Citron is part of the citrus family, and most closely related to Buddha’s hand. To describe a citron, it’s as if someone took a lemon, removed most of its juicy flesh, and filled it with white pith instead. Citrons are sometimes called chakotra, though moniker also depicts pomelos.
Origin of Citron
As explained in the book, “Duke’s Handbook of Medicinal Plants of the Bible,” citron is an ancient fruit. Most Biblical scholars agree that Leviticus 23:40’s mentions of “goodly trees” and “splendid trees” are references to citron trees. Even today, citrons hold great significance in Jewish ceremonies.
Citron’s origin used to be hotly contested. Though some point to citron’s references in Indian literature dating back 800 BC as evidence of its origin, archaeologists have since unearthed relics of the specimen in Babylonian ruins from 4,000 BC. Since this discovery, most concur that citron is native to Persia.
How citron arrived to Europe is also debatable: Some claim Alexander the Great’s armies brought the fruit when they returned from India around 325 BC. Others argue that the armies carried citron from Persia.
Today, citron grows across the Mediterranean, West Africa, China, Malaysia, and in Central and South America. Most of the world’s citron production occurs in Italy, Corsica and the Greek islands.
Availability of Citron in India
Citron grows wild in the North, and two well-known types exist in the country: The first is bajoori, a variety with purple flowers that grows in the northwest India and has a sour pulp; and amritphal, an acidless variety. Meghalaya’s Khasi Hills is the country’s largest citron producers. In Assam, the bira-jora is an oblong variant well loved by the tribal groups, who eat it raw with relish. Other citrons grow wild in the southwest and north of India, and they also grow in Maharashtra’s Nanded region.
Though Italy has extensive, technologically advanced citron cultivation, India’s is a fragmented, decentralized endeavor. A few groves produce citrons for the manufacturing of Ayurvedic remedies, but this is a limited industry.
Where to find Citron in India
Citron season occurs during the fall. Look for the large, wrinkly fruits nestled among the smooth-skinned lemons and oranges in the produce stalls. In the markets, they’re a sporadic fruit, appearing one week and going missing the next. In the villages of Assam and the Khasi Hills, however, citrons are a common sighting.
Checking for Ripeness in Citron
Citron sheds its green hue and becomes bright yellow or golden yellow when fully ripe. At its peak, the fruit is aromatic, shiny, firm, and unblemished.
Scrape citron gently with the fingernail: a small zest of lemony, aromatic oils should burst from the pores. If the skin is dry, the citron is past its prime. Spoiled citrons are also dull, shrunken, and brown.
Taste of Citron
With the exception of Assamese villagers, most use citron for its bright, zesty rind. The flavor resembles lemon with its pungent tartness.
The flavor of citron’s small amount of juice depends on the cultivar, as they vary in their ratio of sour to acidity. Some are mouth-puckeringly sour, while others are mellow but acidic. The sweetest varieties come from Corsica and Morocco.
Citon’s pith is edible, but tastes cottony, fibrous, and bland.
Nutritional Value of Citron
A Purdue horticulture article states that the nutritional value of citron per 100g of edible flesh is, according a Central America analysis:
368mg Ascorbic Acid
Health Benefits of Citron
K.M Nardkani extolled the virtues of citron in his book, “Indian Plants and Drugs.” According to the 1908 manuscript, citrons were used for the following reasons:
--Acts as a stomachic
--Quenches thirst and rehydrates the body
--Combats fever, dyspepsia and alleviates dysentery
--Has an anti-inflammatory and sedative qualities
--Assists with digestion and flushes the body of intoxicants
When pounded into a pulp and applied topically, citrons treat wounds, bites and stings. Even the Roman poet, Virgil (70BC-19BC), mentions citron’s ability to “chase black venom” away from the body. Soaking the rinds in water and drinking the concoction also alleviates bladder infections. A long-standing remedy utilized by civilizations around the world is that of adding lemon to tea with honey to soothe the throat and reduce phlegm
In Ayurveda, citron improves the stomach, digestive system, throat and heart. It also assists with treating kapha and vata diseases.
