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Citrus medica

'Kivelevitz' citron
 Preparation of candied peel
 Citron in other languages
 The history of the name citron

 Musk citron
Balady Chazon Ish
Buddha's Hand  Fingered citron
Corsican  Citron of Commerce
Diamante  Yanover
Etrog  Greek citron

Yemen  Temoni

'Kivelevitz' citron
Jorma Koskinen


Balady (Chazon Ish) citron

'Etrog' citron

Citron, Citrus medica
Citron is the oldest known variety of citrus. Seeds of citron were found in excavations of the town of Nippur in the southern part of Babylon (present-day Iraq). These ruins date back to 4000 B.C. It is not known whether Mesopotamians cultivated citron at that time or imported the fruit from the east, but the seed-finds prove that citron was known to them at least 6000 years ago. The last part of the Latin name, Citrus medica, refers to the former state of Media, which existed around 700 - 500 B.C. in the area that later became the kingdom of Persia. The Medes were known to cultivate the citron and they presumably introduced the fruit to other nations in the Near East.

The army of Alexander the Great brought the citron to the Mediterranean region in 325 B.C.  It is unknown if the fruit first came to Greece and then spread with Jewish settlers to Palestine. Other theories say parts of the large army passed through the Near East and brought citron to Palestine directly.  We know that by 200 B.C. citron was firmly established in the region and had also started to spread westwards to southern Italy. Murals discovered in Pompeii tell us that by the year 79 A.D. citron had spread to the Naples area. Documents indicate that citron was a staple, commercial food item in Rome in the year 301 A.D. During the fourth century A.D. cultivation of citrus had successfully been introduced to Sardinia, Sicily and continental Italy south of Naples. These areas and the islands of the Ionian sea that at the time were under Venetian rule, Corfu most notably among them, supplied citron to the Jews of not only the western Mediterranean area but also further north to the Jews of France and Germany for their annual Feast of the Tabernacles (Sukkoth) ceremony. See Etrog further down.

The tree is highly susceptible to both frost and extreme heat and drought. It thrives in the temperate regions of the Mediterranean. The most important areas of cultivation are Sicily, Corsica, Crete and a few smaller coastal islands of Italy, France and Greece. Citron products, jams, juices, soft drinks and candied peel are made mostly in France, England and the United States.

Citrons are basically divided into three different groups. 1. The acid citron types, which have flowers and buds that are purplish; 2. The sweet citrons and 3. The pulpless, so-called dry citrons, both of which have yellowish white flowers. For the candied peel (see below) the acid and the pulpless citrons are best. Some of the most commonly cultivated citrons have sweet pulp that typically is also nearly acidless. The juice and pulp is used for sweets, beverages, desserts and marmalade. The white part of the peel of some citron varieties is juicy, soft and sweet and unlike most other citrus fruit is edible when prepared. The whole fruit of the fingered citron (Buddha's hand) can be steamed and then candied to be served as dessert. Dried whole fruit have been used as insect repellents in stored clothing.

The fragrance of the fresh citron peel has been prized for centuries. Whole fresh fruit have been used in temples as offerings in religious rituals and the fruit can be used to perfume the air of a room. Citron yields several important essential oils. The steam-distilled oil from the flowers is used in perfumery. The antiseptic essential oil cold-pressed from the fresh rind has limited use in perfumery and aromatherapy but is widely used as an ingredient in shampoos and hair conditioners. A "Cédrat petitgrain" oil is distilled from the leaves and twigs of citron trees in the islands of the South Pacific for the French perfume industry.
Cedruna' citron

Citrus medica 'Etrog'

Preparation of candied peel, succade.

The thick peel of citron is candied and used as a spice in cakes and other bakery products. It is sold in China as a stomachic, stimulant, expectorant and tonic. The candied peel is also called succade (picture on the right). There are varieties of citron (see Fingered citron and Yemen below), which completely lack fruit pulp and consist only of the white part also called albedo. In the preparation of candied peel the fruits are halved, depulped and first immersed in salt water (originally sea water) for 5-6 weeks. The salt water is changed every two weeks. During this period a natural fermentation occurs. After that the peel is de-salted in fresh water, which is changed daily for a few days. The peel is then boiled to soften it and to remove the remaining salt. It is then slowly candied in a strong sucrose-glucose solution, which can be coloured by food additives to produce various shades. Finally the peel is dried and ready for use.

