Partner with as God uses us to make a difference for those displaced by Russia's war on Ukraine.
Click to donate today!

Bible Encyclopedias

1911 Encyclopedia Britannica


Additional Links

the fruit of Citrus Limonum, which is regarded by some botanists as a variety of Citrus medica. The wild stock of the lemon tree is said to be a native of the valleys of Kumaon and Sikkim in the North-West provinces of India, ascending to a height of 4000 ft., and occurring under several forms. Sir George Watt (Dictionary of Economic Products of India, ii. 352) regards the wild plants as wild forms of the lime or citron and considers it highly probable that the wild form of the lemon has not yet been discovered.

The lemon seems to have been unknown to the ancient Greeks and Romans, and to have been introduced by the Arabs 1, Flowering shoot; z nat. size.

2, Flower with two petals and two bundles of stamens removed; slightly enlarged.

into Spain between the 12th and 13th centuries. In 1494 the fruit was cultivated in the Azores, and largely shipped to England, but since 1838 the exportation has ceased. As a cultivated plant the lemon is now met with throughout the Mediterranean region, in Spain and Portugal, in California and Florida, and in almost all tropical and subtropical countries. Like the apple and pear, it varies exceedingly under cultivation. Risso and Poiteau enumerate forty-seven varieties of this fruit, although they maintain as distinct the sweet lime, C. Limetta, with eight varieties, and the sweet lemon, C. Lumia, with twelve varieties, which differ only in the fruit possessing an insipid instead of an acid juice.

The lemon is more delicate than the orange, although, according to Humboldt, both require an annual mean temperature of 62° Fahr.

5 'b 4 ' 3 FIG. I. - Lemon - Citrus Limonum. 3, Fruit; z nat. size.

4, Same cut across.

5, Seed; 4 nat. size.

6, Same cut lengthwise.

Unlike the orange, which presents a fine close head of deep green foliage, it forms a straggling bush, or small tree, To to 12 ft. high, with paler, more scattered leaves, and short angular branches with sharp spines in the axils. The flowers, which possess a sweet odour quite distinct from that of the orange, are in part hermaphrodite and in part unisexual, the outside of the corolla having a purplish hue. The fruit, which is usually crowned with a nipple, consists of an outer rind or peel, the surface of which is more or less rough from the convex oil receptacles imbedded in it, and of a white inner rind, which is spongy and nearly tasteless, the whole of the interior of the fruit being filled with soft parenchymatous tissue, divided into about ten to twelve compartments, each generally containing two or three seeds. The white inner rind varies much in thickness in different kinds, but is never so thick as in the citron. As lemons are much more profitable to grow than oranges, on account of their keeping properties, and from their being less liable to injury during voyages, the cultivation of the lemon is preferred in Italy wherever it will succeed. In damp valleys it is liable like the orange (q.v.) to be attacked by a fungus sooty mould, the stem, leaves, and fruit becoming covered with a blackish dust. This is coincident with or subsequent to the attacks of a small oval brown insect, Chermes hesperidum. Trees not properly exposed to sunlight and air suffer most severely from these pests. Syringing with resin-wash or milk of lime when the young insects are hatched, and before they have fixed themselves to the plant, is a preventive. Since 1875 this fungoid disease has made great ravages in Sicily among the lemon and citron trees, especially around Catania and Messina. Heritte attributes the prevalence of the disease to the fact that the growers have induced an unnatural degree of fertility in the trees, permitting them to bear enormous crops year after year. This loss of vitality is in some measure met by grafting healthy scions of the lemon on the bitter orange, but trees so grafted do not bear fruit until they are eight or ten years old.

