Citron: Wikis


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Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Rosids
Order: Sapindales
Family: Rutaceae
Genus: Citrus
Species: C. medica
Binomial name
Citrus medica

The citron is a fragrant fruit with the botanical name Citrus medica, which applies to both the Swingle and Tanaka systems. It is a prominent member in the genus Citrus, belonging to the Rutaceae or Rue family, sub-family Aurantioideae. The designation medica is apparently derived from the similar ancient names Media, Median Apple etc., which were influenced by Theophrastus, who believed the citron was native to Media, Persia or Assyria.

The citron has many similar names in diverse languages, e.g. cederat, cedro, etc. Most confusing are the Polish, Czech, Slovak, French, Dutch, German, Yiddish and Scandinavian languages, in which the false friend "citron" refers to the fruit called lemon in English. The French name for citron is "cédrat".



Main Article: Succade; Main Article: Etrog (ritual)

The citron is unlike the more common citrus species like the lemon or orange. While the most popular fruits are peeled in order to consume their pulpy and juicy segments, the citron's pulp is very dry containing only little insipid juice. Moreover, the main content of a citron is the thick white rind, which is very adherent to the segments, and cannot be separated from them easily.

Thus, from ancient through medieval times, the citron was used mainly for medical purposes: to combat against seasickness, pulmonary troubles, intestinal ailments, and other disorders. The essential oil of the flavedo (the outermost, pigmented layer of rind) was also regarded as an antibiotic[1]. Citron juice with honey was considered an effective antidote to poison.

Today, the citron is used for the fragrance or zest of its outer peel (flavedo), but the most important part is still the inner rind (known as pith or albedo), which is a fairly important article in international trade, and is widely employed in the food industry as succade[2] as it is known when it is candied in sugar. Today there is a rising market for the citron in the United States for the soluble fiber in its thick albedo.[3]

The citron is also used by Jews (the word for it in Hebrew is Etrog) for a religious ritual during the Feast of Tabernacles. Therefore the citron was always considered as a Jewish symbol, and is found on various Hebrew antiques and archeological findings.[4] In Swedish the citron is named Suckatcitron, - the citron of Succoth. In Iran, the citron's thick white rind is used to make jam. In South Indian cuisine, especially Tamil cuisine, citron is widely used in pickles and preserves. In Tamil, the unripe fruit is referred to as 'narthangai', which is usually salted and dried to make a preserve. The tender leaves of the plant are often used in conjunction with chili powder and other spices to make a powder, called 'narthellai podi', literally translating to 'powder of citron leaves'. Both narthangai and narthellai podi are usually consumed with thayir sadam.

In Korea, it is used to create Yujacha, a type of Korean tea. The fruit is thinly sliced (peel, pith and pulp) and soaked or cooked in honey or sugar to create a chunky syrup. This syrupy candied fruit is mixed with hot water as a fragrant tea, where the fruit at the bottom of the cup is eaten as well. Often preserved in the syrup for the cold months, Yujacha is served as a source of fruit in winter. It is also popular in Taiwan, where it is known by its Chinese name 柚子茶 (Pinyin: Youzi cha).

Description and Variation

3 etrog.JPG Citron varieties

Acidic-pulp varieties:

Non-acidic varieties:

Pulpless varieties:

Related Articles:
CitrusSuccadeHybridGraftingChimeraEtrogSukkothFour Species

The citron fruit is usually ovate or oblong, narrowing towards the stylar end. However, the citron's fruit shape is highly variable, due to the large quantity of albedo, which forms independently according to the fruits' position on the tree, twig orientation, and many other factors. This could also be the reason for its being protuberant, forming a "v" shape after the end of the segments towards the stylar end. The rind is leathery, furrowed, and adherent. The inner portion thick, white and fleshy – the outer uniformly thin, and very fragrant. The pulp is usually acidic, but also sweet and even pulpless varieties are found.

