Citrus fruits can be traced back to Asia, where they were first cultivated. Oranges and lemons first made their appearance in Medieval Europe, following the arrival of Islam which discovered that it was expedient to grow citrus trees in the Mediterranean. Much later, Europeans discovered citrus' anti-scurvy properties, and so fleets who could afford it issued citrus to their sailors. For this reason, the British — a major maritime power of the Early Modern Era — were sometimes called "Limeys".
The effect of ships healing at sea when supplied with citrus is due to the fact that citrus prevents scurvy, a disease especially common on ships from the 15th to the early 19th century. Moreover, possibly due to the fruit and bark of citrus trees, this rare resource can contribute to the production of food and timber.