The lemon tree is exceedingly fruitful, a large one in Spain or Sicily ripening as many as three thousand fruits in favourable seasons. In the south of Europe lemons are collected more or less during every month of the year, but in Sicily the chief harvest takes place from the end of October to the end of December, those gathered during the last two months of the year being considered the best for keeping purposes. The fruit is gathered while still green. After collection the finest specimens are picked out and packed in cases, each containing about four hundred and twenty fruits, and also in boxes, three of which are equal to two cases, each lemon being separately packed in paper. The remainder, consisting of ill-shaped or unsound fruits, are reserved for the manufacture of essential oil and juice. The whole of the sound lemons are usually packed in boxes, but those which are not exported immediately are carefully picked over and the unsound ones removed before shipment. The exportation is continued as required until April and May. The large lemons with a rougher rind, which appear in the London market in July and August, are grown at Sorrento near Naples, and are allowed to remain on the trees until ripe.

Candied lemon peel is usually made in England from a larger variety of the lemon cultivated in Sicily on higher ground than the common kind, from which it is distinguished by its thicker rind and larger size. This kind, known as the Spadaforese lemon, is also allowed to remain on the trees until ripe, and when gathered the fruit is cut in half longitudinally and pickled in brine, before being exported in casks. Before candying the lemons are soaked in fresh water to remove the salt. Citrons are also exported from Sicily in the same way, but these are about six times as expensive as lemons, and a comparatively small quantity is shipped. Besides those exported from Messina and Palermo, lemons are also imported into England to a less extent from the Riviera of Genoa, and from Malaga in Spain, the latter being the most esteemed. Of the numerous varieties the wax lemon, the imperial lemon and the Gaeta lemon are considered to be the best. Lemons are also extensively grown in California and Florida.

Lemons of ordinary size contain about 2 oz. of juice, of specific gravity 1.039-1.046, yielding on an average 32.5 to 42.53 grains of citric acid per oz. The amount of this acid, according to Stoddart, varies in different seasons, decreasing in lemons kept from February to July, at first slowly and afterwards rapidly, until at the end of that period it is all split up into glucose and carbonic acid - the specific gravity of the juice being in February 1.046, in May 1.641 and in July 1.027, while the fruit is hardly altered in appearance. It has been stated that lemons may be kept for some months with scarcely perceptible deterioration by varnishing them with an alcoholic solution of shellac - the coating thus formed being easily removed when the fruit is required for household use by gently kneading it in the hands. Besides citric acid, lemon juice contains 3 to 4% of gum and sugar, albuminoid matters, malic acid and 2.28% of inorganic salts. Cossa has determined that the ash of dried lemon juice contains 54% of potash, besides 15% of phosphoric acid. In the white portion of the peel (in common with other fruits of the genus) a bitter principle called hesperidin has been found. It is very slightly soluble in boiling water, but is soluble in dilute alcohol and in alkaline solutions, which it soon turns of a yellow or reddish colour. It is also darkened by tincture of perchloride of iron. Another substance named lemonin, crystallizing in lustrous plates, was discovered in 1879 by Palerno and Aglialoro in the seeds, in which it is present in very small quantity, 15,000 grains of seed yielding only 80 grains of it. It differs from hesperidin in dissolving in potash without alteration. It melts at 275° F.

The simplest method of preserving lemon juice in small quantities for medicinal or domestic use is to keep it covered with a layer of olive or almond oil in a closed vessel furnished with a glass tap, by which the clear liquid may be drawn off as required. Lemon juice is largely used on shipboard as a preventive of scurvy. By the Merchant Shipping Act 1867 every British ship going to other countries where lemon or lime juice cannot be obtained was required to take sufficient to give 1 oz. to every member of the crew daily. Of this juice it requires about 13,000 lemons to yield 1 pipe (108 gallons). Sicilian j uice in November yields about 9 oz. of crude citric acid per gallon, but only 6 oz. if the fruit is collected in April. The crude juice was formerly exported to England, and was often adulterated with sea-water, but is now almost entirely replaced by lime juice. A concentrated lemon juice for the manufacture of citric acid is prepared in considerable quantities, chiefly at Messina and Palermo, by boiling down the crude juice in copper vessels over an open fire until its specific gravity is about 1.239, seven to ten pipes of raw making only one of concentrated lemon juice. "Lemon juice" for use on shipboard is prepared also from the fruits of limes and Bergamot oranges. It is said to be sometimes adulterated with sulphuric acid on arrival in England.

