The Ugly Beauty: The Italian Lemon



(photo: Femminello lemons grown in Calabria)

The summer months always call attention to the misunderstood lemon.  Most folks use lemon in the summer months to squeeze on fish, make lemonade, and in their favorite cocktail.  And the Eureka and Lisbon varieties grown in the US (mostly in California and Arizona) are great for the aforementioned tasks.  Prior to the beginning of the 20th century, however, most lemons consumed in America were of the Italian variety and imported from Messina (Sicilia), Siracusa (Sicilia), and Sorrento (Campania).  

Italian lemons, specifically the Femminello (Ovale and Santa Teresa) varieties, are famous for their protruding nipples (sorry for those who are easily offended) and tart, yet very rich, flavor; making them very different from the lemons found in the United States.  The Femminello varieties make up 75 percent of all lemons grown in Italy and they are the type we grow on our small family farm in Italy.  The Femminello lemon is also much larger than the common Eureka and Lisbon varietals.

(photo: Femminello lemons grown in Calabria, along with local eggplant. The contrast of purple and yellow is amazing, in my view)

Italians use lemons for cooking (including with swordfish and anchovies), to produce limoncello,  pastries, cakes, and cookies, gelato, with olive oil as a universal dressing/sauce, and raw served in a salad with red onion, good olive oil, mint, red pepper flakes, and salt.


  1. Joanie Karapetian

    Love your site!

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