The citron (
Citrus medica) is a large fragrant citrus fruit with a
thick rind. It is one of the original citrus fruits from which all
other citrus types developed through natural hybrid speciation or
artificial hybridization. Though citron cultivars take on a wide
variety of physical forms, they are all closely related genetically.
It is used widely in Asian cuisine, and also in traditional medicines,
perfume, and for religious rituals and offerings. Hybrids of citrons
with other citrus are commercially prominent, notably lemons and many
1.1 Other languages
2 Origin and distribution
2.3 Pliny the Elder
3 Description and variation
3.3 Varieties and hybrids
4.3.1 In Judaism
4.3.2 In Buddhism
5 See also
9 External links
The fruit's English name "citron" derives ultimately from Latin,
citrus, which is also the origin of the genus name.
A source of confusion is that citron or similar words in French (and
other languages), and English are false friends, as they refer to the
lemon. Indeed, into the 16th century, the English name citron included
the lemon and perhaps the lime as well.[not in citation given] In
Italian it is known as a cedro.
In Persian languages, it is called Turunj, as against "Naranj" (bitter
orange); both names borrowed by
Arabic and introduced into Spain and
Portugal after their occupation by the Muslims in AD 711, whence it
became the source of the name orange. In
Syria it is called Kabbad;
in Japanese it is called Bushukan (maybe referring only to the
fingered varieties). In Hebrew, the
Citron is known as an
אתרוג ("Etrog" or "Esrog").
Origin and distribution
The citron is an old and original citrus species. There is molecular
evidence that most cultivated citrus species arose by hybridization of
a small number of ancestral types, including citron, pomelo, mandarin
and to a lesser extent, papedas and kumquat. The citron is usually
fertilized by self-pollination. This results in them displaying a high
degree of genetic homozygosity, and it is the male parent of any
citrus hybrid rather than a female one.
The citron is thought to have been native to India, in valleys at
the foothills of the eastern Himalayas. 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. Many mention the role of
Alexander the Great
Alexander the Great and his armies
as they attacked Persia and what is today Pakistan, as being
responsible for the spread of the citron westward, reaching the
European countries such as
Etrog § Historic cultivation areas
Leviticus mentions the "fruit of the tree hadar" as being required for
ritual use during the
Feast of Tabernacles
Feast of Tabernacles (Lev. 23:40). According to
Rabbinical tradition, the "fruit of the tree hadar" refers to the
citron, which the Israelites brought to
Israel from their exile in
Egypt, where the
Egyptologist and archaeologist
Victor Loret claimed
to have identified it depicted on the walls of the botanical garden at
the Karnak Temple, which dates back to the time of Thutmosis III,
approximately 3,000 years ago.
The citron has been cultivated since ancient times, predating the
cultivation of other citrus species.
The following description on citron was given by Theophrastus
Illustration of fingered citron with the leaves and thorns that are
common to all varieties of citron.
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
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 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
Citron was also described by Pliny the Elder, who called 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.
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
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.
Description and variation
A citron or citron-like hybrid of Italian origin (note the thick
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. The rind is leathery, furrowed, and adherent. The inner
portion is thick, white and hard; the outer is uniformly thin and very
fragrant. The pulp is usually acidic, but also can be sweet, and even
pulpless varieties are found.
Most citron varieties contain a large number of monoembryonic seeds.
They are white, with dark innercoats and red-purplish chalazal spots
for the acidic varieties, and colorless for the sweet ones. Some
citron varieties are also distinct, having persistent styles, that do
not fall off after fecundation. Those are usually promoted for etrog
Some citrons have medium-sized oil bubbles at the outer surface,
medially distant to each other. Some varieties are ribbed and faintly
warted on the outer surface. 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 off the tree and can reach 8–10
pounds (4–5 kg) if not picked before fully mature.
However, they should be picked before the winter, as the branches
might bend or break to the ground, and may cause numerous fungal
diseases for the tree.
Despite the wide variety of forms taken on by the fruit, citrons are
all closely related genetically, representing a single
species.. Genetic analysis has shown known cultivars to divide
into three clusters, a Mediterranean cluster thought to have
originated in India, and two clusters predominantly found in China,
one representing the fingered citrons, and another consisting of
A pure citron, of any kind, has a large portion of albedo, which is
important for the production of Succade.
Citrus medica is a slow-growing shrub or small tree that reaches a
height of about 8 to 15 ft (2 to 5 m). It 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 2.5 to 7.0 inches long.