Most citron varieties contain a large number of seeds. The monoembryonic seeds are white colored; with dark innercoat and red-purplish chalazal spot for the acidic varieties, and colorless for the sweet ones. Some citron varieties are also distinct with their persistent style, which is highly appreciated by the Jewish community.

The fingered Citron

Citrons can be especially beautiful. The most attractive ones have medium sized oil bubbles at the outer surface, which are medially distant to each other. Some of them are ribbed and faintly warted on the outer surface, adding life and attraction to its beauty. There is also a fingered citron variety called Buddha's Hand.

The color varies from green, when unripe, to a yellow-orange when overripe. The citron does not fall from the tree and can reach 8-10 pounds (4–5 kg) if not picked when ripe or even early[5]. However, they should be picked before the winter as the branches might break, or bend to the ground and may cause numerous fungal diseases for the tree.

The slow-growing shrub or small tree reaches a height of about 8 to 15 ft (2.4-4.5 m); has irregular straggling branches and stiff twigs and long spines at the leaf axils. The evergreen leaves are green and lemon scented with slightly serrate edges, ovate-lanceolate or ovate elliptic 2 1/2 to 7 inch long. Petioles are usually wingless or with minor wings. The flowers are generally unisexual providing self-pollination, but some male individuals could be found due to pistil abortion. The clustered flowers of the acidic varieties are purplish tinted from outside, but the sweet ones are white-yellowish.

The acidic varieties include the Florentine and Diamante citron from Italy, the Greek citron, the Balady citron from Palestine. The sweet varieties include the Corsican and Moroccan citrons. Between the pulpless are also some Fingered varieties and the Yemenite Citron.

The citron tree is very vigorous with almost no dormancy, blooming several times a year, and is therefore fragile and extremely sensitive.[6] The farmer's choice is to graft it onto foreign rootstock, but since this practice is forbidden by rabbinical Jewish Law[7], the progeny will not be kosher for the Jewish ritual.

Despite the variation among the cultivars, authorities agree that the citron species is a very old one. There is molecular evidence that all other cultivated citrus species only arose by hybridization among the ancestral types, which are the citron, pummelo, mandarin and papedas.

The citron is believed to be the purest of them all, since it is usually fertilized by self-pollination, it hardly accepts foreign pollen, and is therefore considered to be the male parent rather than a female one.[8]

Origin and distribution

Today, authorities agree that all citrus species are native to Southeast Asia where they are found wild and in an uncultivated form. The fascinating story about how they spread to the Mediterranean has been reported by Francesco Calabrese[9]; Henri Chapot[10]; Samuel Tolkowsky[11]; Elizabetta Nicolisi [12], and more[13].

The citron seems to be native to India where it borders on Burma, where it is found in valleys at the foot of the Himalaya Mountains, and in the Western Ghauts.[14][15] It is thought that by the time of Theophrastus, the citron was mostly cultivated in the Persian Gulf on its way to the Mediterranean basin, where it was cultivated during the later centuries in different areas as described by Erich Isaac[16]. Many mention the role of Alexander the Great and his armies, as being responsible for the spread of the citron westward, reaching the European countries like Greece and Italy[17].

The citron is required mentioned in the Torah for the ritual use during the Feast of Tabernacles (Lev. 23:40). It is considered that the Jews brought it in The Exodus from Egypt, where the egyptologist and archaeologist Victor Loret found it depicted on the walls of the botanical garden at the Karnak Temple, which dates back to the times of Thutmosis III[18].

The opinion that the citron was the forbidden fruit in the Hesperides or Eden does not assist in locating its origin, since the location of the Hesperidies is unclear. In any case, there are enough reasons to conclude that it was in the Far East, for example India or Yemen, that the citron is likely to have originated.

The Citron in antiquity

The citron has been cultivated since ancient times, predating the cultivation of other citrus species. Despite its minor importance today being hardly consumed as picked, it seems that at different times it played a big role in life. We can see that from the way it has been described by numerous writers and poets. It is likely that when the other citrus species became available, citron lost its popularity, since most of its benefits could be found in the lemon, which is much easier to cultivate.