The lemon used in medicine is described in the British pharmacopoeia as being the fruit of Citrus medica, var. Limonum. The preparations of lemon peel are of small importance. From the fresh peel is obtained the oleum limonis (dose 2-3 minims), which has the characters of its class. It contains a terpene known as citrene or limonene, which also occurs in orange peel: and citral, the aldehyde of geraniol, which is the chief constituent of oil of roses. Of much importance is the succus limonis or lemon juice, 1 oz. of which contains about 40 grains of free citric acid, besides the citrate of potassium (25%) and malic acid, free and combined. Ten per cent. of alcohol must be added to lemon juice if it is to be kept. From it are prepared the syrupus limonis (dose a-2 drachms), which consists of sugar, lemon juice and an alcoholic extract of lemon peel, and also citric acid itself. Lemon juice is practically impure citric acid (q.v.).

Essence or Essential Oil of Lemon

The essential oil contained in the rind of the lemon occurs in commerce as a distinct article. It is manufactured chiefly in Sicily, at Reggio in Calabria, and at Mentone and Nice in France. The small and irregularly shaped fruits are employed while still green, in which state the yield of oil is greater than when they are quite ripe. In Sicily and Calabria the oil is extracted in November and December as follows. A workman cuts three longitudinal slices off each lemon, leaving a three-cornered central core having a small portion of rind at the apex and base. These pieces are then divided transversely and cast on one side, and the strips of peel are thrown in another place. Next day the pieces of peel are deprived of their oil by pressing four or five times successively the outer surface of the peel (zest or flavedo) bent into a convex shape, against a flat sponge held in the palm of the left hand and wrapped round the forefinger. The oil vesicles in the rind, which are ruptured more easily in the fresh fruit than in the state in which lemons are imported, yield up their oil to the sponge, which when saturated is squeezed into an earthen vessel furnished with a spout and capable of holding about three pints. After a time the oil separates from the watery liquid which accompanies it, and is then decanted. By this process four hundred fruits yield 9 to 14 oz. of essence. The prisms of pulp are afterwards expressed to obtain lemon juice, and then distilled to obtain the small quantity of volatile oil they contain. At Mentone and Nice a different process is adopted. The lemons are placed in an ecuelle a piquer, a shallow basin of pewter about 811n. in diameter, having a lip for pouring on one side and a closed tube at the bottom about 5 in. long and 1 in. in diameter. A number of stout brass pins stand up about half an inch from the bottom of the vessel. The workman rubs a lemon over these pins, which rupture the oil vesicles, and the oil collects in the tube, which when it becomes full is emptied into another vessel that it may separate from the aqueous liquid mixed with it. When filtered it is known as Essence de citron au zeste, or, in the English market, as perfumers' essence of lemon, inferior qualities being distinguished as druggists' essence of lemon. An additional product is obtained by immersing the scarified lemons in warm water and separating the oil which floats off. Essence de citron distille'e is obtained by rubbing the surface of fresh lemons (or of those which have been submitted to the action of the ecuelle piquer) on a coarse grater of tinned iron, and distilling the grated peel. The oil so obtained is colourless, and of inferior fragrance, and is sold at a lower price, while that obtained by the cold processes has a yellow colour and powerful odour.

