“Do you know the land where the lemon-trees grow,
In darkened leaves the gold-oranges glow,
A soft wind blows from the pure blue sky,
The myrtle stands mute, and the bay tree high?
Do you know it well?
It’s there I’d be gone,
To be there with you, O, my beloved one!”
I know of a German girl who dreamed of the south because of those verses of Goethe, as her father read them to put her to sleep.
“The land where lemons grow” is also the title of a book of Helena Attlee about citrus crops in Italy. It opens up a fascinating historical, cultural and economic perspective of Italy, and once you read it, it becomes an essential travel companion in the citrus producing areas of the country.
The truth is that in the Mediterranean we take the citrus trees (lemons, oranges, mandarins, sour oranges, grapefruits or citruses) for given. The road in front of our door is lined up with sour oranges (that fill the air in spring with their unmistakable scent, covering the most banal everyday); our fields produce different orange and mandarin varieties almost throughout autumn, winter and spring; on Naxos, the island where we spend the summer, two citrus liqueur varieties are produced: one from the leaves, the other from the fruit.
In our garden a lemon tree yields a very pressing crop during winter. It’s a challenge to consume all that fruit, and a pity to waste it. We use the juice to make lemon ice cubes that hold for several months in the freezer and every year we search for something new to make good use of the lemons: last year preserved lemons were en vogue. This year it’s lemon pies. After several trials, we can attest the supremacy of this recipe of Blumenthal. As always, it’s not for the fainthearted, but worth the effort.