The name "Limone dell'Etna" indicates lemons cultivated for more than 200 years along the Ionian-Etnea coastal strip of eastern Sicily which includes the territories of the municipalities of: Aci Bonaccorsi, Aci Castello, Aci Catena, Aci Sant'Antonio , Acireale, Calatabiano, Castiglione di Sicilia, Fiumefreddo di Sicilia, Giarre, Mascali, Piedimonte Etneo, Riposto, Santa Venerina, San Gregorio di Catania, Valverde, Zafferana Etnea.
In June 2014 some lemon growers, whose companies operate in this area, gathered in an association in order to promote and protect their products.
For this purpose, in addition to registering the “Limone dell'Etna” Collective Geographical Mark, in November 2015, the practice for the registration of the Protected Geographical Indication IGP Limone dell'Etna was started, as per the statute.
This denomination is attributed to lemons grown on the slopes of Etna for the uniqueness of their organoleptic qualities closely linked to the particularity of the territory in which they grow, as demonstrated by various studies carried out both by various University Institutes and by the former Experimental Institute for Citrus Culture today Council for Agricultural Research and Agricultural Economy Analysis, Research Center for Olive Growing, Fruit Growing and Citrus Growing (CREA-OFA of Acireale).
The high quality of the fruits of 'Limone dell'Etna', in fact, can be attributed to the development and maturation in a very specific soil and climate with soils of volcanic matrix, typical of the areas close to the Etna volcano, and climate mitigated by the sea.
The characteristics of the juice of the "Etna Lemon" are typical, showing a content of total soluble solids and higher acidity than lemon fruits grown in other Sicilian areas. The lemon juice of Etna is appreciated for its characteristic aroma. Sugars and organic acids, in particular, citric acid, are the components that most influence the sensory properties of lemon juices.
The Research Center for Olive Growing, Fructiculture and Citrus Growing in Acireale (CREA-OFA-ACI) shows that the "Etna Lemon" shows a total soluble solids content and higher acidity than lemon fruits grown in other Sicilian areas ( Acta Italus Hortus, 9, 61-65, 2013, Food Chemistry, 211, 734-740, 2016).
In fact, these fruits have a total soluble solids content of more than 7%, an acidity greater than 5% and a juice yield greater than 25-30%, up to 34% in the lemon "Primofiore" and "Bianchetto" of the variety "Femminello".
Furthermore, the epicarp is very rich in oil glands with content in high quality essential oils under the aromatic profile.
The high content of the chemical-physical parameters of the juice such as juice yield, total acidity, soluble solids, high concentrations of manganese and strontium etc., is due to the peculiar pedological characteristics of the cultivation environment, mainly volcanic with fertile soils, Subacid pH, poor in limestone, more or less deep and endowed with nutrients and organic matter.
The specificity of the 'Limone dell'Etna' is mainly based on the high quality of the essential oils of the peel and on the precious chemical-physical characteristics of the juice (high juice yield, high level of acidity and soluble solids) found both in the "Femminello" cultivars than in the "Monachello" cultivar.
These distinctive quality elements, rarely present in other limonicole areas, are to be attributed to the peculiar climatic and pedological characteristics of the production area, the latter linked to the geological, petrological and hydrogeological characteristics of the territory strongly influenced by the presence of the Etna volcano.
So to influence the quality of the 'Limone dell'Etna' fruits are the soil characteristics of the cultivation environment, with very fertile volcanic soils, subacid pH, poor of limestone, more or less deep and rich in nutrients and of organic substance, the temperatures strongly influenced by the proximity of the Ionian Sea and the presence of the volcanic complex of Etna, the availability of excellent quality water, the high sunshine and the predominance of winds from the Levant, Scirocco and Grecale.
Furthermore, a specificity present only in the "Limone dell'Etna" territory is the particular cultivation technique, called "forcing" or "dry" adopted by local producers which allows a summer production, typical of the "Limone dell'Etna" cultivation area.
This technique that allows you to force the plant to bloom in summer and bear fruit in the period from May to September of the following year, was developed three centuries ago in the Ionian-Etna area and has been handed down from generation to generation for over two centuries and still today it is typical of the coastal area of Acese.
By not watering during the month of June - July, water stress is induced in the plant; after this period, through growing irrigations and exciting nitrogen-based fertilizations, the plant wakes up from forced lethargy and causes a second flowering that will bear fruit the following year. The fruits obtained with this technique are called 'verdelli'.
From studies conducted at the CREA-OFA of Acireale (Food Research International, 74, 250–259, 2015), it is clear that the Verdello juice of the 'Etna Lemon' shows higher concentrations of Vitamin C, total flavonoids, acids hydroxycinnamic and phenolic compounds, functional components with high antioxidant activity, compared to the fruits obtained from the other blooms.
The denomination 'Limone dell'Etna' is attributed only to lemons cultivated according to the dictates of the “Production Regulations” , and which have the characteristics indicated in it.