The lemon of Menton

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The legend was right was right…Have you heard it?

A nice legend tells how the lemon tree first took root in Menton. Expelled from the Garden of Eden along with Adam, Eve took with her a golden fruit. Adam, fearing divine wrath, begged her to throw
the fruit away. She agreed, but on the condition that she leave it in the place of her choosing. They crossed mountains, valleys and plains, but nowhere pleased her. Suddenly, the Bay of Garavan, in Menton, appeared before them. The beauty of the bay, the mild climate and the luxuriant vegetation: everything reminded them of paradise. Eve buried the lemon in the ground, and this is where the town of Menton later sprang up…
The Lemon of Menton differs from its Italian, Spanish and Corsoscan relatives.

A very bright yellow

Several varieties of lemons are grown in the Menton region: Santa Theresa, Villafranca, Eureka… “The shape is more elliptical than round with a bright yellow colour”. “It is also characterized by very fructiferous branches bearing up to fifteen fruits, while there are less than five to a branch on most lemon trees. The research together with the INRA* reveals that the lemon grown in the Menton region is rich in acid and essence, with a high essential oil content in the peel.”

Boosting production

After a period of decline, production in the Menton region is under revival. There are about fifteen professional citrus growers in the townships of Menton, Roquebrune, Sainte-Agnès and Castellar, producing more than 150 metric tons of lemons yearly. The municipality of Menton,and the Chamber of Agriculture bank was promoting the development of production and over 5,000 trees were planted in the 90’.
Young citrus farmers are particularly welcome in the town’s unconstructible areas.The Ville de Menton will provide citrus farmers council land that can be farmed and encourage private landowners to do the same. “This well help us meet the demand from restauranteurs and gourmet markets.”

A label of quality for the Lemon of Menton

Business people and local elected officials are trying to get a quality-label for Menton lemons. An association of citrus fruit professionals and proprietors (APCM), which seeks to promote a higher profile for the Menton lemon, recently submitted a formal dossier to the French authority on place names and quality control (Institut National des Appellations d’Origines et de Qualité) with the aim of being awarded Protected Geographical Indication.
Consulter le site de l’Association pour la Promotion du Citron de Menton

The Palais de Carnolès citrus collection

The town’s Gardens Department also wants to promote local botanical heritage, drawing special attention to the citrus collection at the Palais Carnolès: “It’s very interesting from both a botanical and a protectionist point of view, consisting of over 100 different varieties of fruit (11 different kinds of lemon, 6 of citron, 20 of orange and 8 of lime, as well as manderines, clementines, kumquats, bergamots, Seville oranges, grapefruits, and pomelos) spread out over 340 trees. Such biodiversity has led the Palais Carnolès’ citrus collection to be recongised by the CCVS (Conservatory of Specialized Vegetable Collections — “collection agréée”) and the Ministry of Culture (“Jardin Remarquable”).”
In the course of 2009, the garden maintenance team is going to experiment with a method of associating mycorrhiza with citrus fruit trees, which have been weakened by several years of drought. This natural method, which uses mushrooms, promotes the development of the root system, enabling the tree to better absorb nutrients and water and to resist bacterial and cryptogamic attack.

photographie © Ville de Menton