Candied mixed peel © ElinorD

Classification of citron
'Diamante' citron
Citus medica is one of the four ancestral taxa (Citrus reticulata Blanco, mandarins; C. maxima (Burm.) Merr., pummelos; C. medica L., citrons; C. micrantha Wester, papedas) which are the ancestors of all cultivated Citrus.
Because of its importance in the genealogy of the Citrus family several other citrus fruit were earlier classified as variants of the citron. Many of these have now acquired the status of an independent species. Lemon, Citrus limon, used to be Citrus medica var. limonum. Lime, Citrus aurantiifolia, used to be Citrus medica var. acida. The Sweet lemon, Citrus limetta, used to be Citrus medica var. limetta. Since some of these earlier names can still be found in books this can cause confusion.

Citron in other languages
Further confusion is easily created by the variety of names used in other languages. In French the citron is cédrat, and the lemon is citron. In German it is Zedrat-Zitrone or Zitronat-Zitrone. In Italian it is cedro or cedrato, in Spanish cidro or poncil. Because of the Jewish affinity to the fruit the citron is sometimes referred to as the Jewish lemon. It is called citronnier des juifs in French and the Jewish apple, Judenapfel in German.
Lefkowitz Chazon Ish citron

The history of the name citron

'Braverman' citron

Balady citron, Citrus medica 'Balady'
The history of the names citron and cédrat is well-known. Although there may be religious disagreement about the history and use of the word citron, from a purely linguistic point of view the etymology of the word citron is quite simple. Moses laid down the rules of the use of the cones of cedar tree (hadar, which in Greek was kedros). When cedar later fell into disfavour it was replaced by the somewhat similarly shaped fruit of a local variety of citron, which the Greek called kedromelon, the apple of cedar. The Greek kedros became cedrus in Latin and this is the form of the word that much later became the cédrat of French, the Zedrat of German and by a different route the citron of English. However, the Greek apple of cedar, kedromelon became the malum citreum of the Romans. In the course of time malum (the apple) was dropped and only citreum remained. The basic form of the Latin word citreum is citrus, the citron.

Of all the trees in the orange family the Swedish botanist Carolus Linnaeus (Carl von Linné, after his ennoblement in 1761) was best acquainted with the citron. When he established the binomial system of taxonomy he chose Citrus, the Latin name of citron, as the genus name for the trees in the orange subfamily we thereafter have known as citrus trees.

There is food for thought in that all these names from the biblical hadar to kedros, cedrus, cédrat, citron and the word citrus itself have originally meant the cedar tree. In the near east it was the Cedar of Lebanon (Cedrus libani) and in the western parts of the Mediterranean the Atlas cedar (Cedrus atlantica), named after the Atlas Mountains of Algeria and Morocco. Thus the modern Latin name of an Indian sour orange type Citrus indica would actually in Roman times have denoted the cones of a cedar variety grown in the Himalayas.

LAT Citrus medica  L. Citrons, Citrus medica

Citrons, Citrus medica

Buddha's Hand citron, Citrus medica var. sarcodactylis

Yemenite citron, Citrus medica 'Yemen'
Syn Citrus medica var. cedrata  Risso
Citrus aurantium var. medica  Wight & Arnott
Citrus crassa  Hassk.

Citrus medica var. medica
The top picture shows a variety of citron cultivars, some of which are described further down. The thick peel that is candied is clearly visible. The candying method is described above.

In the second picture there are six different kinds of citron. The size and shape of the fruit varies greatly between varieties.

The clustered flowers of the acidic varieties have a purplish outer tint, but the sweet ones are yellowish-white.

The acidic varieties include the Italian and Diamante citron from Italy, the Etrog (Greek citron) and the Balady citron from Palestine. The sweet varieties include the Corsican and Moroccan citrons. The pulpless citrons include some Fingered varieties and the Yemen Citron.

The citron tree is very vigorous with almost no dormancy. It blooms several times a year, therefore it is fragile and extremely sensitive to adverse weather.

