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Citron, what is it?

In Dairy Fresh Candies (Boston) the other day buying extracts and saw what I thought was a candied half of a honeydew melon. Nope, it was a citron.

Is citron a fruit and can you eat it not-candied or Would you want to?

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  1. Citron is definitely a specific fruit. I've never seen it for sale fresh, but I'm sure it's available somewhere.

    1. Citron refers both to the citrus fruit of the same name (cedro, Italian; cedrat, French)and, more commonly, its candied peel used in baking. It's a major crop around the Mediterranean and looks like a larger, tougher-skinned lemon. http://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/mo...). I've seen a "five-fingered" variety (hand shaped) for sale fresh.

      1. This is a topic near and dear to my heart, as it is also my last name...

        Citron is a very old (citrus medica--the oldest in Europe) and very bitter citrus fruit. The trees are also among the least productive of the citrus family. The only time I've ever seen the actual fruit in the US, is right around Sukkot in the fall, as it is part of the Jewish tradition for this holiday. In Hebrew it is called etrog. My father always brought one home since it was our namesake and the only thing mom could find to do with it was candy the peel. She always said it was a good metaphor for that side of my family: pretty on the outside, smells nice, but surprisingly bitter on the inside (Hmm, I wonder why their marriage didn't last?!).

        Here's a picture (of the fruit, that is):


        1. I too saw this in Dairy Fresh this past Monday---across from the candy counter, right? I can't imagine what one would do with that much citron? It was candied and to me looked like a kiwi-colored melon half. Fruitcakes, I would imagine--lots of them.

          Butterfly, loved your post ;)

          1. The other variety not pictured is called "Buddhas Hand". It is very fragrant and a good specimen will have long, thick fingers. You can shave it thinly on a mandoline and add it to salads or cut it down and blanch and candy it. It is lovely chopped up once candied and sprinkled over sorbet, folded into cookies, scones or cakes, and as a garnish over just about anything of a sweet nature. It's flavor and aroma is very special, similiar to citrus but much more special.
            We are lucky enough to get them fresh here in the SF Bay area, and right now you can beautiful citron for the holidays.
            They cause quite a stir at the Farmers market, everyone wants to know what it is, and what do you do with it!

            3 Replies
            1. re: rabaja

              I love the smell of these, the Berkeley Bowl has them occasionally and I've tried to figure out how to use it in a way that would capture the scent.

              Any suggestions?

                1. re: butterfly

                  I've heard this works very well, you simply pour some good quality vodka over the cut citron and let it sit for a while. I have a friend who mentions how good this is every time she sees a citron.

            2. They can be used of course, but I don't believe Buddha's Hands are used as food in their native countries...

              Never heard of any variety of citron - of which there are a number - being eaten as "fruit". In European cultures they're almost invariably heavily sweetened or candied; elsewhere used the same way (Koreans make a sort of jam base used for tea) or for the fragrant rind and/or acidic juice.

              1. Do you have an idea of where to find old-fashioned candied citron halves??
                Trying to find it all around the web, but not results, need something with perfume quality and flavor...

                1 Reply
                1. re: george90

                  You can find it at International Foods in New York, Ninth Avenue at about 40th St, across from the Port Authority Bus Terminal. As of May 2011.

                2. It's the main ingredient in fruitcakes, also you'll find some bits in ricotta pies and other Italian desserts.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: cstr

                    Actally citron cover's TWO different plants fruits. The fist is indeed Citrus medica, of which there are three major commecial types, the buddah's hand mentioned, a long somewhat pointed type found a great deal in italy and the more or less lemon shaped one shown in the picture of which the most common type is the etrog (that fruit that, if you are Jewish, you use during Sukkot)
                    The second type is what is known as a citron melon, or preserving melon. This is actually in the Citrullus genus, In fact most varities are conspecific with Citrulls lanatus (the watermlon) (I say most becuse the preserving melon sort of straddles the line, genetically, between the Watemelon and the realted squash melon (Citrullis vulgaris) there are varities of the latter that are also considered preserving meons) These melons tend to look like very tiny watermelons when fresh and thier flesh is hard and rather tasteless in its raw state. when candied however it can give the approximate texture of the first sort and was widely used as a substite for it, in areas where real citron peel was hard or expensive to get.

                  2. I first saw them on Kauai last year at the Chi Qong centre. In Chinese medicine they are used for many things - including lowering blood sugars. I bought several and dehydrated them by slicing finely in order to bring them back to Canada. I pour boiling water over slivers to make a very flavourful tea and after doing this several times, I eat the fruit. Also used for salads and fish recipes. The scent is great if you get a fresh one. Diane T.