The Etna lemon is grown in 15 municipalities in the province of Catania. While they wait for a geographical indication label designation, producers are developing new strategies with the help of the regional Department of Agriculture.
During the months in which lemons ripen, between late autumn and the end of winter, and during spring and summer, large green spots with splashes of yellow can be seen on the terracing strips, brightening the territory in the shadow of Mount Etna. We are in Sicily, in the province of Catania which extends to Calatabiano, near the Messina area: over 250 square kilometres at altitudes between sea level and 400 metres. Here is where the Etna Lemon is grown, the production of which extends to 15 municipalities.
Etna Lemons and different uses The Etna lemon has a juice yield greater than 30% and the essential oil content has an excellent aromatic profile. The organoleptic characteristics of the Etna lemon make it an ideal product for essence extraction, as well as for the industry of transformed and derived products such as juice and candied peel. The use varies depending on type, which differs based on size, shape, thickness, colour and rind thickness. The number of seeds is also important, as well as the percentage and composition of the juice and the period of flowering and ripening. The Zagara Bianca variety is destined for fresh use, while the Monachello ones go to the transformation industry. Since lemons are a multiple-flowering species, every ripening period represents a commercial type of fruit. The “winter lemon” comes from the main flowering, the Bianchetto or Maiolino is harvested between March and May. The Verdello lemons produce fruit at the end of August and beginning of September.
A brand and producers’ association Lemon farming is Sicily’s pride and joy: at the beginning of the 1900s, it was one of the most important lemon production areas in the world. This role was, however, compromised both by mal secco, a disease of the plant, and by the fragility of the Sicilian ecosystem. With the arrival of globalisation, this biome realised they were only a minor player on the world map. The prices of Etna lemons have lowered, in the wake of high production costs, conditioned by the hard labour of picking. The Association of Etna Lemon Producers has therefore adopted a collective identifying branding called “Limone dell’Etna”. This allows productive aggregations and it proves that the lemon comes from the stated territory. It also certifies that the lemon is endowed with quality characteristics that are verified and certified by a regulation authority.