ENG Citron
FRA Cédrat, Citronnier des juifs
GER Zedrate, Zedrat-Zitrone, Zitronat-Zitrone, Judenapfel
I TA Cedro, Cedrato
ESP Cidra, Cidro, Cidrero, Poncil
FIN Sukaattisitruuna 
SWE Suckatcitron, Sötcitron, Cedratträd (tree)
Photos   (1,2) ©  Petr Broža
(3) © C. Jacquemond / INRA
© UCR Citrus Variety Collection

LAT Citrus medica 'Bajoura' Citrus medica 'Bajoura'
Citrus medica ssp. bajoura  
Bonavia ex Engl.
Citrus bajoura
is a small citron with thin peel and very acid juice.
It has been suggested that Bajoura might be a cross of citron and lemon. The flowers exude a faint musk-like aroma and Bajoura is also known as Musk citron.

ENG Musk citron
FRA Citron bajoura
GER Moschus-Zitrone
ESP Acitrón, Biznaga mexicana
Photo   ©  Petr Broža

LAT Citrus medica ’Balady’ Lefkowitz citron, Citrus medica 'Lefkowitz'
Balady (Chazon Ish) citron
 Chazon Ish

Halperin Chazon Ish citron
'Halperin Chazon Ish' citron
Halperin Chazon Ish
Citrus medica 
'Chazon Ish'


Balady Citron is a variety of Israeli citron, or etrog, grown in Palestine for Jewish ritual purposes. Its characteristics much resemble those of the Etrog (Greek citron) variety described further down.

Balady is Arabic for "native". Local Arab farmers began using this name in the mid-19th century to distinguish this variety from the Greek citron, which was cultivated along the Jaffa seashore.

The Balady was grown on the outskirts of Nablus and neighbouring Nazareth, near Safed and Alma al-Shaib, in Umm al-Fahm, in an orchard near Tiberias, and in Lifta village near Jerusalem.

Rabbi Chaim Elazar Vacks (b. 1822) believed that this variety of etrog has the strongest tradition-lineage of species purity, being found in the wilderness of Israel when the first settlers, including Nahmanides (1194 – c.1270), arrived there. While the variety is not domesticated, it is not grafted and does not require intensive cultivation techniques. Subsequently it was always used by famous scholars and pious persons, who were certainly convinced of its purity and suitability for religious rituals. For other eligible citron varieties see Etrog.

The Balady or Chazon Ish citron has two main cultivars: the Halperin Chazon Ish, the Lefkowitz Chazon Ish.

The Chazon Ish (Rabbi Avrohom Yeshaya Karelitz, 1878-1953, popularly known for his important book Chazon Ish) once saw a certain citron tree and pronounced "This is an Esrog". The seeds from that Esrog were planted by Rabbi Michel Yehuda Lefkowitz and have given rise to the Lefkowitz type.

The Chazon Ish saw another Esrog and told its owner Yakov Halperin to plant its seeds. This gave rise to the Halperin strain. The importance of the difference between the two strains for the Chazon Ish has remained unclear.
Wikipedia has a detailed article on the Balady citron. It describes its history and competition with the Greek Citron (the 'Etrog' variety) in religious rituals.

ENG Balady citron, Chazon Ish citron
Photo   (1) © Shoteh
(2) © Jorma Koskinen
(3) © CitricAsset
(4) © Gene Lester 

LAT Citrus medica ’Brain’ Citrus medica 'Brain'
Brain is a thick-peeled variety of citron. The very lumpy surface
structure has earned it the name 'Brain'.
ENG ‘Brain’ citron
FRA Cédrat  'Brain'
GER Gehirnförmige Zedratzitrone
Photo   ©  Petr Broža

LAT Citrus medica ’Braverman’ & 'Kivelevitz' 'Braverman' citron

'Kivelevitz' citron
'Kivelevitz' citron

Rabbi Yehoshua Yehudah Leib Diskin, (1818–1898), also known as the Maharil Diskin, was reported to be the first witness of a citron tree in the village of Petach Tikva. 

He pronounced the tree an esrog and told the owners of the tree to cultivate it and plant new trees from its seeds. The Braverman family propagated the tree and started the Braverman cultivar. 

