The Menton lemon

 

The Menton lemon: golden fruit of the sun.

The fact that the Menton lemon is blessed with the ardent attentions of Menton citrus growers is not by happenstance, though the legend might appear “heaven sent”…

The legend of the lemon…

The “eldest elders” of Menton tell us that when Adam and Eve were driven out of Eden, they took a splendid, golden fruit with them: the lemon. They long sought the most enchanting site to plant its seeds and chose Menton, for it reminded them of their paradise lost…

 

The history of Menton is a lemon…

The history of the lemon has been intricately linked to that of Menton since the 15th century, though, at the time, lemon growing was a rather modest family affair. The 16th century was when commerce in Menton lemons became more structured and the trade flourished under the clement skies. Mild weather is very beneficial to the growth of this tree, which is vulnerable to frost and temperature variations.

Bit by bit, the Menton countryside would truly become blanketed with a “lemon tree forest,” a now-distinctive landscape that travelers greatly admired. In 1887, Stephen Liégeard, the man who came up with the name “Riviera,” described Menton as “little valleys that relied on the breeze to intoxicate passers-by with the heady fragrance of lemon trees”! Until the late 19th century, Menton stood proud as the land of golden fruit and the inhabitants became accustomed to living under the reign of Lemon.

 

Making the most of lemons…

In the 19th century, Menton had four distilleries that produced lemon and neroli essential oils and orange blossom floral water needed by the Grasse perfumeries, with one distillery even supplying renowned perfumer Jean-Marie Farina. Beyond being a source of essential oil, lemon marmalades, and table fruit, lemon trees were also used in cabinetmaking, as their hard, beautifully grained wood provided marquetry manufacturers the perfect material for luxury inlaid furnishings.

 

Why is the Menton lemon so good?

As the centuries passed, the citrus limon acclimatized to Menton to become a botanical variety in and of itself. This variety’s fruit, so loved by great chefs and gourmets, has several unique characteristics: a very bright, golden yellow color; a peel rich in essential oil; a thick albedo (the white part of the fruit) that holds a great deal of juice in the pulp; and a fresh, sweet scent.

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