The following is from the writings of Theophrastus[19]

In the east and south there are special plants... i.e. in Media and Persia there are many types of fruit, between them there is a fruit called Median or Persian Apple. The tree has a leaf similar to and almost identical with that of the andrachn (Arbutus andrachne L.), but has thorns like those of the apios (the wild pear, Pyrus amygdaliformis Vill.) or the firethorn, Cotoneaster pyracantha Spach.), except that they are white, smooth, sharp and strong.

The fruit is not eaten, but is very fragrant, as is also the leaf of the tree; and the fruit is put among clothes, it keeps them from being moth-eaten. It is also useful when one has drunk deadly poison, for when it is administered in wine; it upsets the stomach and brings up the poison. It is also useful to improve the breath, for if one boils the inner part of the fruit in a dish or squeezes it into the mouth in some other medium, it makes the breath more pleasant.

The seed is removed from the fruit and sown in the spring in carefully tilled beds, and it is watered every fourth or fifth day. As soon the plant is strong it is transplanted, also in the spring, to a soft, well watered site, where the soil is not very fine, for it prefers such places.

And it bears its fruit at all seasons, for when some have gathered, the flower of the others is on the tree and is ripening others. Of the flowers I have said[20] those that have a sort of distaff [meaning the pistil] projecting from the middle are fertile, while those that do not have this are sterile. It is also sown, like date palms, in pots punctured with holes.

This tree, as has been remarked, grows in Media and Persia.

Pliny the Elder

About 400 years later it was also described by Pliny the Elder, who called it it nata Assyria malus. The following is from his book Natural History.

There is another tree also with the same name of "citrus," and bears a fruit that is held by some persons in particular dislike for its smell and remarkable bitterness; while, on the other hand, there are some who esteem it very highly. This tree is used as an ornament to houses; it requires, however, no further description.[21]
The citron tree, called the Assyrian, and by some the Median apple, is an antidote against poisons. The leaf is similar to that of the arbute, except that it has small prickles running across it. As to the fruit, it is never eaten, but it is remarkable for its extremely powerful smell, which is the case, also, with the leaves; indeed, the odour is so strong, that it will penetrate clothes, when they are once impregnated with it, and hence it is very useful in repelling the attacks of noxious insects.

The tree bears fruit at all seasons of the year; while some is falling off, other fruit is ripening, and other, again, just bursting into birth. Various nations have attempted to naturalize this tree among them, for the sake of its medical properties, by planting it in pots of clay, with holes drilled in them, for the purpose of introducing the air to the roots; and I would here remark, once for all, that it is as well to remember that the best plan is to pack all slips of trees that have to be carried to any distance, as close together as they can possibly be placed. It has been found, however, that this tree will grow nowhere except in Media or Persia. It is this fruit, the pips of which, as we have already mentioned, the Parthian grandees employ in seasoning their ragouts, as being peculiarly conducive to the sweetening of the breath. We find no other tree very highly commended that is produced in Media.[22]

Citrons, either the pulp of them or the pips, are taken in wine as an antidote to poisons. A decoction of citrons, or the juice extracted from them, is used as a gargle to impart sweetness to the breath. The pips of this fruit are recommended for pregnant women to chew when affected with qualmishness. Citrons are good, also, for a weak stomach, but it is not easy to eat them except with vinegar[23].


