This week marks the 70th annual Fete du Citron in Menton, France. The Riviera town used to be the lemon capital of Europe and still throws a giant lemon party every spring.
CURWOOD: Welcome back to Living on Earth. I’m Steve Curwood.
[MUSIC: U2 “Lemon” Zooropa Island records (1993)]
CURWOOD: When life hands you lemons, make lemonade. That could be the motto of Menton, France. This week the city on the French Riviera holds its 70th annual Fete du Citron, or Festival of Lemons. Menton enjoys a subtropical climate, and is lush with gardens. And nothing grows better in Menton than lemons, and theirs are sweeter than most.
Botanists believe that citrus fruits originated in Southeast Asia. By 4000 BC lemons, limes, and oranges were domesticated by the people of the Indus River Valley in what's now called Pakistan. Lemons became common in Southern Europe when Muslim armies and merchants carried them from the Middle East. Demand for citrus exploded in the 1700s when the vitamin C-rich fruits were discovered to cure scurvy. By the 1930s Menton was the leading lemon producer in Europe.
The lemon festival began as a way to celebrate the peak harvest season. Now each year's festival celebrates a literary theme. This year it's Alice in Wonderland. There will be parties and parades, but the main attraction is a sculpture garden. The sculptures depict the creations of Lewis Carroll, and some are robotically animated. And, of course, they're covered with bright yellow lemons and some oranges for good measure. More than 100 tons of fruit are used. And waste not: when the festival is over, they're made into juice and preserves and given to the poor.
And for this week, that's the Living on Earth Almanac.
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