Italian Lemon Farm Tour + Cooking Class

Last month, my husband and I took a two week trip to Europe to visit London and southern Italy. We had a wonderful vacation full of stunning views, delicious food and fantastic vino. One of the highlights of the trip was the Amalfi Lemon Experience

Amalfi DuomoWe stayed in the beautiful, small town of Positano on the Amalfi Coast. A short cliff-side drive or ferry ride takes you to the slightly larger town of Amalfi. The main piazza (town square) is a quick walk from the port and the star of the town – the duomo (cathedral) that is absolutely breathtaking both inside and out. We sat at the bottom of the church steps as the morning bells rung and waited for our ride up the hill to the lemon farm.

Valley of the Mills Lemon FarmsThe lemon farm is located up through the town into the Valley of the Mills – a valley lined with lemon groves and old paper mills. When arrived at the Aceto family lemon farm, we toured a small museum with the family’s collection of area artifacts. We learned about the history of the main industries of lemon farming and paper milling – lots of hard work.  This lemon farm has been in the family for many, many generations.

Limoncello ProductionNext, we saw the production room where they make small batch limoncello and then got to sample some! Their limoncello is unique, and especially delicious, because it is made with grappa – an alcohol made from grapes – while most is made with grain alcohol. We tasted regular limoncello, creme di limoncello (think a lemon version of Bailey’s) and a dark chocolate sauce infused with limoncello – all amazing!

Amalfi LemonsWe began the steep trek up each level of the lemon farm, walking through the garden terraces. The Acetos are committed to maintaining a sustainable, organic lemon farm when so many have started using pesticides. They believe in producing high quality fruit that is nutritious, delicious and healing. 

We met the 80 year old patriarch who still works daily on the family farm.  He brought down a basket full of lemons picked fresh. Salvatore, his son and our tour guide/host, pushed his thumbs right into a lemon the size of an orange and cut it into slices with a pocket knife. Each of us ate a whole slice (including the rind) and it was delicious.. soft and sweet, just barely sour. The Aceto family eats several lemons each day and he noted that it is the essential oils in the lemon that keep them healthy. They use lemon as a remedy for all ailments and keep their immune systems strong with natural vitamin C. Sal’s personal anecdote was that he went to work off the farm for several years and was always getting sick… as soon as he returned and lemons re-entered his daily diet, he has been healthy.

Lemon PergolasIt was fascinating to learn about the organic gardening process. If a tree catches a disease, they do everything they can naturally to save it because it takes a new tree 25 years to produce the amount of fruit that the mature, old trees produce.  They use other citrus trees to help graft any the new lemon trees. And the trees are planted under hand crafted wooden pergolas that support the branches and the heavy fruit; plus, it allows the top leaves to provide shade to the fruit below.

Lemonade and Lemon CakeAfter our tour of the farm, we joined the family on the outdoor kitchen terrace, overlooking the valley. They served fresh lemonade and lemon pound cake as we enjoyed the view. Then, they brought out the wine and we began our Mediterranean cooking class with Ramona.

First, we prepared Antipasto Parmigiana – a recipe I cannot wait to try out at home. Grilled eggplant slices topped with fresh tomato sauce, smoked mozzarella, grated Parmesan and basil, rolled up, then baked to melt the cheese (if you don’t eat them all before putting in the oven).

Next, we whipped up the dessert – lemon tiramisu… using the local specialty limoncello instead of traditional espresso. Those went in the fridge to chill as we moved on to making the fresh pasta. We kneaded the pasta, rolled it, cut into ravioli pieces and filled with a mixture of fresh cod and potato – unique, but good!

Once the food preparation was complete, we sat down at a long table with the whole family to enjoy our several course lunch:Lemon Tiramisu

  1. Bread with olive oil, garlic and mint
  2. Antipasto Parmigiana (recipe here)
  3. Cod & Potato Ravioli topped with cherry tomato & basil sauce
  4. Fresh tuna steaks with lemon
  5. Lemon tiramisu – pictured (recipe here)
  6. Espresso with lemon peel (delicious! also great for relieving headaches!) and limoncello as a digestif

It was a wonderful meal, made even better with the hospitality of the large Italian family… filled with many laughs, stories and glasses of wine. Thank you, Aceto family, for the perfect day in Amalfi and unforgettable experience!

Lemon Farm

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Heirloom Tomato and Mozzarella Bruschetta

BruschettaAs I’ve been planning our upcoming trip to Italy, I’ve found my cooking quite inspired by the cuisine. Last night, I needed a quick dinner and happened to find fresh baguettes on sale at Whole Foods for just 99¢, so I went with one of my favorite go-to 5 minute recipes: bruschetta!