  1. ^ Natural healing Website
  2. ^ The Purdue University
  3. ^ Scholarly Document
  4. ^ See Wikipedia article on Etrog.
  5. ^ Un curieux Cedrat marocain, Chapot 1950.
  6. ^ The citrus Industry, The Purdue University
  7. ^ Adereth Elaiyahu
  8. ^ Citrus phylogeny and genetic origin of important species as investigated by molecular markers. 2000
  9. ^ La favolso storia degli agrumi. L'EPOS, 1998, Palerno Italy. English translation in Citrus: the genus citrus
  10. ^ The citrus plant, p.6-13. in: Citrus. Ciba-Geigy Agrochemicals Tech. Monogr.4. Ciba-Geigy Ltd., 1975, Basle, Switzerland.
  11. ^ Hesperides. A history of the culture and use of citrus fruits, p.371. John Bale, Sons and Curnow, 1938, London, England.
  12. ^ Citrus Genethics, breeding and Biotechnology
  13. ^ The Citrus Industry ^The Purdue University ^Food in China: a cultural and historical inquiry By Frederick J. Simoons, Google Books ^The Search for the Authentic Citron: Historic and Genetic Analysis; HortScienc 40(7):1963-1968. 2005
  14. ^ Sir Joseph Hooker (Flora of British India, i. 514)
  15. ^ COUNTRY REPORT TO THE FAO INTERNATIONAL TECHNICAL CONFERENCE ON PLANT GENETIC RESOURCES (Leipzig, 1996); Prepared by: Nepal Agricultural Research Council; Kathmandu, June 1995; CHAPTER 2.2
  16. ^ The Citron in the Mediterranean: a study in religious influences; economic Geography, Vol. 35 No. 1. (Jan. 1959) pp. 71-78
  17. ^ The Pordue University
  18. ^ Journal of the Royal Horticultural Society
  19. ^ Historia plantarum 4.4.2-3 (exc. Athenaeus Deipnosophistae 3.83.d-f); cf. Vergil Georgics 2.126-135; Pliny Naturalis historia 12.15,16.
  20. ^ Historia plantarum 1.13.4.
  21. ^ Natural History Chp. 31
  22. ^ Book XII CHAP. 7. (3.
  23. ^ Chp. 56

External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

CITRON, a species of Citrus (C. medica), belonging to the tribe Aurantieae, of the botanical natural order Rutaceae; the same genus furnishes also the orange, lime and shaddock. The citron is a small evergreen tree or shrub growing to a height of about 10 ft.; it has irregular straggling spiny branches, large pale-green broadly oblong, slightly serrate leaves and generally unisexual flowers purplish without and white within. The large fruit is ovate or oblong, protuberant at the tip, and from 5 to 6 in. long, with a rough, furrowed, adherent rind, the inner portion of which is thick, white and fleshy, the outer, thin, greenish-yellow and very fragrant. The pulp is sub-acid and edible, and the seeds are bitter. There are many varieties of the fruit, some of them of great weight and size. The Madras citron has the form of an oblate sphere; and in the "fingered citron" of China the lobes are separated into finger-like divisions formed by separation of the constituent carpels, as occurs sometimes in the orange.

The citron-tree thrives in the open air in China, Persia, the West Indies, Madeira, Sicily, Corsica, and the warmer parts of Spain and Italy; and in conservatories it is often to be seen in more northerly regions. Sir Joseph Hooker (Flora of British India, i. 514) regards it as a native of the valleys at the foot of the Himalaya, and of the Khasia hills and the Western Ghauts; Dr Bonavia, however, considers it to have originated in Cochin China or China, and to have been introduced into India, whence it spread to Media and Persia. It was described. by Theophrastus as growing in Media, three centuries before Christ, and was early known to the ancients, and the fruit was held in great esteem by them; but they seem to have been acquainted with no other member of the Aurantieae, the introduction of oranges and lemons into the countries of the Mediterranean being due to the Arabs, between the 10th and 15th centuries. Josephus tells us that "the law of the Jews required that at the feast of tabernacles every one should have branches of palmtree and citron-tree" (Antiq. xiii. 13.5); and the Hebrew word tappuach, rendered "apples" and "apple-tree" in Cant. ii.

