Citrus × limon (L.) Burm.f.

Lemon is one of the most widely known types of citrus. It is an evergreen tree with a height that normally does not exceed five metres. It is thorny and forms alternate red leaves that turn green in later stages. It has white or violet aromatic flowers that develop in the leaf axils and form either singly or in clusters of two or more. The fruit is oval and usually yellow. Some types are variegated with yellow or green. The fruit is aromatic and has liths (segments) containing oil glands. Certain varieties bear seedless fruit.

The original home of the lemon is unknown, though it is believed to be India or China. In Palestine, lemon trees are incapable of withstanding drought and thus need watering. It is widely cultivated in domestic gardens. To ensure a regular fruit crop, it is preferable to plant lemon trees in sunny, well-ventilated areas, and to nourish trees regularly with organic and chemical fertilizers. Further, to maintain steady flowering, it is recommended not to over-water the lemon tree during the flowering season, and preferably, to refrain completely from watering during blossoming if the soil is damp from rain.

From a nutritional and medical standpoint, lemon is rich in numerous healthy natural substances. Vitamin C is not the most important among these, as is generally believed; rather, it is a group of flavonoids that retard or prevent the growth of cancer cells and have an inhibitory effect on the growth of many germs. Lemon has also been used historically to combat scurvy. Further, a number of studies demonstrate the positive effect of lemons in reducing rheumatoid arthritis and Parkinson’s disease (the most effective substances are found in the rind). Lemon is a stimulant for liver function and peristalsis, and is also a source of riboflavin, which greatly limits neonatal jaundice.

The first known appearance of lemon in Arab heritage occurred in the tenth century CE. Since then, it has been widely used as both a profitable and ornamental garden plant. Palestinian folklore is rich in songs about the lemon, including one about a lemon vendor:

Even had you gold enough to fill your shop
You’d always be the same lemon-seller
Under that fancy turban your hair is all grey
So don’t get too excited, I’m not coming to play
Don’t bother with trays full of gold at my doorway
Go back to what you really are – a lemon-seller

Lemon also features in sayings, such as:
I’ll make the waters part to sleep in his arms
And suck on his cheeks like lemons

And in wedding songs:

What’s wrong, why’s the groom’s mum upset?
In your prime you were fine like a sweet sprig of basil
What’s wrong, why’s the groom’s mum hurt?
In your prime you were like a lemon bough fine

The bride’s dad is cool like a glass of lemonade
The bride’s dad is cool like a glass of lemonade


Source: A Garden Among the Hills: The Floral Heritage of Palestine. © The Palestinian Museum 2019