Californian organic lemon growers seeing strong demand

An organic lemon farm near San Diego, in southern California, is seeing high demand for a specialty lemon variety from Europe. As the name suggests, the Italian Sorrento Lemon is originally from Italy, but Rancho del Sol decided to grow it in southern California due to its particular characteristics which make it ideal in making Limoncello, as well as for restaurants seeking a particular flavor in their lemons. 

"When the family farm started, we had an Italian broker who suggested that we obtain this variety for the US market," said Linda Zaiser, of Rancho del Sol. "We found the trees in Italy and grew them on our farm through grafting. We enjoy a very similar Mediterranean climate here compared to where they are naturally found. Due to our elevation and proximity to the coast, we avoid frosts while also not being exposed to any extreme temperatures. The trees get really tall so we have to trim them from time to time. They also have 2" thorns on the branches, so combined with the fact they are growing on the hillside, it can be tricky to pick during harvest time!"

Foodies seeking out Sorrento
Zaiser said the lemon is appealing for people looking to make Limoncello because of the fruit's characteristics. "The Sorrento has a high oil content and a particularly thick rind which is perfect for making Limoncello," she explained. "Because we are organic and do not use pesticides, this is also good for customers who need to use the rind. We also only use well water on our property, which means there are no chemicals at all in the fruit. Chefs also enjoy using the Sorrento due to a higher acidity level than the Meyer lemon."

Rancho del Sol have been able to extend their program almost year round. They ship them all over the country to customers who are looking for Sorrento lemons. "We have almost continuous production now, with only about a month in the year where the trees do not produce," Zaiser said. "This year has been warmer which has been driving production a bit. But it's also been drier, meaning we have had to use more water in these conditions. We ship them in 10lb and 15lb boxes to customers all over the United States."

Broader organic lemon production higher
On the broader organic lemon market, production has been higher, driven by the warm, sunny conditions in California. "The organic lemons are enjoying the sunny conditions of the last few weeks," said Ricardo Mendoza of Sundance Organics. "We are seeing good production with strong volumes. Interestingly, despite the dry conditions, there are more of the larger sized fruit around this season. Right now the market is quite steady despite the large volumes."

Mendoza noted that demand has been rising for organic lemons, and they too have expanded into year round availability. "Sundance have been growing organic lemons since the company's inception in 1971," he said. "We grow them in San Diego county and into the desert regions which enables a year-round program. We continue to see good growth in the sector and in fact it's a rather hot commodity on the rise."

For more information:
Linda Zaiser
Rancho del Sol
Tel: +1 (619) 647-6429

Ricardo Mendoza
Sundance Organics
Tel: +1 (760) 945-9898

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