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The Etrog citron looks like a large, knobby and sometimes ribbed lemon. It is a species of citrus fruit and is related to the Buddah’s Hand. One characteristic of this variety of citrus is a very thick rind and aromatic skin. It has very small sections and many, many seeds. The flesh of the Etrog is neither particularly sweet nor sour and sometimes there is very little to even taste. Many Etrog can be found with the remnants of the flower still intact on one end of the fruit. In Jewish practice this is called the pitam, and it must be intact if the Etrog is to be used in the festival of Sukkot.
The Etrog citron is available in the late fall and early winter months.
Etrog citron is botanically classified as Citrus medica. Although most authorities treat Etrog citron as one cultivar it is true that this name is used to refer to a dozen or more distinct cultivars or genotypes. In fact the word ‘etrog’ has several meanings, one of the most general definitions is found in Hebrew where “etrog” means “citron,” including all members of the species Citrus medica. Etrogs are primarily grown for Jewish ritual use in the Sukkot harvest festival, held in September or October, but there are many qualities the plant must possess in order to be suitable for use.
The oil and rind of the Etrog citron are the most commonly used portions of the fruit. Cut the citron lengthwise and remove the small amount of fruit within. The peel and white pith can be boiled to remove the bitterness, and then cooked in a mixture of sugar and water to add sweetness. Candied citron is used in desserts and fruit cakes. The intense oil and aroma of the peel can be used to flavor savory dishes. After the festival of Sukkot Etrog is also used to make marmalades or glazed citron. The fruit is also sold to make infused vodka.
One story from the Torah claims the Etrog was the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, and not in fact an actual apple. The ancient nickname ‘Persian apple’ may have led later generations to believe the forbidden fruit was an apple and not the revered citron. The Etrog is used in the waving rituals during the Jewish festival of Sukkot, or the Feast of the Tabernacles. The citron to be used during the festival is required to follow certain Jewish laws and the process must be overseen by a Rabbi.
The Etrog has its origins in Israel and India and dates back to biblical times. The citron is said to be the first cultivated citrus fruit and was first recorded in the year 4000 BC. The philosopher Theophrastus, considered the ‘father of botany’ referred to the citron as the Persian apple or Median apple. Etrog citron is cultivated primarily for the Jewish festival of Sukkot and is grown in Greece, Italy, India and Israel. In the US, the Etrog can be found growing in central California.
Recipes that include Etrog Citron. One is easiest, three is harder.
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