The fruit is cone-shaped and resembles the Balady variety. The surface is often rough and deeply corrugated. Kivilevitz is a substrain selected from the Braverman citron.
Both the Braverman and the Kivelevitz are acceptable varieties to be used as esrog during Sukkot. For other varieties see Etrog.

ENG Braverman and Kivelewitz citrons
Photo    © Jorma Koskinen

LAT Citrus medica 'Fingered' ('Buddha's Hand') The Fingered citron
The Fingered citron

Cut fruit with no pulp
Cut fingered citron with no pulp

The Fingered citron
Buddha's hand
(a corrugated citron)

Variegated Buddha's Hand
Variegated Buddha's hand
Citrus medica var. sarcodactylis (Hoola van Nooten) Swingle
Citrus medica var. digitata (Lour.) Risso

The Buddha's Hand citron (the bushukan of Japan), also known as the Fingered citron
, is a fragrant, strongly aromatic variety that has long been used as an offering in temples. In earlier times it was much used as an insect repellent and an air-freshener. It is cultivated in Japan and China where at least a dozen named cultivars exist. The fruit is split into five or more finger-like segments.

In outward appearance there are two main strains of the Fingered citron: one where the whole fruit is fingered (two top pictures) and another where only part of fruit is fingered or the whole fruit is only corrugated without separate fingers (two bottom pictures). 

The fruit often has no pulp but consists entirely of the edible fleshy peel that can be steamed and candied fresh (second picture). It is also prepared as candied peel by the traditional method

The fruit in the bottom picture is of a variegated Buddha's Hand with bi-coloured leaves.

Wikipedia has a good article on the Fingered citron.

ENG Buddha's Hand, Fingered citron
FRA Cédrat main de Bouddha
GER Gefingerte Zitronat-Zitrone
I TA Cedro a mano di Budda
SWE  Fingercitron
DAN Buddhafinger
Photos     (1,3) © Jorma Koskinen
(2) © Joe Real
(4) ©  Laaz


 LAT Citrus medica ’Cedruna’ Citrus medica 'Cedruna'
'Cedruna' citron
'Cedruna' citron

This very old variety is thought to have originated in India, whence it spread to Persia and circa 300 B.C. to the Near East. It arrived in Europe via Sicily and Sardinia after 200 B.C. It used to be widely grown in Calabria and Campania and to a certain extent on the islands of the Dalmatian coast and Ionian Sea. Recently its growing area has diminished.
The leaves have a hardly noticeable wingless petiole. Young shoots and buds sometimes have a deep reddish colour. Cedruna belongs to the sour group of citrons. The fruit are large and often obovoid in shape and have a strong dark yellow colour when fully ripe. Cedruna is very susceptible to cold and sometimes sheds its leaves in the winter, but produces new leaves again in the spring.

 ENG Cedruna citron
 FRA Cédrat Cedruna
Photos   ©  Petr Broža

LAT Citrus medica ‘Corsican’ Corsican citron, Citrus medica 'Corsican'

Corsican citron, Citrus medica 'Corsican'

Citron jam
Citrus medica
'Citron of Commerce'
Citrus medica
var. dulcis  Risso & Poit.  
The 'Corsican' is a sweet variety of citron. Some say that grown in optimal conditions 'Corsican' is the sweetest citrus of all. A famous early French citrus classification by Risso & Poiteau named it Citrus medica var. dulcis, sweet citron. This variety was introduced to the United States in 1891 and is grown today in California.

The fruit is large, ellipsoid or ovate; the peel is rough, lumpy, very thick and fleshy. The pulp is crisp but not very juicy.

The 'Corsican' is the principal variety on the French island of Corsica, where it is used to make jams, marmalades and sweets. The juice is used for citrus fruit concentrates and soft drinks. Cédrat petitgrain oil distilled from the leaves and twigs of citron trees is used by the French perfume industry.

Corsican citron is used for marmalade. The bottom picture shows a label on a Corsican marmalade jar.

The variety is also called
Citron of Commerce.

