There is a huge variety of Italian lemon cultivars: the Femminello comune, some of its clonal selections (Femminello comune apireno, Femminello incappucciato, Femminello siracusano, Femminello a Zagara bianca) and Interdonato (local cultivar).
Femminello comune (or oval Femminello or Ruvittaru’)
That’s the most common in Italy (about the 70%) and the most representative variety of Sicily. The plant has an average vitality and is almost completely thornless. The leaves are called of camellia’ and the fruit, oblong and medium-size, produces an abundant quantity of juice, which is light-coloured and very aromatic. Appropriate for forcing methods, Femminello comune has an average resistance to the Phoma tracheiphila and produces fruit in a continuous and plentiful way. At present it is cultivated above all in Sicily (Catania, Palermo, Siracusa, Messina) and in Calabria (Reggio Calabria). This cultivar, of unknown origin but cultivated in Sicily since ancient times, originated various local cultivars and clonal selections through bud-mutations (Santa Teresa, a zagara bianca, Incappucciato, Sfusato di Favazzina in Calabria, Quattrocchi, Scandurra): all these can tolerate the Phoma tracheiphila and have more or less different morphological and bio-agronomical characteristics.
Femminello comune is a greatly reflowering cultivar with high setting aptitude; it has five annual blossomings to which five different names of fructifications correspond.
The most important blossoming, from a qualitative point of view, is the first, which produces fruit that ripen from October to March. They are the so-called ’winter lemons’, with a more or less rough epicarp, a high sourness and a variable number of pips. The earliest fruit of this first blossoming, which ripen between September and October, are called Primofiore; they are highly valued on the market. Then, there are the so-called ‘maiolini’, ’biancucci’ or ’bianchetti’, which are light yellow, with a slightly rough epicarp, few pips and a lower level of sourness. Very often they bear fruit in bunches; the ripening is between April and May. The famous verdelli’, ripen in the summer of the following year, are rather cheap. The verdelli, that usually grow in bunches, have a smoother epicarp, a low sourness and almost no pips (technically, they say that the pips are aborted). Then, there are the so-called ‘bastards’, which ripen in after more or less a year and have a smooth epicarp and a deep yellow colour. Lastly, we have to remember the ‘marzani’, usually picked together with the winter lemons. They are never numerous, more or less of a round shape, and they have a rough epicarp, a long and flat umbo, a certain number of pips and a high sourness.
Femminello Zagara Bianca (or Fior d’arancio)
Probably deriving from Femminello comune (through vegetative mutation), this fine cultivar, which tolerates well the Phoma tracheiphila, has a continuous blossoming and a high productivity: it can produce on average the 18% of bianchetti, the 36% of verdelli and the 46% of lemons; the last two, with a good commercial quantification.
Femminello siracusano (or Femminello masculuni)
Probably deriving from Femminello comune (through bud-mutation), this type of lemon is a very vigorous plant, with a rapid growth and a fructification ahead of time compared to that of the other Mediterranean lemon trees. It has a certain spontaneous reflorescence and can produce on average the 85% of lemons (because the Primofiore is earlier), the 4% of bianchetti and the 11% of verdelli. This cultivar is of a fine quality, and so it is very appreciated on the market also for its high productivity and for the early growth of the fruit; anyway, it shows some defects: for example, it can’t tolerate well the Phoma tracheiphila.
Femminello apireno Continella
Identified and spread by the farmer Saverio Continella from Acireale, who gave his name to the cultivar, Femminello apireno Continella is not very common. Compared to Femminello comune, it has the virtue of having no pips (apirenìa is the absence of pips in a fruit); on the other hand, its peel is too thick, the plant is thorny and the fruit are small. The production is continuous and the yield of juice and sourness is good.
It was discovered and selected by Saverio Continella. It is appreciated for the rich production of verdelli with only a small quantity of pips and a high yield of juice. Recently introduced (like Femminello Continella), it is generally considered worthy of being cultivated on a large scale (although it is too early to form a judgement).
Femminello Santa Teresa
This variety is appreciated above all for the verdelli. It tolerates the Phoma tracheiphila more than other clonal selections of femminello, but it doesn’t reach the level of the monachello. This cultivar, discovered in Santa Teresa Riva (Messina), wasn’t much spread because of its scarce productivity and for the quality of the fruit, not excellent.
This vegetative mutation, discovered in Aci Reale (Catania), is characterized by constant fructification, an average growth of the fruit, an average commercial ripening in October but, unfortunately, a low productivity.
This cultivar has an almost continuous blossoming all the year round and is not very susceptible to the Phoma tracheiphila, but it has a very limited diffusion because of its scarce productivity and a smaller content of citric acid and essential oils, compared to Femminello comune. However, its cultivation can be interesting where the verdelli can not be obtained with forcing methods. Because of its capacity of producing flowers and fruit all the year round, it can often be found in kitchen gardens and gardens, and it is surely the most common cultivar used to produce ornamental vase plants.
Sfusato amalfitano (or Femminello sfusato)
This is a local cultivar of uncertain origin. Sfusato amalfitano or Femminello sfusato grows in the particular microclimate that characterizes the area between the range of mountains Lattari and the southern slope of the coast of Amalfi. The fruit is practically pipless and of elongated shape. Sensitive to the winds and to the infections of the Phoma tracheiphila, it has a continuous fructification and an average production. Compared to the lemons coming from the other Mediterranean areas, it is bigger, it can be preserved for a longer time, its peel is thicker and rougher. It is from the peel of this type of lemon that, about a century ago, the farmers of the coast of Amalfi produced the first lemon liqueur, Limoncello.
It is probably a hybrid of the citron of unknown origin, spread in the Ionian slope of Messina. It has a good resistance to the Phoma tracheiphila. The plant is not very remontant, not very appropriate for forcing methods and, in general, not very productive. Anyway, its early ripening permits a good production of the Primofiore (September-October), much required on the market. The winter production is scarce. The fruit, oblong and with a conic umbo, is quite big-size, but the juice is not abundant.
It is the Italian cultivar that most tolerates the Phoma tracheiphila, but the plants have a slower fructification and are not very productive. In certain environments it is not very remontant, that is why, to obtain a certain production, it is necessary to use forcing methods. Sometimes it is grafted on the bitter orange, with not very long-lived results. Only the recent clonal selections of Monachello show the notorious defects of this cultivar in a slighter form.
What is a cultivar?
The word cultivar comes from the contraction of the English cultivated variety, an expression coined in the 1952, during the XII International Congress of Horticulture, to identify the taxonomy of the varieties of plants cultivated and distinguish them from the classification of the spontaneous plants cultivated.
Other varieties of citrus lemon cultivated in small quantity mostly by amateurs and collectors
Lemon from Procida
Pear shaped lemon