Sandy’s Garden ... the answer’s a lemon

Sandy Simpson
Sandy Simpson

I found one of these A5-sized, all-colour, home-shopping booklets lying on the table in the utility room.

I don’t know where it came from – with the mail perhaps, or maybe folded inside the daily newspaper, or possibly popped through the letterbox by a messenger. I think most homes receive them and I suspect that few people actually know how they get into one’s home. And I thumbed through it, wondering who on earth would buy THAT and, on the very next page, spotting something that might just come in useful though, in my experience, such items never seem to be quite as attractive as they look in the photograph and never quite live up to the promises made in the descriptive text. Be that as it may, this text caught my eye.

“170 Lemon Super-Health recipes have been gathered here by noted health author Amélie Laigneau in her exclusive publication, “The Lemon Remedy Book.” You’ll discover how to make a lemon tonic for your digestive system, immune system and skin … a simple, made-in-a-moment tonic you can do right there in your own kitchen. And you’ll find trusted, natural ways to beat colds and flu, ease sore and aching joints and a whole lot more. Imagine! Just ONE tablespoon of lemon juice is packed with all important vitamins, minerals, enzymes, essential nutrients and flavonoids to keep you looking young and fight the ageing process.”

Wow! And the health recommendations of Madame (Mademoiselle?) Laigneau extend beyond the powers of the lemon, for the internet reveals that she is also the author of “Les Miracles du Bicarbonate de Soude” (“The Wonders of Baking Soda”) and “Les Meilleurs Remèdes Populaires Pratiques du Monde Entier - 969 Remèdes de Grandmère” (“969 of Grandma’s Favourite Remedies from all over the World”). And, while I don’t know about the claims made in the other titles, she’s on the right track with lemons, which were introduced to Europe by Arab traders … who sourced them in India …in the tenth century, although it was not until the fifteenth century that lemons are recorded in Italy where, of course, the climate permits their cultivation. I find this quite surprising, given that the lemons we find in our shops today are usually imported from either Mediterranean countries Italy ... or from countries with a similar climate.

Lemons contain many substances, including … in alphabetical order … bioflavonoids (super-antioxidants), calcium, citric acid, limonene (a major constituent in several citrus oils), magnesium, pectin, and vitamin C, which help promote immunity to infection. From their introduction, lemons have been used as diuretics, to reduce inflammation and to treat colds and sore throats. A glance along the shelves of the pharmaceutical products in your local chemist’s will reveal the extent to which the contemporary non-prescriptive drugs industry still uses lemons, although it is worth noting that such products are usually not recommended for patients who have serious illnesses; it is not necessarily a good idea to have recourse to lemon-based remedies … whether bought or home-produced … if one is really ill; best seek appropriate professional advice. And a further word of warning; artificial lemon juice … a mixture of water, tartaric acid, sulphuric acid and oil of lemon … has no health benefits.

In former times, the Royal Navy was required by law to ensure that every ship which was to be at sea for longer than ten days carried sufficient lemons to give each crew member one ounce of lemon juice daily to prevent scurvy, a disease caused by a shortage of vitamin C. And I still enjoy a cool gin and tonic most evenings, with ice and lemon, of course!

Sandy Simpson, Polmont Horticultural Society