Citron, a lesser-known citrus that will surprise you with its size, taste and health benefits.

Do you like oranges, tangerines, grapefruits, lemons, limes or pomelo?

In that case, you must also taste the cedar.

At first glance, it looks like a lemon, but it is much, really much, bigger.

What can you use it for not only in the kitchen?

Is its unusual name related to cedar?

You will learn all this and much more about this “giant lemon” in our article.

What is cedar

Citron, sometimes also lemon citron or cedro citron, is one of the less well-known citrus fruits. Its closest relative is the lemon, to which it is morphologically similar enough that you may even come across the opinion that it is its subspecies. But most sources list citron as a separate type of citrus.

The word cedar refers to both the fruit and the plant. The Latin name is Citrus medica. How did the fruit get its Czech name cedrát? Some of its variants smell like cedar. Individual varieties of citron differ not only in smell, but also in size and acidity.

Comparison of citron and lemon.

What does cedar look like?

Cedar fruits vary slightly depending on the variety. Their typical color is yellow, sometimes yellow-green. At first glance, they mostly resemble oval or irregularly shaped lemons. But their bark is much more wrinkled and rough.

When we cut a cedar tree open, at first glance it looks like the fruit is actually just bark and has only a minimum of pulp. But that’s not entirely true. The massive white rim, the thickness of which is up to two centimeters, is edible.

The fruits of some varieties grow up to thirty centimeters long and weigh up to one and a half kilograms.

Citron cut in half.

What does cedarwood taste like?

Here too, of course, there are differences depending on the variety, most varieties are sour, but sweet or semi-sour varieties have also been bred. But it is always true that the pulp as such is more sour than the white rim around it, which is slightly sweet.

In sour varieties, the taste of the pulp can be slightly bitter. Fruits do not contain much juice, usually much less than we would expect for their size.

Varieties of cedar

Most citron varieties are sour, but there are also semi-sour and even sweet ones.

  • Sour varieties
    • Smooth diamond (Citrus medica cv. Liscia Diamante) – cedar with smooth bark, grown mainly in Italy
    • Jewish cedar or Etrog (Citrus medica cv. Etrog) – cedar with a rougher bark, fleshy, grown mainly in Israel
    • Limoforme citron (Citrus medica cv. Limoniforme) – citron with wrinkled bark, grown mainly in Greece
    • Rugosa citron (Citrus medica cv. Riccia) – citron with wrinkled bark, grown mainly in Spain

  • Sweet varieties
    • Corsican citron (Citrus medica cv. Corsican) – citron with wrinkled ellipsoidal bark, grown mainly in Corsica, France and the United States

  • Semi-acidic varieties
    • Buddha’s hand (Citrus medica cv. Digitata) – cedar with a bizarre shape that resembles the fingers of a hand, does not contain pulp or juice, is grown mainly in Japan, India and China
A type of cedar tree called Buddha's hand.

Last but not least, there are also cross forms of citron and lemon. They are more similar in size to citron, but the pulp and amount of juice is closer to lemon.

What does cedar contain?

Similar to other citrus fruits, citron is particularly rich in vitamin C, and it contains mainly calcium and potassium as minerals. Compared to other citrus fruits, it stands out with a larger amount of fiber, which is mainly found in the white part between the flesh and the peel, which can make up to 70% of the fruit.

100 g
100 g
100 g
100 g
100 g
Energy 32 kcal 29 kcal 30 calories 52 kcal 44 kcal
Proteins 0.73 g 1.1 g 0.7 g 0.91 mg 0.77 g
Fats 0.2 g 0.3 g 0.2 g 0.15 g 0.14 g
Carbohydrates 10.97 g 9.32 g 10.5 g 2 g 10.7 g
Fiber 4.5 g 2.8 g 2.8 g 2 g 1.6 g
Vitamin C 20 mg 53 mg 29.1 mg 59.1 mg 31.2 mg
Potassium 72 mg 128 mg 102 mg 166 g 135 mg
Calcium 55 mg 26 mg 33 mg 43 g 22 mg

What is cedar good for?

As the Latin name Citrus medica suggests, citron is one of the fruits of nature that our ancestors considered to be medicinal. Even today’s medicine appreciates its positive effect on the digestive system, blood pressure and kidneys.

  • Antioxidant and anticancer properties – thanks to the presence of vitamin C and flavonoids, it can counteract the action of free radicals, slow down cell aging, prevent water retention and prevent the formation of tumors.

  • Digestive system – consumption of citron helps prevent the formation of abdominal gas and swelling of the abdomen. In addition, the high fiber content benefits the intestines and prevents constipation. However, consuming large amounts of citron can cause diarrhea. A glass of water with citron juice helps with heartburn.

  • Pain – citrons act as a natural analgesic. If you have a headache, drink a glass of water with a few freshly squeezed citrons.

  • Cardiovascular system – citron also has a positive effect on our heart, blood vessels and blood pressure. These properties are due to potassium and magnesium, two minerals that are of great importance for the prevention of cardiovascular diseases. While magnesium maintains a healthy heart muscle, potassium helps lower blood pressure and prevent blood pressure-related diseases.

  • Weight reduction – due to the low amount of calories, cedar is a suitable food for reduction diets.

  • Immune system – a high amount of vitamin C has antibacterial and antioxidant effects that are useful for the immune system, strengthening it and increasing its resistance to bacteria and viruses.

  • Skin and hair – Cedarwood also benefits the skin and hair, which is used in cosmetic products made from it.

