the meaning of ‘zagara’ : a book about lemons


I have a thing about Italian words that start with the letter Z. Who knows why, they are just very pleasing. Here are some favourites. Zaino (backpack), zigomo (cheekbone), zenzero (ginger),  zanzara (mosquito , love that word!), zampa (paw, as in animal’s foot – i remember it by thinking as quattro zampe).

Today I found another Z word – zagara (DZA-ga-ra) which means citrus blossom. It is a Sicilian word derived from Arabic which has subsequently been adopted by the whole of Italy, used to name blossoms of lemons and oranges and a variety of other exotic citrus trees.

hubby came back from a visit to the big city and presented me with this book “the land where lemons grow”. I was very excited to receive a present, especially as it was a book, but I was also slow to realise it was not just a book about lemons –  it was a book about Italy!!

I’ve only had chance so far to read a few chapters but as the author sets the scene for how abundant various types of citrus tree are in Italy, it got me to thinking about wild foraging. In the opening chapter she describes her first visit to Italy, arriving by train and seeing lemon trees growing by the side of the station platform and the impression that this made upon her. Imagine lemons growing the same way apple trees do in the UK! Wild foraging is a fun occupation for our family. Last week hubby and older son came back with a bagful of apples from a tree on our local Common ( They had to climb for them, all the ones within easy reach had been picked already). We also make nettle soup in spring, and eat wild garlic leaves in omelettes when they’re in season. summer is foraging time for bilberries, coming home with hands and knees stained purple. So as I read about the lemons I wondered if it is usual in Italy just to forage outside for a lemon when you need one in your cooking? Maybe one day I will be fortunate enough to stay there long enough to find out!!

I’d love to hear what other people forage for. please comment and let me know! Or share your favourite Z words too!

8 thoughts on “the meaning of ‘zagara’ : a book about lemons

  1. Stacy di Anna

    Bonus points for husband! And I love hearing which Italian words are especially pleasing to other language learners. I love “andiamo” and “vogliono”. I love how the -iamo verbs are so sing-songy. From now on, I will think of you every time I encounter a Z word in Italian! PS – I see “All the Light We Cannot See” in your photo. Have you read that one yet? That’s my favorite so far of 2015. Blessings!

  2. jtaylor395 Post author

    Yes those verbs are gorgeous I agree 🙂 Also love saying ‘occhiali da sole’ and ‘spazzolino da denti’ , they just sound so much nicer than the English words.

    1. Stacy di Anna

      Ciao! I came back to this post because I found more z words for you: lo zafferano (saffron), zoppicare (to limp). Likely you know these already: zia/zio (aunt/uncle), lo zucchero (sugar) and la zuppa (soup).

      Did you finish “All the Light..?” If so, what did you think?

      1. jtaylor395 Post author

        Brilliant, I love new Z words! I just worked out that ‘we are limping’ is ‘zoppichiamo’ which is my new favourite word 😀
        “All the light..” – yes I finished it, I absolutely loved it, definitely the best book I read last year. It was a slow-burner for me, It took me a while to get into the story but once I did I couldn’t put it down. It made me cry quite a few times, just such perfect writing. The way he brought Marie laure and Werner together…. I’m excited to see what he will write next !

  3. Un po' di pepe

    I have a fascination with the letter z too-even a half written post about it laying around somewhere! I love zampognaro and zoppicare and zuccone. Have you heard of ‘La Baia delle Zagare’? it’s an incredibly stunning area of the Gargano in Puglia, between Mattinata and Pugnochiuso, with a resort of the same name. Lots of lemon trees in the area. Buon Anno, Cristina

  4. jtaylor395 Post author

    Ooh I love those new Z words thankyou- I knew zoppicare but not the other two 🙂 I’d never heard of the Baia delle zagare but it sounds gorgeous, there is so much of Italy to explore!


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