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8/17/2012
A Lemon Story
A Lemon Story

Sicily, the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, is known for its fine wines, fresh seafood and splendid natural beauty. But did you know it’s also famous for its lemons? In fact, there’s a saying in Sicily that lemons are not real lemons unless they’re Sicilian.

Popular in worldwide cuisine, homeopathic remedies and beauty products, the Sicilian lemon is thought to be native to Central Asia, possibly northern India and Iran. Since the Middle Ages, the lemon has spread from China in the east to Florida in the west and has been an important plant for centuries. A member of the Rutaceae family, which includes citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruits, its name comes from the Arabic “limun” or “limu.”

Weleda’s Sun-Kissed Citrus

It’s here in Sicily, under the warm Mediterranean sun, where Weleda ethically sources Biodynamic® lemons for use in its plant-based remedies and also in some skin- and body-care products. Weleda purchases lemons from a family-run cooperative, which was started 40 years ago by four Salamita brothers. They formed the cooperative with only a handful of farms, five acres and a passion for the environment. They believed that sustainable agriculture could help prevent environmental degradation, and so they decided to utilize Biodynamic® farming methods from the very beginning.

In 1976 — just two years after they started the cooperative — their farms were certified Biodynamic® by Demeter, a non-profit that sets the standard farms must meet in order to legally claim they are Biodynamic®. The Salamita family made it their mission to convince other local farmers to join their cooperative and convert their fields to Biodynamic®. Like organic farming, Biodynamic® agriculture avoids pesticides and synthetic fertilizers, but it goes beyond organic to treat the farm as one ecosystem, where all parts contribute to the whole. Thanks to rich compost, biodiversity and time-tested farming methods like crop rotation, the co-op’s sunny citrus groves are strong and healthy. Today, long hours of sunshine, fertile volcanic soils and diligent care combine to produce the very best quality lemon juice and essential oil for use in Weleda products. In fact, the sugar content, quality of nutrients and acidity level of Salamita lemons are known to be higher than those of conventionally grown citrus fruits.

Handpicked and Fresh-Pressed

The Salamita headquarters are located in Barcellona, a small town along the northern coast of Sicily. It’s where all of the handpicked lemons from each of the individual farms come together to be sorted and cleaned in spring water before being sent all over the world. The lemons for Weleda undergo further processing in Sicily by the family business LLi Branca SPA. They pick the highest-quality lemons for Weleda and wash them, brush them and load them onto conveyor belts for further processing. During the peak harvest season from November to May, LLi Branca extracts essential oil, juice and flesh from 75,000 tons of citrus fruit. To obtain the essential oil, pressure is applied to the fruit from above, suction is applied from below and incisions are made on the outside using fine blades. This allows the juice and essential oils to run out of the lemon, and then they are separated in a centrifuge. It takes more than 200 pounds of lemons to make just 10 ounces of lemon essential oil. Because Weleda’s need for lemon essential oil is so great, the company also sources lemons from Argentina to help meet the demand.

Today the Salamita cooperative, managed by Francesco and Concetta Salamita, has more than 65 Biodynamic® farms across almost 5,000 acres of land. In addition to lemons, they grow valued Sicilian commodities like oranges, vegetables, durum wheat, hazelnuts and grapes. The Salamitas invest their profits back into the cooperative and into the community; they buy new machines and transport vehicles, construct school rooms and offer Biodynamic® instruction for co-op members. As firm believers in the importance of sustainable farming methods, the Salamita family strives to share the benefits of Biodynamics® with local farmers and Sicilians, all in the name of flourishing fruits, a healthy planet and happy workers. —Carrie Ruehlman

SIDE BAR: Lemon Aid for Health & Beauty

Loaded with antioxidant vitamin C and rich in citric acid, lemon juice is an excellent astringent and toner. It’s useful for oily and acne-prone skin. Components of lemon essential oil act as a natural preservative in Weleda’s Citrus Body Care and are also used to fragrance the products. Citrus aromas are proven to boost your spirit, so start your day with one of these Weleda’s Citrus Body Care products and add a little sunshine to your shower.

To learn more about Weleda’s ingredients, visit usa.weleda.com/ingredients.