Lemons are not one of the more common products popularly associated with Spain. Most people will be more familiar with oranges from Valencia, or strawberries from Huelva (especially around Wimbledon tennis championship time) or tomatoes from Almería…
Lemons are, however, one of Spain’s most successful export products. Spanish-grown lemons represent 60 per cent of European production, and Spain is the world’s number-one seller of fresh lemons, the second-largest producer worldwide (with more than half of them produced in Murcia) and also the second-largest producer of processed lemons.
In general production terms, the Murcia region is the third biggest exporter of fresh fruit and vegetables of Spain’s 17 regions, after Andalucía and Valencia, making it one of the most important “pantries of Europe”.
But back to lemons… A new initiative has just been launched to promote Spain’s lemon production industry, with a travelling exhibition moving around Spain from November, as well as to Berlin and Paris in 2021.
The “Welcome to the Lemon Age” tour – combining art, sports and food – started its journey in Madrid and now moves to Murcia from 1 to 15 December.
The main objective, according to organisers of the campaign (supported by the European Union), is to welcome the “Lemon Age” as much more than just a food choice. “It’s a lifestyle. A fresh, dynamic attitude. A way of approaching and savouring life. It’s about taking good care of yourself and the world around you.”
It is also aimed at showcasing how lemons are produced in Spain under the European Production Model, “adhering to the world’s most exacting standards in terms of food security, traceability, environmental protection and sustainability. And it’s all to guarantee that you only consume healthy, safe food of the highest quality.
“All of this makes European lemons unique in the world because of their origin, freshness, sustainability and quality. You can receive them anywhere in Europe in just 48 hours, straight from the grove, and they’re so fresh!”
Spain is Europe’s top producer of organic lemons and one of the largest in the world, and lemon production overall makes a significant impact in the fight against rural depopulation. In Spain, it is distributed across three different regions: Murcia (55 per cent of production), Valencia (30 per cent) and Andalucía (15 per cent).
As for the health benefits, with lemons being an excellent source of vitamin C, they are believed to contribute to healthy immune and nervous systems, as well as helping to protect cells from oxidative damage, and promoting healthy psychological functions, normal metabolism, and the collagen production needed to strengthen blood vessels, bones, gums, skin and teeth. “And it helps to reduce fatigue… not bad, right?”
Two Main Lemon Varieties Grown in Spain
The Fino is the most common variety, usually grown in meadows. The main flowering period for this lemon tree falls between April and May, and the fruit is harvested between October and May. At the end of summer, the Fino lemon tree has a second flowering period that produces “limones rodrejos” (or late lemons), which are harvested the following summer. This variety is prized for its abundant juice (40 per cent of the fruit’s weight), citric acid and essential oils.
The second most abundant variety in Spain is the Verna, customarily grown on hillsides bordering meadows and on newly-converted land. It can have up to three flowering periods, and in areas with good weather is able to bear fruit all year round.
The first flowering period, producing the “harvest fruit”, is between March and May, with these lemons being picked between February and late July. The second flowering period is between spring and summer, and its fruit is known as the “second” or “sanjuaneros” fruit. Then there is a third flowering period between August and September. This fruit is also called the “limón rodrejo” and it is picked during summer the following year.