General info about Fruit
The Citron (Citrus medica) is a species of citrus fruit. It is characterized by its thick rind and small sections. Generally, it is eaten preserved or in bakery goods, such as fruitcakes. (The candied peel rather than the fruit is often used in cooking.) The citron is mostly grown near the Mediterranean, parts of India, and in Central and South America. Pliny the Elder states that in his time, despite attempts to transport it into the Roman Empire in tightly-packed pots, the citron could only be grown in Media and Persia (HN xii.7), although there is evidence pointing to its cultivation in the Mediterranean during his lifetime. Zohary and Hopf believe this tree was first domesticated in India, and speculate that its wild forms, along with those of the mandarin and pomelo, were the original citrus species.
The citron goes by many names in different countries; one popular reference is cedrat, which is the french name for the fruit. Theophrastus referred to the citron as the Persian or Median Apple, and the fruit later came to be known as the Citrus Apple. Pliny calls the tree the Assyrian, or the Median, “apple” (the generic Greco-Roman name for globose fruits). Other citrus crops were not introduced to the Mediterranean basin until Islamic times.
In many languages other than English, a normal lemon is called a “citron” and a lime is called a “limon”. Although the East Asian citrus fruit yuzu (also called yuja) is sometimes called a citron, it is actually a separate species, Citrus junos.
How to choose a ripe and fresh Fruit
The citron tree blooms nearly all year, but mostly in spring and the spring blooms produce the major part of the crop. The fruit is dark-green when young, takes 3 months to turn yellow. To retain the green color, firmness and uniformity desired by the dealers in candied citron, the fruit must be picked when only 5 to 6 in (12.5-15 cm) long and 3 to 4 in (7.5-10 cm) wide. Mature trees yield an average of 66 lbs (30 kg) per year but exceptional trees have borne as much as 150 to 220 lbs (68-100 kg). ‘Etrog’ fruits are wrapped in hemp fiber immediately after picking. Those for local use are inspected by rabbis, and those for export by agents of the Ministry of Agriculture
Ways to prepare and serve the Fruit
Fruit: Chinese and Japanese people prize the citron for its fragrance and it is a common practice in central and northern China to carry a ripe fruit in the hand or place the fruit in a dish on a table to perfume the air of a room. The dried fruits are put with stored clothing to repel moths. In southern China, the juice is used to wash fine linen. Formerly, the essential oil was distilled from the peel for use in perfumery.
Leaves and twigs: In some of the South Pacific islands, “Cedrat Petitgrain Oil” is distilled from the leaves and twigs of citron trees for the French perfume industry.
Flowers: The flowers have been distilled for essential oil which has limited use in scent manufacturing.
Wood: Branches of the citron tree are used as walking-sticks in India. The wood is white, rather hard and heavy, and of fine grain. In India, it is used for agricultural implements.
Health Benefits and Warnings of eating Fruit
Food Value Per 100 g of Edible Portion*
Moisture 87.1 g
Protein 0.081 g
Fat 0.04 g
Fiber 1.1 g
Ash 0.41 g
Calcium 36.5 mg
Phosphorus 16.0 mg
Iron 0.55 mg
Carotene 0.009 mg
Thiamine 0.052 mg
Riboflavin 0.029 mg
Niacin 0.125 mg
Ascorbic Acid 368 mg
*According to analyses made in Central America.
In ancient times and in the Middle Ages, the ‘Etrog’ was employed as a remedy for seasickness, pulmonary troubles, intestinal ailments and other disorders. Citron juice with wine was considered an effective purgative to rid the system of poison. In India, the peel is a remedy for dysentery and is eaten to overcome halitosis. The distilled juice is given as a sedative. The candied peel is sold in China as a stomachic, stimulant, expectorant and tonic. In West Tropical Africa, the citron is used only as a medicine, particularly against rheumatism. The flowers are used medicinally by the Chinese. In Malaya, a decoction of the fruit is taken to drive off evil spirits. A decoction of the shoots of wild plants is administered to improve appetite, relieve stomachache and expel intestinal worms. The leaf juice, combined with that of Polygonum and Indigofera is taken after childbirth. A leaf infusion is given as an antispasmodic. In Southeast Asia, citron seeds are given as a vennifuge. In Panama, they are ground up and combined with other ingredients and given as an antidote for poison. The essential oil of the peel is regarded as an antibiotic.
Citron cultivars are mainly of two types: 1) those with pinkish new growth, purple flower buds and purple-tinted petals, acid pulp and dark inner seed coat and chalazal spot; 2) those with no pink or purple tint in the new growth nor the flowers, with non-acid pulp, colorless inner seed coat, and pale-yellow chalazal spot. Among the better-known cultivars are:
‘Corsican’–origin unknown but the leading citron of Corsica; introduced into the United States around 1891 and apparently the cultivar grown in California; ellipsoid or faintly obovate, furrowed at base; large; peel yellow, rough, lumpy, very thick, fleshy; pulp crisp, non-juicy, non-acid, seedy. Tree small, spreading, moderately thorny with some large spines.
