“Lemons are not Real Lemons unless they are Sicilian” an old Sicilian saying
Spring is in the air and it is that time of year again when lemon trees bloom and the Sicilian air is fragrant with Fiori di Limone which then turn into big juicy lemons.
The Sicilian climate and fertile volcanic earth creates a long growing season and the gathering of lemons takes place over three periods. First is the Autumn harvest Primo Fiore following the cultivation of the Bianchetti in Spring and the Verdelli between June and July.
I can remember once driving down a country lane behind an opened back truck full of lemon peel and the aroma was overwhelming, a traffic jam Sicilian style.
At this time of year everyone visiting our Sicilian home will bring us bags full of lemons from their gardens or land. But what do we do with all those lemons?
Here are 14 ways I use our Sicilian Lemons:
With Water in the Morning … best drunk on an empty stomach, a squeezed lemon in water is beneficial to your body. Lemons are packed with vitamin C which plays an important role in boosting your immunity. Lemon water can help shield your body from many immune system deficiencies, making sure your body stays healthy and fit. A glass of lemon water a day can really keep the doctor away.
Cold and Sore Throat Remedy … mixing honey and lemon with hot water for a sore throat is a time tested remedy. Honey can help coat the throat and lemon can help reduce mucus. For best results boil the water first then add the honey and lemon to dissolve. Make sure you use honey made by the Nero D’Ape (Sicilian black bee) who have the freedom to feed on the flowers of Mount Etna to make the best honey ever.
Cleaning the House … From cleaning microwaves and cutting boards, removing rust spots on knives and deodorizing fridges, lemons are a natural mild disinfectant that fits in the palm of your hand.
Home Fragrance … One of the best ways to kick a funky smell out of your home is to put lemon wedges into a saucepan of water with sprigs of rosemary and a teaspoon of vanilla essence, bring the water to the boil and the aroma will fill your home. The mixture can be kept in a jar in the fridge and used again.
Home Décor … If interior design and flower arranging are your thing slice some Sicilian lemons, pop them in a vase of water and add your favourite yellow flowers.
Beauty … We love the taste of lemons but our skin and hair love them too as they have a range of amazing beauty benefits. Make a mixture of Sicilian olive oil with lemon juice and soak your nails if they are dry and brittle or yellowed from nail varnish or alternatively for DIY highlights apply lemon juice to your hair before you sit in the Sicilian sun for a natural sun kissed colour.
Cooking … Lemons are indispensable to everyday cooking, from lemon chicken to creamy lemon pasta, salad dressings to wedges to squeeze on your Sicilian seafood salad, they are the perfect ingredient to add a bit of zingy taste to your food.
Freeze them … In the hot Sicilian summers I slice my lemons and put them in the freezer to add to water and drinks. Also you can freeze the juice into ice cube trays to use later for cooking.
Salmoriglio Sauce … The most famous of Sicilian sauces you will find this served with grilled sword fish, but I love it so much I would eat it with anything grilled or on salad. Simply add 6 tbsp olive oil, 3 tbsp water, 1 1/2 tbsp lemon juice, a pinch of salt, 1 garlic clove and 1 tbsp of oregano, put into a sealed beaker or flask and shake it up, recipe from my ‘adopted’ Sicilian nonna (grandmother).
Baking … I love baking and lemons are the perfect delicious things to bake with, I personally love lemon drizzle cake and lemon poppy seed cake, another yummy recipe is lemon ricotta cheesecake made with fresh ricotta delivered straight from our local farm.
Make Lemonade … few can resist the innocent charms of a chilled jug of homemade lemonade tinkling with ice cubes on a hot Sicilian summers day, maybe add a splash of gin for a grown up drink.
Limoncello … I guess this is where the lemon peel was heading for when we were stuck in that traffic jam. Limoncello is a liqueur made from the zest of lemons. When it is homemade beware, at my ‘adopted’ Sicilian big brothers house we were once served his father in laws homemade liqueur with 100% alcohol content. Eeeeeeek.
Lemon Granita … Part of the great Sicilian breakfast, lemon granita is a Sicilian signature food and best enjoyed at a bar with a warm brioche but it can still be fun to make at home.
Wedding Inspiration … Getting married in Sicily? Then why not use the lemon as an inspirational theme. From bouquets to table centre pieces Lemons will add a Sicilian twist to your big day and why not use a lemon as a place setting with a lemon leaf shaped place card pinned in, which will release a gorgeous fragrance all round.