Limonene (a compound in citron) has well documented anticancer, antiviral and antibacterial properties:
--According to a 1996 study published in Nutrition and Cancer, citrus flavonoids inhibit breast cancer cell proliferation.
--A 2001 report published in Current Medicinal Chemistry states that citrus has anti-inflammatory and anticancer activity with toxic side effects.
--A 2003 study in Planta Medica found that limonin, a compound in citron, inhibited HIV-1 replication in strands obtained from human donors.
--A 1999 study published in Carcinogenesis found that citrus limonoids reduced incidences of colonic adenocarcinoma in rats, thus showing potential as a preventative for human colon cancer
--A 2003 study published in The American Society for Nutritional Sciences found that hesperidin, a citrus flavonoid, significantly inhibited bone loss when tested in mice with postmenopausal osteoporosis.
--A 2005 study published in BMC Pharmacology reveals that hesperidin decreased oxidative stress in mice kidney and liver.
--A 2006 study published in British Journal of Radiology found that hesperidin has a powerful protective effect on radiation-induced DNA damage in the bone marrow of mice.
How to Open/Cut:
To obtain the juice, cut in half and use a mechanized citrus juicer to extract the liquid. Or, simply cut into quarters and squeeze the juice into a bowl.
To rind the citrus, use a specific citrus channel knife or zester: This tool enables deeper cuts and creates and thin, beautiful rinds. A potato peeler may be used as well, though the rind is not as pretty.
Click on the link for a second method of making garnish twists:
To extract the zest, use a zester and scrape the outside of the fruit. Or, scrape the citron along a cheese grater.
Citron has a shelf life of one to two weeks when kept in the fridge at temperatures between 7-9 Celsius (45-59F). Keep citron in a sealed plastic bag, as this will extend its lifespan considerably. If keeping at room temperature, place the fruit in a dry, cool area: Expect the fruit to harden in a week.
Tip: Instead of keeping citrons in the kitchen, make them into centerpiece by stacking them in a bowl amidst other colorful fruit, and place on the dining room table. They’ll last longer in a cooler room, and brighten the space. Citrons are wonderfully aromatic as well.
Citron Recipe Ideas and Uses:
--When added as an infusion, the citron’s sedative compounds enhance the effects of vodka. Although vodka is the most common choice, infuse with any alcohol from champagne to gin.
--As is common in Iran, make a tisane by adding the peel to tea.
--Candy the peel and dip into chocolate for an after dinner mouth cleansing treat
--Candied peels also make a lovely topping for baked goods.
--Fold the zest in the batters of sweet breads, muffins, pies, tarts and cheesecakes.
--Boil and stew chunks of the fruit in sugar to make a marmalade or jam
--Grind the citron rind with olive oil to make a balm that can be applied on wounds, sore muscles and bruises.
*For more recipe ideas, see Buddha’s hand
Citron, orange, lemon, lime, pomelo, calamondin, kumquat, cranberry, baobab, cacao, date, elephant apple, flacourtia, garcinia cambogia, pomegranate, roselle, sour orange, sweet lime
Vegetables: Asparagus, fiddlehead ferns, Brussels sprouts, zucchini, amaranth greens, spinach, lamb’s quarters, arugula, rocket, cauliflower, cucumber, jicama, rhubarb
Herbs, spices, and oil: vinegar, white wine, vodka, amaretto, rum, olive oil, salt, pepper, lemon juice, orange juice, soy sauce, orange blossom, verbena, lemongrass, eucalyptus, mint, basil, thyme, rosemary, sumac, cumin, turmeric, mustard, garam masala, saffron, vanilla, cocoa, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, cardamom, black tea, chai, green tea
Placing the citrus in the bathroom serves as an all-natural, potent air freshener.
Perfectly shaped, unblemished fruits are the most desirable for Jewish ceremonies. As such, some sell for a whopping $100 or more.
Bara nimbu, bijaura, kutla (Hindi)
Marucahagam, komattimadali (Tamil)
Jora tenga (Assamese)