‘Diamante’ (‘Cedro Liscio’; possibly the same as ‘Italian’ and ‘Sicilian’)–of unknown origin but the leading cultivar in Italy and preferred by processor’s elsewhere; long-oval or ellipsoid, furrowed at base, broadly nippled at apex; peel yellow, smooth or faintly ribbed; very thick, fleshy; pulp crisp, non-juicy, acid; seedy. Tree small, spreading, thorny as ‘Corsican’. Very similar is a cultivar called “Earle” in Cuba.
‘Etrog’ (‘Ethrog’, ‘Atrog’; C. medica var. Ethrog Engl.)–the leading cultivar in Israel; ellipsoid, spindle-shaped or lemon-like with moderate neck and often with persistent style at base; usually with prominent nipple at apex; medium-small as harvested; if not picked early, it will remain on the tree, continuing to enlarge for years until the branch cannot support it. For ritual use, the fruit should be about 5 oz (142 g) and not oblong in form. Peel is yellow, semi-rough and bumpy, faintly ribbed, thick, fleshy; flesh is crisp, firm, with little juice; acid; seedy. Tree is small, not vigorous; leaves rounded at apex and cupped. This cultivar has been the official citron for use in the Feast of the Tabernacles ritual but if unavailable any yellow, unblemished, lemon-sized citron with adhering style can be substituted.
‘Fingered Citron’, Plate XXI, (‘Buddha’s Hand’, or ‘Buddha’s Fingers’; C. medica var. sarcodactylus Swing.); called fu shou in China, bushukon in Japan, limau jari, jeruk tangan, limau kerat lingtang, in Malaya; djerook tangan in Indonesia; som-mu in Thailand; phât thu in Vietnam. The fruit is corrugated, wholly or partly split into about 5 finger-like segments, with little or no flesh; seedless or with loose seeds. The fruit is highly fragrant and is placed as an offering on temple altars. It is commonly grown in China and Japan; is candied in China.
In India, there are several named types, in addition to the ‘Fingered’, in the northwest:
‘Bajoura’–small, with thin peel, much acid juice.
‘Chhangura’–believed to be the wild form and commonly found in a natural state; fruit rough, small, without pulp.
‘Madhankri’ or ‘Madhkunkur’–fruit large with sweetish pulp.
‘Turunj’–fruit large, with thick peel, the white inner part sweet and edible; pulp scant, dry, acid. Leaves are oblong and distinctly notched at the apex.
Recipes made mainly with this Fruit
The most important part of the citron is the peel which is a fairly important article in international trade. The fruits are halved, depulped, immersed in seawater or ordinary salt water to ferment for about 40 days, the brine being changed every 2 weeks; rinsed, put in denser brine in wooden barrels for storage and for export. After partial de-salting and boiling to soften the peel, it is candied in a strong sucrose/glucose solution. The candied peel is sun-dried or put up in jars for future use. Candying is done mainly in England, France and the United States. The candied peel is widely employed in the food industry, especially as an ingredient in fruit cake, plum pudding, buns, sweet rolls and candy.
Puerto Rican food technologists reported in 1970 that the desalted citron could be dehydrated in a hot air tray dryer at 108º F (42.22º C), reducing the weight by 95% to lower costs of shipment, then stored in polyethylene bags and later reconstituted and candied. In 1979, after further experiments, it was announced that fresh citron cubes, blanched for 1/2 minute in water at 170º F (76.7º C) can be candied and the product is equal in quality to the brined and candied peel, and this procedure saves the costs of salt, storage, and shipping of heavy barrels. If the citron lacks flavor, a few orange or lemon leaves may be added to the sirup.
The fruit of the wild ‘Chhangura’ is pickled in India. In Indonesia, citron peel is eaten raw with rice. The entire fruit of the ‘Fingered citron’ is eaten.
If there is sufficient juice in the better cultivars, it is utilized for beverages and to make desserts. In Guatemala, it is used as flavoring for carbonated soft-drinks. In Malaya, citron juice is used as a substitute for the juice of imported, expensive lemons. A product called “citron water” is made in Barbados and shipped to France for flavoring wine and vermouth.
In order to expand the market for citron, Puerto Rican workers have established that the green-mature fruits can be peeled by immersing in a boiling lye solution to save the labor of hand-peeling and then the fruits can be made into marmalade, jelly, and fruit bars that are crusty on the outside, soft within.
In Spain, a sirup made from the peel is used to flavor unpalatable medical preparations.