Lemon & Kalamansi

Lemon is a small, evergreen tree with purplish-white flowers and large, pointed fruits that turn yellow when they ripen. Lemons differ from limes in their purplish flower buds, usually larger fruits with a more pronounced point, relatively thick fruit rind and a somewhat sweeter taste.

Origin & History

Lemon originated in Asia (possibly the Punjab region of Pakistan and India) and is believed to be a hybrid between lime, citron and pomelo. It spread to China and Southeast Asia many centuries ago, and reached Europe, America and Australia only in the Middle Ages.

The lemon (Citrus limon), and other citrus fruits, are native to Southern China and southeast Asian where they have been cultivated for around 4,000 years. Arab traders bought citrus fruits to eastern Africa and the Middle East between AD 100 and 700. Superior varieties from Southeast Asia arrived in Europe with Portuguese traders in the 16th century. By the 1800s citrus fruits were found worldwide. In Europe, the demand for them increased after the 1890s when physicians found that scurry (a disease common among sailors, now known to be caused by vitamin C deficiency), could be prevented by drinking the juice of citrus fruits.

Uses & Properties

Lemons are amongst the most useful and versatile of all fruits. The juice is used as an antioxidant to prevent browning of fresh fruit and vegetables. Lemon is used in salad dressings, vegetables, meat dishes, marinades, sauces, mayonnaise, and especially in fish and other seafood dishes. Lemon juice or slice is essential for various drinks such as cocktails, ice teas and famous lemonade, and also for ice creams and sorbets.

Lemon is an internal cleanser. Practitioners of Ayurveda (an ancient Indian health system) recommend drinking hot water with lemon juice first thing in the morning to aid internal cleansing and to kick-start the digestive system.

Lemons are rich in citric acid and are one of the best sources of vitamin C, an important antioxidant that has been shown to help protect the eyes against cataracts. Studies have also shown that people who regularly include citrus fruits in their diet reduce their risk of stomach cancer by about 60 percent. The fibre in lemons is believed to help bulk up stools, helping to avoid constipation and reducing the risk of colon cancer.

If you suffer from pimples, lemon juice is more effective than an anti-blemish medication. It is a natural astringent, helping to remove bacteria from the infected area, and promote wound healing. Lemon juice applied directly to cold sores can speed the healing process – although it does sting!

Lemon has excellent cleansing and astringent properties – both inside and out. Lemon juice is a natural exfoliant, leaving the skin tingling fresh, it also helps reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

You can also use lemon juice on your nails to remove garlic or onion odours, and to cleanse the nail bed.


Kalamansi belongs to the same group of citrus fruits as lemon. It is believed to be native to China and thought to have been taken in early times to Indonesia and the Philippines. It became one of the most important Citrus juice sources in the Philippine and is widely grown in India and throughout southern Asia and Malaysia.

The fruit is only 2-3 cm in diameter, and is green or green-yellow. Small and round with slightly flattened ends, they can be picked green or ripe but the juice stays sourish.

Kalamansi is usually halved and placed alongside dishes of mixed fried noodles and similar one-dish meals in Malaysia and Singapore, and squeezed over individual servings for a piquant flavour. In the Polynesian islands, the fruit is added to bland fruits such as papayas to make jam. In the Philippines the juice is squeezed from the fruit and used in a cordial concentrate which is diluted to make a refreshing cold drink.


  • Charmaine Yabsley. Naturally Beautiful. London: Duncan Baird Publishers, 2004.
  • Desmond Tate. Tropical Fruit. Singapore: Archipelago Press, 1999.
  • Charmaine Solomon. Encyclopedia of Asian Food. Australia: New Holland Publishers (Australia) Pty Ltd., 1998.
  • Morton, J. 1987. Calamondin. p. 176–178. In: Fruits of warm climates. Julia F. Morton, Miami, FL.
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