ENG Corsican citron, Citron of Commerce
FRA Cédrat de Corse
GER Korsische Zedrat-Zitrone
Photos   © UCR Citrus Variety Collection
(3)  © Home Citrus Growers


LAT Citrus medica ’Diamante’ 'Diamante' citron

'Diamante' citron

'Diamante' citron
Citrus medica 'Cedro Liscio'
Citrus medica 'Yanover'

'Diamante' fruit is ellipsoid and unlike most citrons the peel is smooth or only faintly ribbed. It has a very thick rind and firm, fleshy albedo. Flesh is crisp; lacking in juice, but acid, like lemon.

The fruit has a broad nipple at the apex. Commercially grown in Italy's Calabria region, the Diamante citron is easily recognised by its 'square shoulders'.

Tree is small, open and spreading, medium-thorny with some large, stout spines; buds, flowers, and new growth purple-tinted.

Presumably of local though unknown origin, Diamante is the principal variety of Italy and is considered to be the best. It was introduced into the United States in 1898.  Italian and Sicilian are California introductions that are similar to Diamante.

Diamante is one of the citrons appropriate for Jewish religious rituals. When used as etrog the variety is called by its Hebrew name Yanover. The name derives from the town of Genoa, which used to be the main export harbour for Italian citrons. For other suitable varieties see Etrog.

Wikipedia has a good article on the Diamante citron.

ENG Diamante citron.
GER Glatte Zedrat-Zitrone
I TA Cedro liscio
Photo   © Jorma Koskinen

LAT Citrus medica 'Etrog' 

Citrus medica var. 'Etrog'

'Etrog' citron

'Etrog' citron, Citrus medica 'Etrog'
Citrus medica
var. ethrog Engl.
Citrus medica 'Greek'
Citrus medica 'Corfu'
Citrus limonimedica  Lush.


The variety name Etrog is a misunderstanding. Etrog (Ethrog, and the Esrog of Ashkenazi Jews) is the Hebrew name for citron. Since this Greek variety was one of the main varieties grown in Israel it eventually became known as the variety 'Etrog'.

The origin of the Etrog variety is unknown (see History) and sometimes it is thought that this variety may be close to one of the original citrus fruits out of which all other citrus types have hybridised. See Introduction, The genus Citrus.

The variety was initially known to be cultivated on the Ionian Islands, of which Corfu is the most prominent, which is why the Hebrews sometimes call it Corfu etrog. Nowadays not a single citron tree is found on that island, but it is still cultivated on some other Greek Islands e.g. Crete and Naxos. The citron is no longer exported from Greece for the ritual purpose. Cretan citron growers sell it for the candied peel, which is called succade, and in Naxos it is also distilled into a special aromatic liqueur called kitron.

In the Feast of Tabernacles (sukkot) the first fruit of the new harvest are brought to the temple in a bunch (Lulav) of four plants, one of which is the etrog, a citron. For this Jewish religious ritual certain other types of citron can be used as well. The tree has to grow on its own roots and not be grafted. The colour, shape and unblemished rind of the fruit have to accord with strict rules. Furthermore the citrons have to be grown under the supervision of an appointed rabbi. The other varieties accepted as a ritual etrog are 'Yanover' (Diamante), 'Balady', 'Moroccan' (the Assads cultivar) and 'Yemen' and such Israeli selections as Braverman and Kivelevitz.

The Etrog variety is also called 'Greek' or 'Corfu' citron.Wikipedia has an interesting article on the Etrog variety under the name Greek Citron.

ENG Etrog citron, Greek citron, Corfu citron
FRA Cédrat Etrog
GER Hebräische Zedrat-Zitrone
Photos   (1) © CCPP
(2) © Joe Real
(3) ©  Trade Winds Fruit

LAT Citrus medica ’Italian’ Italian citron, Citrus medica 'Italian'

Fruit of the Italian variety is very similar to Diamante above, but the rind is less thick, being about 1/3 of fruit cross sectional radius whereas Diamante rind comprises about 1/2 of the fruit radius.

The tree bears a heavy crop of relatively large fruits, which are markedly elongated; some have a tapered apex. The juice and rind have a pleasant flavour.

