The history of Massa Lubrense’s lemon

The lemon of Massa Lubrense: God’s fruit.

In the organized conference on “The Lemon’s festival” of 1974, on August 24, the doctor Domenico Galasso, advisor of the court of the appeal, in introducing his report defined it as miraculous fruit. That is because, thanks to the multiple active substances of which the citrus is composed, a particular element “tickled” his interest: the hesperidin.

Hesperidin presides over the vascular permeability and scales the adrenaline that vitamin C, highly presented in Lemon itself, unleashes.

The hesperidin it is a type of flavonoid, which belongs to the family of Hesperides, also called Rutacae or Citree.

The first name has its roots in Greek mythology.

Hesperides was nymphs, Egle, Aretusa and Espera, Espero’s daughters that were kidnapped in heaven and then has been turned into the most brilliant star, known as Vesper or Veneer. They watched over golden apples, symbols of love and fertility, which Gea had given to Era during her wedding day with Zeus. Accomplices, the three of them, Hercules could grasp the delicious apples to give to Eurystheus, bringing to fulfillment the twelve labors.

Comment upon Greek-Latin authors, we observe that any distinction is made up between cedar (medical citrus) and lemon (citrus Limonium). Theophrastus of Heresus, in 300 a.C., described it with the name “apple tree of Persia” and the same Pliny the Elder has reported that different “citrus” plants were carried in more Italic regions, inside clay pots. The pot cultivation, by the way, allowed a more convenient displacement during the winter months.

In Pompei, in 1951, during the excavations, “the orchard house” was excavated, which walls are entirely painted with fruit trees. Among these, also two lemon plants rich in fruits, that led, in 1952, archaeologist Mauri, to the conclusion that the citrus citrine oval lemon, was already known and acclimatized in Italy from the I century a.C. Similarly, in 1964, in Torre Annunziata, in Oplonti’s Villa, were discovered two clay pots that contained 38 lemon plant seeds.

Casa del Frutteto, Sito archeologico di Pompei

In IV century a.C., according to the testimonies of Salerno medical school, were widespread, for a therapeutic purpose, all the countless oval lemon’s virtues. So it is that in 1200, the prince sent a conspicuous load to one of the Norman bosses in order to help him in freeing the earth from the Saracen’s plague.

Until 1500, lemon use was circumscribed to the medical field.

La presenza dei limoni viene testimoniata nel 1501 nel poema didascalico “De Hortis Hesperidum” di Giovanni Pontano e in “Magiae Naturalis libri IV” scritto da Giambattista Della Porta nel 1589, dove vengono descritte stranezze e virtù di questo “magico” frutto.

At the end of the XVI century, Costanzo Pulcarelli, in the elegy “Ad amicum Massae rusticantem” describes the landscape connotation of Lubrense’s lemons. According to accredited sources, the “Villa Nova” quoted in the poem is the garden that shortly after it would be called “The Jesus”. Indeed, in 1600, the massese Jesuit father Vincenzo Maggio, following authorization of the Company of Jesus’s general, Father Claudio Acquaviva, buys the buildings which already were royal villa and headquarters of the governor and the attached gardens, to allocate them to the foundation of a Jesuit college.

But the Lubrense lemon growing intensifies and develops intensely in the first half of 800’s, as witnessed by Antonio De Angelis in his book “Sorrento citrus forest”, in which it is clear that hundreds of women select, wrap and pack fruits and 61 employees provides to the daily transport of crates containing the famous massese “femminiello”

An entire economy rotates around it. The production chain starts from funds with farmers and farm laborers, to whom really soon are added the manufacturers of “pergola” and “pagliarelle” and count gradually “casciari”, blacksmiths and carpenters creating a craft on the side which, in 1917, support 800 among horses, mules, and donkeys involved in transportation. The growing demand for the product was especially supported by the boats docked in the Naples port. The same navy of the Sorrento peninsula owes the shipbuilding development, especially to the necessity of assuring the citrus transportation towards the Nord-Europe and the Americas.

In the nineteenth century crates of lemons directed to the “New World” headed the quote “God accompany it to the salvation”. The same motto must have inspired the performers of the council revolution n.199 of 26 of June 1974, when the whole civic forum gathered to kick off a demonstration that would give protection and promotion to one of the fruits nowadays characterize our landscape.

Lemon represents and vivifies this territory: its color recalls the shine and the brightness of the sun which kiss this land; its therapeutic skills constitute a viaticum for the body and, before that, for the spirit; its strong and pungent flavor awakens the most dormant senses.

Sour it’s the lemon and Aspropotamus it’s the mermaid’s father’s name. Not by chance the Hesperides, the Pleiades, and the mermaids are related to the point that, in mythology, often they swap roles. The same Hercules, through the twelve labors, a symbolic and initiatory trip which represents the force and the incessant research, following Prometheus, a symbol of human’s creative spark, towards the garden of the Hesperides, laps our sea: the conquest of knowledge has always pushed man on the most mysterious and fascinating routes.

This fruit and this land are intimately connected and whoever crosses it can only enjoy the benefits that it can offer; among all, the lemon and its magic story.