3, 5, Prov. xxv. 11, &c., probably signifies the citron-tree and its fruit. Oribasius in the 4th century describes the fruit, accurately distinguishing the three parts of it. About the 3rd century the tree was introduced into Italy; and, as Gallesio informs us, it was much grown at Salerno in the 11th century. In China citrons are placed in apartments to make them fragrant. The rind of the citron yields two perfumes, oil of cedra and oil of citron, isomeric with oil of turpentine; and when candied it is much esteemed as a dessert and in confectionery. The lemon is now generally regarded as a subspecies Limonum of Citrus medial. Oribasii Sardiani, Collectorum Medicinalium Libri XVII. i. 64 (De citrio); Gallesio, Traite du citrus (181 I); Darwin, Animals and Plants under Domestication, i. 334-336 (1868); Brandis, Forest Flora of North-West and Central India, p. 51 (1814); E. Bonavia, The Cultivated Oranges and Lemons, &c., of India and Ceylon (1890).

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Simple English

File:Citrus medicus
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Sapindales
Family: Rutaceae
Genus: Citrus
Species: C. medica
Binomial name
Citrus medica

The citron (Citrus medica) is a species of citrus fruit. It usually has a thick rind and small sections. Originally, the tree came from Southeast Asia. Today it is mainly grown in Sicily, Morocco, Crete, and Corsica, as well as Puerto Rico. The tree can grow to a size of about 3 metres. The fruit can grow to a size of about 25 cm in length, and about 4 kg in weight. The pulp of the fruit is hardly ever used. The rind is used. It is made into an additive for cooking. Jam can also be made from the rind. The rind is also used to make vegetable oil, which is used for perfumes.

Generally, it is eaten preserved or in bakery goods, such as fruitcakes. (The candied peel rather than the fruit is often used in cooking.) In some cultures, it is made into a fruity tea. Pliny the Elder states that in his time , the citron could only be grown in Media and Persia (HN xii.7). The Romans tried to transport it into the Roman Empire in tightly packed pots, but failed, according to Pliny. There is evidence, however, which shows it was cultivated in the Mediterranean during Pliny's lifetime. Zohary and Hopf believe this tree was first domesticated in India. They think that its wild forms, along with those of the mandarin and pomelo, were the original citrus species.[1]

The citron has 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.[2]

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.

Cultivation and uses

The citron fruit is slow-growing. The citron tree is typically grown from cuttings that are two to four years old; the tree begins to bear fruit when it is around three years old. The fruit is oblong in shape, and sometimes as much as six inches in length. Its skin is thick, somewhat hard, fragrant, and covered with protuberances; the pulp is white and subacid.

In Pliny's time the fruit was never eaten (it began to be used in cooking by the early 2nd century), but its intense perfume was used, penetrating clothes to repel noxious insects (compare Citronella).

In Hebrew, the citron is known as the etrog (Hebrew: אֶתְרֹג). It is one of the Four Species used during the holiday of Sukkot each fall. The role of the citron in that holiday was portrayed in the Israeli movie Ushpizin. Citrons that have been bred with lemon (in order to increase output per tree and make the tree less fragile) are not kosher for use as part of the Four Species.

In South Indian cuisine, especially Tamil cuisine, citron is widely used in pickles and preserves. In Tamil, the unripe fruit is referred to as 'narthangai', which is usually salted and dried to make a preserve. The tender leaves of the plant are often used in conjunction with chili powder and other spices to make a powder, called 'narthellai podi', literally translating to 'powder of citron leaves'. Both narthangai and narthellai podi are usually consumed with 'thayir sadam' (curd rice).

In Korea, it is used to create a syrupy tea (called Yuja cha) where the slices of whole fruit are eaten with the sweet tea. The fruit is thinly sliced (peel, pith and pulp) and soaked or cooked in honey or sugar to create a chunky syrup. This syrupy candied fruit is mixed with hot water as a fragrant tea, where the fruit at the bottom of the cup is eaten as well. Often perserved in the syrup for the cold months, Yuja tea served as a source of fruit in winter. It is also popular in Taiwan, where it is known as 柚子茶 (Youzi cha).


  1. Daniel Zohary and Maria Hopf, Domestication of plants in the Old World, third edition (Oxford: University Press, 2000), p. 184.
  2. Zohary and Hopf, Domestication, p. 185

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