Petioles are usually wingless or with minor wings. The clustered
flowers of the acidic varieties are purplish tinted from outside, but
the sweet ones are white-yellowish.
Rhobs el Arsa
The citron tree is very vigorous with almost no dormancy, blooming
several times a year, and is therefore fragile and extremely sensitive
Varieties and hybrids
The acidic varieties include the Florentine and
Diamante citron from
Greek citron and the
Balady citron from Israel. The
sweet varieties include the Corsican and Moroccan citrons. Between the
pulpless are also some fingered varieties and the Yemenite citron.
There are also a number of citron hybrids; for example, ponderosa
lemon, the lumia and rhobs el Arsa are known citron hybrids, some are
claiming that even the
Florentine citron is not pure citron, but a
Main article: Succade
A citron halved and depulped, cooked in sugar
While the lemon or orange are peeled to consume their pulpy and juicy
segments, the citron's pulp is dry, containing a small quantity of
insipid juice, if any. The main content of a citron fruit is the thick
white rind, which adheres to the segments and cannot be separated from
them easily. The citron gets halved and depulped, then its rind (the
thicker the better) is cut in pieces, cooked in sugar syrup, and used
as a spoon sweet, in Greek known as "kitro glyko" (κίτρο
γλυκό), or it is diced and caramelized with sugar and used as a
confection in cakes.
In Samoa a refreshing drink called "vai tipolo" is made from squeezed
juice. It is also added to a raw fish dish called "oka" and to a
variation of palusami or luáu.
Citron is a regularly used item in Asian cuisine. The variety of
citron used in Japan, YUZU, is juiced, and the juice is used regularly
in dipping sauces, dressings and marinades. The juice is widely
available bottled like lemon juice. Grated or shredded yuzu rind is
also added to marinades and desserts, and hollowed out YUZU can be
seen as decorative containers in higher end restaurants. In Korea, a
popular tea, YUJI-CHA, is made by mixing citron meat and julienned
peels with sugar and honey. This tea is consumed both hot and iced,
and is often taken for sore throats and colds in winter.
Today the citron is used for the fragrance or zest of its 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, as
it is known when it is candied in sugar.
The dozens of varieties of citron are collectively known as Lebu in
Bangladesh, West Bengal, where it is the primary citrus fruit.
In Iran, the citron's thick white rind is used to make jam; in
Pakistan the fruit is used to make jam but is also pickled; in South
Indian cuisine, some varieties of citron (collectively referred to as
"Narthangai" in Tamil) are widely used in pickles and preserves. In
Kutch, Gujarat, it is used to make pickle, wherein entire slices of
fruits are salted, dried and mixed with jaggery and spices to make
sweet spicy pickle. In the United States, citron is an important
ingredient in holiday fruit cakes.
From ancient through medieval times, the citron was used mainly for
medical purposes: to combat seasickness, pulmonary troubles,
intestinal ailments, scurvy and other disorders. The essential oil of
the flavedo (the outermost, pigmented layer of rind) was also regarded
as an antibiotic.
Citron juice with wine was considered an effective
antidote to poison, as
Theophrastus reported. In the Ayurvedic system
of medicine, the juice is still used for treating conditions like
nausea, vomiting, and excessive thirst.
The juice of the citron has a high
Vitamin C content and used
medicinally as an anthelmintic, appetizer, tonic, in cough,
rheumatism, vomiting, flatulence, haemorrhoids, skin diseases and weak
There is an increasing market for the citron for the soluble fiber
(pectin) found in its thick albedo.
Main article: Etrog
The citron is used by Jews (the word for it in Hebrew is etrog) for a
religious ritual during the Jewish harvest holiday of Sukkot, the
Feast of Tabernacles; therefore, it is considered to be a Jewish
symbol which is found on various Hebrew antiques and archaeological
findings. Citrons used for ritual purposes cannot be grown by
The Fingered Citron
Main article: Buddha's hand
A variety of citron native to
China has sections that separate into
finger-like parts and is used as an offering in
For many centuries, citron's fragrant essential oil has been used in
perfumery, the same oil that was used medicinally for its antibiotic
properties. Its major constituent is limonene.
Archaeological finds of citrons in Israel
Gallery of Fingered citrons
In a German market, for culinary use
In fruit market of Italy
Naxos citrons and leaf
Citron or hybrid in Sicily
A wild citron in India
Unknown citron type in pot
A Corsican citron
Citron fruit for sale at Bhujpur, Kutch, Gujarat, India
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Citrus By Giovanni Dugo, Angelo Di Giacomo
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A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Culture
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Plant List: kew-2724208