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Greek citron


Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Subclass: Rosidae
Order: Sapindales
Family: Rutaceae
Genus: Citrus
Species: C. medica
Variety: C. m. var. etrog
Trinomial name
Citrus medica var. etrog
Engl. & Prantl 1931

The Greek Citron is a beautiful variety of citrus medica, called " variety etrog". Initially it was cultivated on the island of Corfu, but nowadays not one citron tree is found there. Even today, it could still be found in some Greek Islands i.e. Crete and Naxos where it is distilled into special aromatic liqueurs.[1]

 This citron variety is named etrog, about of its best selling for the Jewish ritual during the Feast of Tabernacles. [2] The variety is highly praised for its natural beauty, consistent of attracting ribs and fine warts on its outer surface;[3] a higher percentage of its specimens are proudly wearing a persistent style and stigma[4]. The last, does not only enhances its character, but does also add Halachic promotion. Due to those factors it is widely cultivated in Israel where it is the leading variety, and it is an important article in international trade. [5]

According to the local Jewry of Corfu, this variety dates back to the times of the Second Temple or earlier[6]. It got into use by the Ashkenazic community during the wars of Napoleon, when the Yanova Citron import was ceased due to the battles. [7]The use of a newly imported citron raised Halachic doubts and questionary, due to poor communication which lead to misunderstandings about grafting and hybridization.

Rabbi Ephraim Zalman Margolis in his responsa Bet Ephraim (volume 1;56) verified by that time, that no grafted trees are found on the grounds of Corfu Island. This certification as well as the lenient position of many other authorities eventually opened doors for the permission of the Esrog.

While the Greek market expanded, citrons were also imported from the shores of Greece itself, especially from the regions of Parga, Rapiza and some Ionian Islands. Several conflicts arose if those plantations are in the same state of kashrus each to another, and to the ones of the Corfu Island. [8]

Introduction to Israel

At the same time (about 1850) Sir Moses Montefiori was instrumental to establish Esrog plantations in Israel, in order to help the Jewish settlers to survive from hunger and pain. As the Balady of Palestine had minor chance for success being not so great in shape, colour etc., with almost no persistent style, the Sephardic settlers who were always positive about the Corfu, planted its seeds into coastal region of Israel, especially in region of Jaffa. The plantation was under supervision of the local Sephardic Rabbi Yehuda Halevi.

During days, the Arabic farmers imported cuttings from Greece which were budded onto lemon rootstock for longer life. Besides, the Corfu variety which they called Kubbad abu Nunia (-the citron with persistent style) suffered difficulties to acclimatize in the Palestinian land, and grafting started to be practiced in a large scale.

The Sephardic rabbis in head of Rabbi Aron Ezrial still permitted the ungrafted citrons in Jaffa upon inspection prior to pick each and every citron, just like it is practiced today in Calabria. The major Ashkenazic authorities in Jerusalem permitted only the Balady which was mainly grown around the towns of Safed, Sh'khem or the Arabic village Um el-Fahm. Also the plantations near Tiberias were accepted.[9]

During time the Balady was no more able to compete with the much nicer Greek Citron, and went off the market. Since the Greek was still too perishable to grow without grafting, the rabbi of Jaffa Abraham Kook promoted intraspecific grafting on Balady citron rootstock[10], which is permitted by Halacha.[11]

The act lead to the establishment of a beautiful variety in Isreal, yet kosher, and saved the economy of Isreal for decades.

According to the Hebrew writer "Osof Gur" who cited much of the above[12], the variety is distinct by crispiness and slight sweetness in the inner rind. The pulp is high Acid.

See also

  • History of the Jews in Greece
  • Citron
  • Etrog
  • The Balady of Palestine
  • Yanova Esrog


  1. ^ Agro Travel Greek Naxos
    • The Citron in Naxos
    • The Citron in Naxos by Greek Travel
    • Greece By David Willett
    • The Citron in Crete today
    • Composition of the Leaf and Peel Oils of Citrus medica L. 'Diamante' from Crete
    • The Citron in the Mediterranean: A Study in Religious Influences by Erich Isaac
    • Google Books Crete Citron
  2. ^ The Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture By Liberty Hyde Bailey
  3. ^ The Gardener's Monthly and Horticulturist
  4. ^ Jerusalem Post
  5. ^ The Purdue University
    • The Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture: Etrog
  6. ^ A letter by the Grand Rabbi of ראדזין, printed in the end of his work named סוד ישרים עה"ת
  7. ^ ליקוטי תשובות חתם סופר סימן כה
  8. ^ Cultural Geography - Google Book Search
    • Commentary - Google Book Search
    • ילקוט שו"ת פרי עץ הדר, לבוב תר"ו
    • שו"ת לב חיים למהר"ח פאלאגי ח"ב סימנים קכא-קכג
  9. ^ קונטרס פרי עץ הדר ירושלים תרל"חDownload
  10. ^ אגרות הראיה חלק א מכתב נבמכתב קיד. וראה גם מכתבים פה-פו, עמודים פט-צא
  11. ^ משפט כהן עמוד סא
  12. ^ תולדות האתרוג (פרי עץ הדר) בארץ ישראל בכל התקופות; אסף גור, הוצאת ש.ה.מ. תשכ"ו עמוד 45
  • Essay by Eliezer Segal
  • Innvista page about citrons
  • Origin of Cultivated Plants By Alphonse de Candolle
  • Article in Ohr Yisroel by Melech Shapiro
  • Biography of Rabbi Vacks
  • The pogrom in Corfu
  • Article from Rabbi Tzinner about Citron in Israel
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Greek_citron". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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