Ingredients:

  • 1 package organic cherry heirloom tomatoes
  • 1 package organic mozzarella cheese
  • 5-6 basil leaves
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon pink Himalayan salt
  • 1 teaspoon organic olive oil (my favorite brand is Kasandrinos)
  • drizzle of balsamic vinegar

Preparation:

  1. Put tomatoes into food processor and pulse just a couple times until tomatoes are broken up.
  2. Cut mozzarella cheese into small pieces.
  3. Add all ingredients into a bowl and mix together. That was so easy, right?!

4 Easy Serving Options:

Toasted Baguette – the most traditional way to serve… cut a baguette into 1/2 inch thick slices and arrange on a cookie sheet. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle some garlic and ground pepper on top. Put in a 425 degree oven for 3-5 minutes depending on how toasty you like your bread. Top with the bruschetta and serve.

Pasta – prepare your favorite pasta (I recommend Organic Einkorn Grain Spaghetti for a more digestible form of gluten) and toss with olive oil. Instead of a sauce, top with bruschetta for a fresh version perfect for a hot summer day!

Grilled Chicken – for a healthier, gluten-free version with some protein, marinate some chicken with balsamic vinegar for an hour and then grill. Top with the bruschetta mixture and serve.

Salad – another gluten-free option – get your veggies for the day by serving over some mixed greens; plus, you won’t even need to add dressing.

Enjoy!

Lemon Essential Oil

In my last post, I included a reader poll on future blog topics and the majority has spoken….you want to learn more about essential oils.  So, I’ve decided to start a series on oils, focusing on different ones and how I use them.  Today, I’m going to start with one of my favorites – LEMON

Lemon OilLemon essential oil is highly concentrated – cold-pressed from the rind, it takes 75 lemons to make one 15ml bottle. If you have heard about the benefits of drinking lemon water each morning, lemon oil is an easier alternative to stocking up on lemons each week, and the lack of citric acid can be easier on your stomach and teeth. Just a drop of lemon essential oil in a glass of water can have a lot of benefits first thing in the morning:

  • Rehydrates your body after 8 or so hours of no water, reinvigorating your body and brain
  • Helps flush your digestive system & promotes stomach acid production to aid in digestion throughout the day
  • Boosts metabolism
  • Calms the body, reducing stress and helping your adrenals prepare to tackle the day
  • Gets vitamin C into your body first thing, boosting your immune system
  • It’s a powerful antioxidant, which combats free radicals in the body – learn more about that here
  • Suffering from post-nasal drip?  Lemon in hot water with raw honey can soothe a sore throat.
  • Note: I only ingest the Young Living brand of essential oils as not all brands are safe internally

My husband and I love citrus scents, so it’s one of my favorite oils to diffuse and fill our home with a lovely energizing aroma.  It’s a great air freshener to get rid of odors… I have been really thankful for it when we’ve left trash in the house during a weekend away, returning to that awful permeating smell; a few minutes in the diffuser does wonders. On that same note, (although I must be the only one who does this) if you accidentally leave your laundry in the wash for a few minutes too long before moving it to the dryer or the dryer doesn’t fully dry your bulky load of towels, you know that your clothes will smell terribly musty/mildewy.  Instead of rewashing, rub some lemon oil on a dryer sheet and throw it in the dryer to make your laundry fresh and clean again – it’s amazing!

In addition to the two ways above, there are many other ways that you can use lemon oil around the house. I mix my own totally safe & cheap all-purpose cleaner & disinfectant to use all over – the kitchen, bathroom and windows/mirrors (streak-free!).  It’s a simple mixture of one part white vinegar, one part water and 10-20 (depending on your “part” size) drops of lemon oil in a spray bottle.  The lemon helps a lot with the vinegar smell, but if you still can’t stand it, there are plenty of other recipes on Pinterest.  You can also make your own easy furniture polish by replacing the water with olive oil in the mixture above, adjusting ratios as needed depending on your wood varnish and how well it absorbs.  Polish with a microfiber cloth to protect and clean your wood furniture. Depending on how much you want make at a time, you may want to use a glass spray bottle as citrus oils can eat through plastic.  And one last cleaning tip – lemon oil can help remove anything sticky, including gum from hair.

Beyond being a staple in my medicine cabinet & under-the-sink, lemon oil is also a go-to in my cosmetic drawer.  I mix it with coconut oil to use as a face moisturizer each morning; it helps balance my oily skin and helps heal any blemishes.  Lemon oil is known to improve circulation so is great for making cellulite disappear (hello, nearing swimsuit season) and I’ve heard it helps with varicose veins as well.

I literally use lemon oil every day and don’t know what I would do without it.  Interested in giving it a try?  Learn more about purchasing essential oils here.

How do you use lemon oil? I’m always wanting to hear more ways essential oils help people!