ENG Italian citron
Photo   © UCR Citrus Variety Collection

LAT Citrus medica ’Mexican’ Mexican citron, Citrus medican 'Mexican'
Mexican citron, Citrus medican 'Mexican'


Mexican is a small to medium sized lemon-shaped citron. Rind moderately rough and ridged, very thick with a bitter taste. Pulp white, acidless and not juicy. Flesh sweet but bland, seeds numerous.

ENG Mexican citron
Photo   © UCR Citrus Variety Collection

LAT Citrus medica ’Moroccan’ Moroccan citron, Citrus medica 'Moroccan'
Moroccan citron, Citrus medica 'Moroccan'


The Moroccan sweet citron was first described in detail by Professor Henri Chapot in his article Un curieux cédrat marocain, which he published in 1950. 
He found that the acidity in the more common citrons and lemons is linked to violet pigmentation on the outer side of the flower and the reddish-purplish colour of the buds.
The Moroccan citron, which is acidless and sometimes used as a replacement for the Corsican completely lacks red colour. Chapot found two cultivars: Assads and  M'Guergueb.
The Assads cultivar of the Moroccan citron is one of the varieties that are suitable for use as etrog in Jewish religious rituals. The lower picture is of a Moroccan etrog hanging to adorn a Sukkah
There was originally some doubt about the non-hybridised purity of the Moroccan, because certain strains did not have seeds. When the Assads cultivar was found to have an almost ideal fruit shape and seeds as well it was accepted as pure citron.
Wikipedia has a good article on the Moroccan citron.

ENG Moroccan citron
Cédrat marocain
Photo   © Satmarer
© Yankelowitz

LAT Citrus medica ’Odorata’ Odorata citron, Citrus medica 'Odorata'


Odorata fruit size varies but some fruits are huge, larger than many pomelos. Shape is slightly oblong to elongate, or typically pear-shaped. Some fruits have a small nipple.
Skin is fairly smooth or slightly bumpy, lemon yellow at maturity. 
Rind is thick and sweet. Flesh is moderatly seedy, white, dry and coarse. It has very little sugar, acid or flavour. The fruit is oddly non-aromatic for a variety called Odorata.

ENG Odorata citron
Photo   © UCR Citrus Variety Collection

LAT Citrus medica ’Sicilian’ Sicilian citron, Citrus medica 'Sicilian'
Sicilian citron, Citrus medica 'Sicilian'


is a medium to large elongate citron with a blunt nose. Skin is smooth but bumpy, furrowed and yellow. 
The rind is medium thick. The flesh has a small central core. It is very seedy, sour but fairly juicy, with a nice, tart citron flavour. Otherwise it appears to be very similar to Diamante.

ENG Sicilian citron
Photo   © UCR Citrus Variety Collection

LAT Citrus medica ’Yemen’ 'Yemen' citron
'Yemen' citron
Citrus medica 'Temoni'

The fruit of Yemen is sweet and has a pleasant flavour. Medium size on average, size varies from small to large. The shape of the fruit is irregular, most fruits are elongate, many with pointy nose. The fruit matures late. Rind is yellow, rough, very thick, fluted, especially at apex.
Yemen citron has no juice vesicles. Strips of rind albedo connect around seeds to solid central core. Albedo flavour is sweet but very mild. This could be described as a "dry" citron.

Yemen is one of the citrons appropriate for Jewish religious rituals. For other suitable varieties see Etrog.

Also called Yemenite and Temoni citron.

Wikipedia has an article on the religious aspects of the Yemenite citron.
ENG Yemen citron, Temoni citron
Photos   © Jorma Koskinen

LAT Citrus medica ’Yunnan’ Yunnan citron, Citrus medica 'Yunnan'

Syn Citrus medica 'Yunnanese'

Yunnan is a new variety from China. Mostly small to medium in size, but some older fruit are large. Yunnan appears to be a typical citron-type fruit: pear-shaped to elongate with a blunt nose and medium yellow rind, which is smooth on small fruits but bumpy and furrowed on large fruits. 

The rind is medium thick. The flesh is light yellow, sour, seedless, juicy and very fragrant. Tree is of medium size, a lot of red in young foliage.

Also called Yunnanese citron.

ENG Yunnan citron
Photo   © UCR Citrus Variety Collection