Essence of lemon is chiefly brought from Messina and Palermo packed in copper bottles holding 25 to 50 kilogrammes or more, and sometimes in tinned bottles of smaller size. It is said to be rarely found in a state of purity in commerce, almost all that comes into the market being diluted with the cheaper distilled oil. This fact may be considered as proved by the price at which the essence of lemon is sold in England, this being less than it costs the manufacturer to make it. When long kept the essence deposits a white greasy stearoptene, apparently identical with the bergaptene obtained from the essential oil of the Bergamot orange. The chief constituent of oil of lemon is the terpene, C10His, boiling at 348°8 Fahr., which, like oil of turpentine, readily yields crystals of terpin, C10H1630H2, but differs in yielding the crystalline compound, C10H16-1-2C1, oil of turpentine forming one having the formula C10H10,-HCI. Oil of lemons also contains, according to Tilden, another hydrocarbon, Claim, boiling at 3.20° Fahr., a small amount of cymene, and a compound acetic ether, C 2 H 3 0 C 1 01-I, 7 0. The natural essence of lemon not being wholly soluble in rectified spirit of wine, an essence for culinary purposes is sometimes prepared by digesting 6 oz. of lemon peel in one pint of pure alcohol of 95%, and, when the rind has become brittle, which takes place in about two and a half hours, powdering it and percolating the alcohol through it This article is known as "lemon flavour." The name lemon is also applied to some other fruits. The Java lemon is the fruit of Citrus javanica, the pear lemon of a variety of C. Limetta, and the pearl lemon of C. margarita. The fruit of a passion-flower, Passiflora laurifolia, is sometimes known as the water-lemon, and that of a Berberidaceous plant, Podophyllum peltatum, as the wild lemon. In France and Germany the lemon is known as the citron, and hence much confusion arises concerning the fruits referred to in different works. The essential oil known as oil of cedrat is usually a factitious article instead of being prepared, as its name implies, from the citron (Fr. cedratier). An essential oil is also prepared from C. Lumia, at Squillace in Calabria, and has an odour like that of Bergamot but less powerful.

The sour lime is Citrus acida, generally regarded as a var. (acida) of C. medico. It is a native of India, ascending to about 4000 ft. in the mountains, and occurring as a small, much-branched thorny bush. The small flowers are white or tinged with pink 1, Flowering shoot. 5, Seed cut lengthwise.

2, Fruit. 6, Seed cut transversely.

3, Same cut transversely. 7, Superficial view of portion of 4, Seed. rind showing oil glands.

on the outside; the fruit is small and generally round, with a thin, light green or lemon-yellow bitter rind, and a very sour, somewhat bitter juicy pulp. It is extensively cultivated throughout the West Indies, especially in Dominica, Montserrat and Jamaica, the approximate annual value of the exports from these islands being respectively £45,000, f6000 and £6000. The plants are grown from seed in nurseries and planted out about 200 to the acre. They begin to bear from about the third year, but full crops are not produced until the trees are six or seven years old. The ripe yellow fruit is gathered as it falls. The fruit is bruised by hand in a funnel-shaped vessel known as an ecuelle, with a hollow stem; by rolling the fruit on a number of points on the side of the funnel the oil cells in the rind are broken and the oil collects in the hollow stem - this is the essential oil or essence of limes. The fruits are then taken to the mill, sorted, washed and passed through rollers and exposed to two squeezings. Two-thirds of the juice is expressed by the first squeezing, is strained at once, done up in puncheons and exported as raw juice. The product of the second squeezing, together with the juice extracted by a subsequent squeezing in a press, is strained and evaporated down to make concentrated juice; ten gallons of the raw juice yield one gallon of the concentrated juice. The raw juice is used for preparations of lime juice cordial, the concentrated for manufactures of citric acid.

On some estates citrate of lime is now manufactured in place of concentrated acid. Distilled oil of limes is prepared by distilling the juice, but its value is low in comparison with the expressed oil obtained by hand as described above. Green limes and pickled limes preserved in brine are largely exported to the United States, and more recently green limes have been exported to the United Kingdom. Limalade or preserved limes is an excellent substitute for marmalade. A spineless form of the lime appeared as a sport in Dominica in 1892, and is now grown there and elsewhere on a commercial scale. A form with seedless fruits has also recently been obtained in Dominica and Trinidad independently. The young leaves of the lime are used for perfuming the water in finger-glasses, a few being placed in the water and bruised before use.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.

Bibliography Information
Chisholm, Hugh, General Editor. Entry for 'Lemon'. 1911 Encyclopedia Britanica. 1910.