalfi Coast culture and history. It is my wish that my own children will have the chance to learn about the cultivation of lemons and experience this incredible connection that their ancestors have had with the natural environment surrounding them.
Fortunately, the Consorzio di Tutela Limone Costa d’Amalfi IGP (the Consortium responsible for the Protection of the Amalfi Lemon) are working with the local lemon farmers to increase production, prevent the abandonment of the gardens, and strengthen their position in the industry.
The Consortium is constantly working to raise awareness and educate Italians and foreigners about the sfusato lemon and its importance to the Amalfi Coast. They even host a Lemon Tour on which you can visit the very gardens where these lemons are grown in 13 different scenic towns along this beautiful coastline.
Delightful lemon delicacies
Every summer we spend on the Amalfi Coast I indulge in many of the sumptuous delicacies which the locals make using their cherished lemons including sorbetto (sorbet), granita, and the extremely potent and refreshingly bittersweet Limoncello (lemon liqueur).
The last time I visited the town of Amalfi I escaped the scorching heat by treating myself to lemon sorbet, strawberries and lemon granita which we bought at the gelataria in the historical centre.
Lemon sorbet and granita made from Amalfi Coast and Sorrento lemons are out of this world and the best way to survive the heat during the hotter months!
One of my favourite Amalfi Coast desserts is the Delizia al limone – a light and fluffy sponge cake, filled with intensely-flavoured lemon cream and covered with fresh whipped cream. Simply divine!
I will be sharing some fanatastic recipes for limoncello and other lemon delights in coming posts. If you have any favourite Amalfi Coast lemon products you’d like to share or questions about these yellow jewels of the Costiera Amalfitana I would love to hear from you in the comments section!