Citron in cosmetics

From the leaves and bark of cedar you can get essential oil, which is used to make perfumes, creams, toothpastes and deodorants. In combination with almond oil, it can be used for anti-cellulite body massages.

Citron essential oil can also be used against hair loss as it stimulates hair growth. It is thus added to various shampoos.

Last but not least, the smell of this fruit repels mosquitoes and other insects, which is why it is added to repellants. Applying a few drops of citron juice to mosquito bites will help relieve itching.

How to use cedar in the kitchen

Although we might not expect it, citron has surprisingly many uses in the kitchen, which of course come close to the use of other citrus fruits, especially lemon.

First of all, it should be noted that citron should always be thoroughly washed before consumption. The reason is not only possible chemical treatment of its bark, but also the fact that various impurities are more easily caught on its wrinkled bark. It is best to wash it with a brush.

  • One of the easy ways is to use citron when preparing various fruit salads . It gets along well not only with other citrus fruits, but also with bananas, berries, grapes or kiwi. You can use mint or lemon balm to decorate. Very original is the use of the citron halves themselves, after removing the albedo pulp from them, instead of the bowls.

  • Another simple way to include citron in your diet, or rather in your drinking regime, is to use it in smoothie recipes , here you can combine it with other fruits and with some types of vegetables or herbs.

  • Do you have a weakness for all kinds of sweets? In that case, you can use it to prepare a delicacy such as cedar in caramel or dark chocolate. In both cases, the massive white part of the cedar (albedo) between the bark and the pulp is mainly used.

  • If you know that the rind of the cedar has not been chemically treated, you can also use it in the kitchen. On the one hand, you can add it to a variety of doughs, for example, for brownies or Christmas cakes.

  • Candied cedar bark is also a great delicacy. Just cut it into pieces, boil it in water for about 10 minutes, then drain the water and boil the peel again for about 20 minutes. We put the bark cooked in this way in a bowl of cold water for 24 hours and then boil it with sugar for 2-3 hours the next day. The candied crust prepared in this way can then be used in Christmas cookies or in recipes for bishop’s bread .

  • Citrons can also be used to make homemade marmalade . It is best to use both pulp, albedo and peel and mix them with other citrus fruits, such as oranges or tangerines, which give the marmalade a sweeter taste.

  • Last but not least, you can of course use citron to flavor and decorate various drinks. You can use it perfectly, for example, in recipes for cocktails , whether alcoholic or non-alcoholic.

  • In Italy, citron also produces a liqueur similar to the more famous limoncello.
Candied cedar bark in a glass jar.

The history of cedar

It is not known exactly where the cedar comes from, but its seeds were found in Mesopotamian excavations from 4000 BC. It is assumed that Alexander the Great’s troops brought the cedar to the territory of Europe.

Thanks to suitable conditions, its cultivation spread mainly to the territory of today’s Italy, Greece and Spain during ancient times. Citron was also an important fruit in Asia, especially in India and China. During the period of overseas discoveries, the Spanish colonists then also brought it to the territory of America.

Cedrat and the Jews

Cedar has a special role in Jewish culture during the holiday of Sukkot, or the Feast of Tabernacles. It is a seven-day holiday when Jews remember the dwelling of their ancestors in tents in the desert after their exodus from Egypt.

For this reason, during this holiday, many Jews move from their homes to temporary dwellings, tents, or suks, in which they live during this week. In addition, Sukkot is also a celebration of harvest and vintage.

In connection with Sukkot, the Etrog variety is used in particular, and the specific fruit must meet strict requirements, for example for size, skin without blemishes or a color that must be neither too yellow nor too green. Cedar, along with palm branches, myrtle and willow twigs, are waved by Jews in thanksgiving prayer.

Citron as an important part of the Jewish holiday of Sukkot.

Cultivation of cedar

Cedrates, like citrus, belong to the tuberous family. The plant resembles a shrub, but it is actually a tree that, depending on the variety and conditions, can grow up to 4 meters tall.

Cedar leaves are oval, dark green, smooth and leathery. When we crush the leaf, it releases a citrus scent. Strongly scented elongated flowers grow in groups on the branches.

Cedarwood flowers are white and have five purple colored petals on the outside. In addition to being beautiful to look at, they also smell nice. An interesting fact is that in some areas the cedar blossoms up to three times a year.

So you can see flowers together with unripe and ripe fruits on one tree. Depending on the variety, the fruits ripen after 8 to 16 months. Ripe fruits can last for several months on a lemon tree, just like lemon or orange trees.

Currently, cedar is grown both in Europe (Italy, Spain, Greece, France), and in Asia (India, Japan, China), as well as in the United States of America, especially in Florida and California.

A cedar plant grown in a pot.

How to grow your own cedar?

Similar to other citrus trees, cedar trees can be grown at home with a little skill, not in the garden, but in an apartment, house or glazed balcony, as cedar trees can only be grown in pots in our climate.

As with other citrus, citrons must be pruned and pruned regularly, otherwise they will not bear fruit. Place the plant in a sunny and warm place, preferably near a south or southwest window. Pay attention to the fact that it is not in a draft, and also to excessive watering.

It is best to use soft rainwater or boiled tap water for watering, which we let stand at room temperature. Citrons, like other citrus fruits, do not like cold water. In the winter months, it is possible to transfer the pots to a cooler room with a maximum of 15°C, but this is not necessary.

Due to the limited space conditions, it is necessary to regularly transplant cedars in a flowerpot into larger pots. And not only so that they have enough space, but also soil rich in nutrients.

It is recommended to buy the mixture directly on the citrus, together with the fertilizer. The best time for transplanting is autumn or early winter.

Milan & Ondra

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