Written by Pauline MALLAT.
Passing through the door of the Maison du Citron estate is like changing world, like Alice in Wonderland. Because this experience of the senses is like no other. A small alley lined with pretty potted lemon trees, but with already, the song of the birds and above all, the smell of citrus fruits. Once you reach the end of the path, time is suspended, and the fall begins. A fall... dizzying in beauty. Hundreds, thousands of lemons, oranges, grapefruits and even avocados and a few banana trees stand on the hillside, on this wall by the sea. A kind of Garden of Eden of modern-day Garden of Eden, it is overflowing with intense vegetation and lush "Costa Rican" atmosphere, from which one would not be surprised to see a parrot fly away or a monkey pass by. And yet, it is indeed in the city of Menton that we are, between Nice and San Remo, where the Alps meet the Mediterranean Sea and in the heart of the one called The French Riviera. This is precisely here that Alex Simone has chosen to commit to defend an ancestral know-how and preserve a local resource. By sponsoring 150 new lemon tree plants, the brand is contributing to the crazy project of the man who decided, more than 30 years ago, to revive the famous lemon of Menton. The perfect opportunity to meet "the man who plants lemon trees" and his son whom he likes to present as his first lemon tree. Laurent and Adrien Gannac or the passion for lemons.
La Maison du Citron, 2 970 Route de Super Garavan 06500 Menton
How did this lemon adventure start?Laurent
I had an opportunity to come and work in Menton in 1988. Passionate about this subtropical microclimate and this plant palette that I could use, I jumped at the opportunity to work here as a landscaper. It was then that I discovered the lemon which, despite having disappeared of the plantations, were existing in all gardens of Menton. Everywhere else in France, people plant cherry trees. Here we plant citrus trees! And then people kept telling me, when we were doing landscapes outside of the city and we would arrive with citrus fruits: "Oh lemons trees!! But are they lemons from Menton?". This is when I realized that this lemon was not just a lemon. After some research, I got passionate about its entire history and I understood the enormous potential of this culture. Then I was convinced that it could not stop there and in January 1991, the birth date of my son Adrien, I planted my first lemon tree. A madness because at this period of time, no one believed in it, except a few crazy people like me! When I cleared the first plot and made the stone walls reappear, typical from the terrace cultivation, I truly understood the history of this mythic lemon which is cultivated since the15th century in Menton and how generations of farmers have sculpted our environment. They dug the earth, carve the rock with their hands to plant these lemon trees. I said to myself: Respect.
What's so special about this Lemon of Menton?
This lemon is really particular with its fleshy peel more or less dented, this pulp with a relatively moderate acidity and much sweeter and powerful aromas. And above all, this peel with an incomparable flavor has no bitterness and can also be tasted: you can eat any part of the Lemon of Menton! And when you understand that in this peel you will find the most active ingredients, it makes this lemon a particularly interesting product. Limiting yourself to drink its juice would be like licking the paper and throwing the candy away!Adrien
Thanks to its particularities, the lemon of Menton has been awarded by the European label IGP (Protected Geographical Indication) since 2015. This means that not just any lemon is called "lemon of Menton". It is indeed a very high-quality fruit, untreated and 100% organic, meeting many requirements: variety, traceability, limited geographical area with a maximum altitude and distance from the sea, ... This quality is also the fact of a rustic culture not allowing an intensive mode and offering, in fact, only small quantities. Last year, only 40 tons throughout the territory were certified "lemons of Menton". And it's true that many people feel frustrated at not being able to buy more, we must accept to limit ourselves to what nature offer us. This makes it all the more rare and precious lemon.
A little presentation, in figures, of the « Maison du citron »?Adrien
Today, the Maison du citron has 6 plots allowing the cultivation of 600 trees that produce an average of 15 tonnes of fruit per year. It is a job that requires a lot of patience because you have to wait 3 to 4 years to be able to harvest 5 to 10 kilos per tree on average, and then 4 more years to see your investment pay off. The trees are adults from 12 years old. Our passion drives us to plant more and more and we dream to reach our goal of 1000 trees within 10 years.
Is La Maison du citron also a family affair?
It’s mostly a family affair! It is true I would never have believed Adrien will join me so soon. It was a very good surprise. Because it really gives me the means to express my passion. Adrien frees me from these commercial constraints, allowing me to be even more efficient on my part, the production and the maintenance of the plantation. We complement each other extraordinarily well. We are each other, the best partner in the world.Adrien
As a teenager, I was sure of 2 things - not living in Menton and not working in the lemon business - I finally couldn't resist the call of family passion! I joined my father in December 2015. With my business school degree, the objective was then to develop his know-how and to bring this complementarity of transformation which is often lacking for farmers who do not necessarily have the energy to take care of the marketing. My role is indeed to take over, once the fruit is ripe. Our complementarity thus allows us to be the only agricultural company producing and processing only citrus fruits and mainly lemons of Menton. And it is really exceptional to be able to control all the process, from the production to the finish product, and to know exactly what happens to our fruits.
And the icing on the cake, to be able to choose your partners like… Alex Simone?Adrien
Absolutely ! It is a real luxury to be able to choose who we sell our precious lemons to. And when Alex Simone wanted to invest in 150 lemon tree plants, beyond the financial aspect, it was also and above all a desire to commit to our side in a concrete and long-term way that won us over. This is typically the type of project that puts sparkles in our eyes. Because we would be really happy and proud to be able to contribute to the extraction of a quality essential oil certified "Lemon of Menton", resulting from our plantation and base of a perfume signed Alex Simone. Who knows, in 30 years, maybe I would say to my grandchildren: “In this plantation, there is the Alex Simone touch. And the scent of your mom, it comes from there. From our land. "
A beautiful story to be followed closely and which we will speak to you about again, very soon, you can be sure of it ...
Laurent, Adrien Gannac and Alicia Frackowiak, artistic director of Alex Simone and as a Mentonnaise literally in love with citrus and lemon from Menton.