Friday, January 25, 2008

Citron?



In addition to our Meyers lemon, peach, persimmon, and loquat trees, there's a sort of blobby, not-exactly-a-lemon tree at the far end of our back garden. The fruit are large and round and yellow, but when you cut them open, there is hardly any flesh - it's almost all bitter spongy white stuff. I wondered if it was a lemon with a terrible juicy-flesh-destroying disease, but Steve was convinced it was a grapefruit (still with a terrible disease) because of the large size and roundness of the fruit. As he pointed out, "Have you ever seen a lemon that big?" Well . . . uh . . . in fact, no. But maybe the flesh-eating disease makes the poor fruit distended and large? But the tree looks perfectly healthy . . .

Trying to figure out all of the trees in our garden (our backyard has no less than nine trees in it) has been a fun ongoing research project for Steve and I - we're down to the last couple mystery-trees now. So last night we explained our various theories to our housemate Rebecca, and she wanted to see the mystery-citrus for herself.

So Steve obligingly tried to climb our loquat tree to get high enough to grab a weird citrus fruit but the branches kept bending perilously and breaking off - eventually he was able to take a running start, bounce of the main trunk of the loquat, and hurl himself bodily at the weird-lemon tree. He came down with a crash, flailing his arms and legs wildly, but triumphantly holding the fruit in the air (like that one time when Harry Potter barely catches the golden snitch at the last second and then crashes - you know the scene). Why, oh why, don't I have a video camera for moments like this?

After cutting it open to show Rebecca just how bizarre this fruit is, she commented that it didn't really smell like either a lemon or a grapefruit - it's more like a lemon than a grapefruit, but not very lemony, exactly. Rebecca cooks more than Steve and I combined, so I take her opinions on lemony-ness very seriously. So I got this idea that maybe it was a completely different species - or else, our tree is diseased and we should do something about it before the awful illness spreads to our delicious Meyer lemons. It was time to really start researching.

After some very serious Google searching (try searching with the key words "weird citrus fruit all white" some time, and you'll see what a challenge this is), I think I've figured it out. I think it's some kind of Asian "citron." If I'm reading this correctly, citron is actually a wilder ancestor of the lemon, and it's mentioned in the bible as "the goodly tree," and used by the Jews during Sukkot (the Feast of the Tabernacle).

However, based on looks, ours is most likely an Asian, as opposed to a Middle-Eastern, variety. Check out this website. This would make sense since we know from neighbors that it was an old Chinese man who planted and lovingly maintained all of the beautiful fruit trees in our backyard (before eventually moving in with one of his sons and selling the house to the folks who sold it to us). Apparently, the white part of the fruit is used in Chinese medicine.

So let us know if you suffer from "distending pain in the chest and hypochodria, fullness and stuffiness [sic] sensation in the epigastrium, vomiting and belching," or my favorite, "cough with copicus [sic] expectoration." Because we may have the cure right in our backyard! I can't help but wonder, with concern, whether the old Chinese man who used to live in our house suffered from stagnation of qi in his liver. Enjoying his trees everyday, I feel that he is a friend.

Stay tuned for theories on the identity of the odd willow-like tree with the cherry-sized berries that smell like apples. Crouton loves to eat them, but . . . ahem . . . trust me, this one is definitely not a cure for vomiting.

3 comments:

  1. I'm clearly going to have to candy some citron this season. Fruit cake, anyone?

    Good discussion and photos over here. (I refuse to feel culinarily ignorant if our reaction is the same as Tuscan villa-owners...)

    Another treat were these thick slices of candied citron dipped in pure dark chocolate. Hardly anyone knows what citrons are anymore and they're rarely found (the ones below that I saw in Italy at a villa and the owners insisted that they were "strange lemons, but with no pulp!"...)

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  2. Let's just hope that our old Chinese man really loves candied chocolate citrons, and his qi circulates like a twenty-year old's.

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  3. You can shake it in four different directions, to represent the four corners of the world, come sukkot. which won't be till next fall.

    citrons always have a funny hump/lump on the end. i like it.

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