Growing Citrus Fruits
Citrus fruits are among the most cultivated fruit plants in the world, they are large shrubs, more often small trees, of Asian origin, cultivated in Europe for centuries, but for some time now also widespread in America, Australia and South Africa. These plants are part of the Rutaceae family; the most cultivated belong to the genus Citrus, (Orange, Lemon, Mandarin, Grapefruit, Cedar, Mandarancio), other cultivated genera are Fortunella (Kumquat), and Poncirus (trifoliate orange). These plants hybrid naturally, it is therefore very difficult to understand which are the original genera and which hybrids originated over the centuries, in many cases there are conflicting opinions; in cultivation there are also numerous hybrids created by man, such as the Mapo, a cross between the Mandarin and the Grapefruit, small in size, green skin and sweet and bitter pulp; Clementines are instead among the most common hybrids, born from the crossing of Orange with Mandarin.
Many citrus fruits commonly used by us are hybrids of ancient origins, further hybridized over the centuries to obtain juicier or finer-skinned fruits: Lemon, Citrus x limon; Orange, Citrus x Sinensis; Grapefruit, Citrus x paradisi. Mandarin also seems to be a very ancient hybrid, Citrus x nobilis, although some authors consider it a type species, Citrus nobilis.
The original species ascertained are about a dozen, remember the Pummelo, Citrus maxima, a very large citrus, with a slightly acidic flavor, difficult to find on the Italian market; the Cedar, Citrus medica; the Mandarancio, Citrus reticulata; the Poncirus trifoliata.
A bit of history
Citrus fruits are grown in Italy especially in the Sicilian and Calabrian countryside, but also in Liguria (once the Ligurian crops were much more extensive than today, often abandoned to make room for cut flower crops), and in small areas on the lake di Garda (Lemons; the cultivations of Lake Garda have left the lemon trees on the territory: the greenhouses that were once used for this cultivation). It seems that lemon was cultivated in Italy already in Roman times, but not in a widespread way; it was the Portuguese who introduced the cultivation of orange in the Mediterranean in 1500, in fact in many Italian dialects with the term Portogal, or Portugal, Orange is designated. Nowadays these fruits are grown in most of the world countries; in Europe the largest producer is Spain, followed by Italy. These fruits have had great success over time, given the juicy and sweet pulp, and the high content of vitamins and sugars.
They are mainly eaten raw, but also candied, or in jam.
Citrus fruits are then also used by the food industry to prepare juices and drinks; but also by the perfume industry, in herbal medicine and phytotherapy, where the peels and seeds of the fruits are mainly used.