1 large lemonlike fruit with thick aromatic rind; usually preserved
2 thorny evergreen small tree or shrub of India widely cultivated for its large lemonlike fruits that have thick warty rind [syn: citron tree, Citrus medica]
- Citrus medica scientific name
- a lemon
The citron is a fragrant fruit with the botanical name Citrus medica L., 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 considered it being native to Media, Persia or Assyria.
The citron has many similar names in diverse languages, e.g. cederat, cedro, etc. Most confusing are the French and Scandinavian languages, in which the false friend "citron" refers to the fruit which is called lemon in English.
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 its 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 was also regarded as an antibiotic. Citron juice with wine was considered an effective antidote to poison.
Today, the citron uses for the fragrance or zest of its outer peel, but the most important part is still the albedo, which is a fairly important article in international trade, and is widely employed in the food industry as succade. Today there is a rising market for the citron is the United States for the soluble fiber which is found in its thick albedo.
The citron is also used by Jews for a religious ritual during the Feast of Tabernacles, by whom it is called Etrog. Therefore the citron was always considered as a Jewish symbol, and is found on various Hebrew antiques and archeological foundlings.
Description and VariationThe citron fruit is usually ovate or oblong, narrowing up till the stylar end. However, the citron's fruit shape is highly variable, due to the big 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 of its being protuberant, forming a "v" shape after the end of the segments till 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.
Citrons could be of very special beauty. The nicer ones are those with medium sized oil bubbles at the outer surface, which are medially distant each to another. Some of them are ribbed and faintly warted in outer surface, adding life and attraction to its beauty. There is also a fingered citron variety called Buddha's Hand.
Color is changing from green when unripe, till yellow-orange when overripe. The citron would never fall off the tree and could reach 8-10 pounds (4-5 kg) if not picked off timely or even early. However, they should be picked off 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 is reaching 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, therefore fragile and extremely sensitive. The farmer's choice is to graft it onto foreign rootstock, but since this practice is forbidden by Jewish Law, the progeny will not be kosher for the Jewish ritual.
Despite the variation among the cultivars, authorities agree that the citron specie 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.
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 many (Calabrese F.; Chapot, Henri ; Tolkowsky S.) .
The citron especially sounds to be native to India bordering Burma, where it is found in valleys at the foot of the Himalaya Mountains, and in the Western Ghauts. It is still considered 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 and his armies, to be responsible for the spread of the citron westward, reaching the European countries like Greece and Italy.
The citron is already mentioned in the Torah for the ritual use during the Feast of Tabernacles (Lev. 23:40). It is considered that the Jews brought it along by The Exodus from Egypt, where archeological evidence found it to be since the times of Thutmosis III.
The opinion that the citron was the forbidden fruit in the Hesperides or Eden is not providing any geographical positioning, since the exact orientation of the Hesperidies is unclear. Besides, 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 is, it seems that in different times it played a big role in life. We can obtain that from the way it has been described by numerous writings and poets across centuries. As assumed by observation, it is very likely that when the other citrus species arrived, they pushed the citron off the road, 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
- 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 oxyacanthos (the fire thorn, 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.
- ''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 which have a sort of distaff [meaning the pistil] projecting from the middle are fertile, while those which 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.
Later with about 400 years it was also described by Pliny the Elder, who was calling it nata Assyria malus.
- The Assyrian fruit, which some call Median, is an antidote for poisons. Its leaf is like that of the andrachn (Arbutus andrachne L.), but with thorns running between. The fruit is notable for the fact that it is not eaten and has a strong odor, as also do the leaves, which impregnates clothes stored with them and keeps away harmful insects.
- The tree itself bears fruit continuously; some dropping off, others ripening, and still others budding.
- People have tried to introduce the tree into their land in clay vessels because of its medicinal efficacy, providing breathing for the roots by making holes in the vessels; …but except among Media and in Persia, it has refused to grow.
- This is the fruit whose pips we have related Parthian nobles boiled in foods in order to eliminate bad breath. No other tree is so highly praised in Media.
The citron was always considered as a Jewish symbol, and is found on various Hebrew antiques and archeological foundlings.
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- The Great Citrus Book: A Guide With Recipes By Allen Susser
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- Peel confection and candying Citrus: The Genus Citrus By Giovanni Dugo, Angelo Di Giacomo
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citron in Arabic: أترج
citron in Danish: Cedrat
citron in German: Zitronatzitrone
citron in Spanish: Citrus medica
citron in Persian: بالنگ
citron in French: Cédrat
citron in Italian: Citrus medica
citron in Hebrew: אתרוג
citron in Japanese: シトロン
citron in Portuguese: Cidra
citron in Polish: Cytron
citron in Russian: Цитрон
citron in Slovak: Citronát
citron in Finnish: Sukaattisitruuna
citron in Thai: ส้มโอมือ
citron in Turkish: Ağaç kavunu
citron in Yiddish: אתרוג
citron in Esperanto: Cedrato