Known all over the world, the Interdonato lemon is characterized by its medium to large size, its typical elliptical shape, its thin epicarp (with a very fine-grained and slightly wrinkled rind, rich in essential oils), its color (which is dull green at the beginning of ripening and then tends to turn yellow), its yellow pulp, almost no seeds, and above all, its low acidity.
When people talk about the lemon of the Interdonato, they tend to make a connection with the lemon of Turkey. However, not everyone knows that this citrus fruit is not of Turkish origin, but of Sicilian origin. In fact, it owes its name to Garibaldi's Colonel Giovanni Interdonato, and was obtained in the second half of the 1800s by grafting a lemon to an indigenous 'ariddaru' lemon from the Messina area. It's got a Sicilian surname!"
With the aim of recovering an ancient variety of lemon native to its territory, the Villari Group has formed a partnership with a local cooperative of producers. This is how the ‘Ducifinu’ brand was born, which in the Sicilian dialect refers to an Interdonato lemon that is sweet (duci) because of the organoleptic characteristics of its juice and elegant (finu) thanks to its elliptical shape and particularly fine peel.
"The cultivation of the Interdonato lemon can be understood as a heroic act in agriculture", says Attilio Villari, commercial director of the Villari Group. "it is in fact carried out on terraces along the steep hills of the Ionian coast of Messina, up to an altitude of 600-700 meters above sea level, in the Mount Scuderi Natural Reserve. This is the reason why it is also known as the citron of the mountains, which is brought down to the valley by funicular railway.”
"We've developed projects with a local cooperative to improve local water resources by recovering natural springs at ancient aquifers and combining them with modern irrigation techniques to avoid wasting the planet's most important resource," adds Villari. "Returning to these slopes also helps prevent summer fires and possible hydrogeological disturbances, but above all it has revived a thriving local micro economy.
Ducifinu's Interdonato lemon campaign is rather short, running from the end of September to the end of December. "It's a limited edition. It's also a rather early variety of lemon, which allows us to be on the market sooner than others, earning it the special designation."
"Due to the different elevations, terraces and exposure of the production zones, we will begin the harvest on Monday, 25 September, which will be conducted gradually, from the bottom to the top. It is done exclusively by hand, using scissors to avoid the separation of the calyx. The lemon is then gently placed in the basket, and the process in the warehouse is also carried out with great care," explains Villari.
"We are almost within the norm in terms of both quantity and quality. This has been difficult to achieve since we are coming out of a hot summer with abnormal temperatures. It has been complicated to organize production and maintain production and quality standards. We're looking forward to some rain; it wouldn't hurt.
"Our Ducifinu-branded Interdonato lemon is going to be commercialized in the Italian wholesale and retail markets. We will also focus on France, where this variety has been very popular in recent years. We will also try to re-enter the English market, as the history of Interdonato documents that it is the favorite lemon of the British royal family, and Queen Elizabeth used it for her 5pm tea." However, Brexit is around the corner.
The Interdonato lemon, under the Ducifinu brand, will be available in the classic double-layer tray or single-layer alveolus packaging, with or without leaf. This also includes Girsac packaging.
"Expectations for the campaign are very high because the product has great potential. The goal is to distribute it as widely as possible," concludes Attilio Villari.
Photos provided by Villari Group