Rutaceae (Citrus family)
Description. Small evergreen tree reaching 3-7 m (10-23 ft) in height. Branches bear sharp, stiff thorns. Alternate, dark green, elliptic leaves with finely toothed margins. Crushed leaves produce an intense lemonlike scent. Purplish-white flowers are produced singly or in small clusters in axils of leaves. Round to oval fruits with a nipplelike apex and thick, bright yellow rind. The juicy, very acidic pulp is divided into 8-10 segments with or without seeds depending on variety.
Origin and Distribution. Its exact origin is unknown, but it is widely believed that the lemon is native to northeastern India and probably also to Myanmar and southern China. Arabs distributed the fruit in the Mediterranean region, where the trees were first used as ornamentals in Islamic gardens. Columbus reportedly brought lemon seeds to the Americas, where they were first planted in Hispaniola in 1493. In the eighteenth century, lemons were employed to treat scurvy in British sailors.
This fruit tree is cultivated throughout the subtropics and mountainous areas of the tropics.
Food uses. Lemon slices are used to garnish salads and seafood dishes, and the juice adds zest to countless other dishes around the world. Lemon juice is an important ingredient in marinades, ice cream, sherbets, bakery goods, soft drinks, desserts, and candy. The aromatic rind is used as garnish and flavoring for cakes, puddings, liqueurs, and rice dishes. The peel is sometimes candied or made into marmalades. Pickled lemons are a common feature in Moroccan meat dishes.
Comments. Lemons are employed in a variety of nonculinary uses like aromatherapy and as a cleaner and deodorizer in household uses. In 2007, India and Mexico, followed by Argentina, were the leading world producers of lemons. Some of the commercially important varieties are ‘Eureka, ‘Lisbon, and ‘Ponderosa. Ripe fruits contain 50-60 mg (0.00170.002 oz) vitamin C per 100 g (0.22 lbs) fruit.
Description. Small evergreen citrus tree with sharp, axillary spines, 5-7 m (16-23 ft) tall. Leaves alternate, aromatic, ovate or elliptic, 5-7 cm (2-2.75 in) long and with small, rounded teeth. Flowers white, often purple-tinged, slightly fragrant, borne singly or in small clusters. Fruits round to obovate with irregular surface. Ripe fruits turn from green to deep orange. Peel dotted with oil glands. Orange pulp very juicy with an exceedingly sour, mandarin-like aroma.
Origin and Distribution. The Mandarin lime, unknown in the wild, is thought to be a hybrid between Mandarin orange (C. reticulata, p. 74) and lemon (C. limon, p. 69) that probably originated in northern India. It is grown as a dooryard fruit tree in many tropical countries, but it is in general less popular than the Mexican lime (C. aurantiifolia, p. 64). It is more tolerant of cold than the Mexican lime, however, and can be grown in some subtropical regions such as those found in California.
Food uses. The juice of Mandarin limes is used very much like lime juice to prepare “lemonades” and to flavor cold drinks. It is a common ingredient in marinades for salads and various meat and fish dishes. The fruit is prized and considered superior to the sour orange for making marmalade. In Central America, the sour juice of the Mandarin lime is employed in ceviche, a dish consisting of diced fish filets marinated in lime juice for several hours with onion, bell pepper, salt, and cilantro. Mandarin limes and salt are used to season green, unripe mango slices, which are sold as snacks by street vendors in Latin America.
Comments. Although not as well known as the Mexican lime, the Mandarin lime deserves attention for its exquisite aroma. Two very similar varieties of the Mandarin lime exist: the Kusiae lime, which produces yellow, oval to round fruits with a very limelike aroma, and the Otaheite Rangpur, a nonacid form of unknown origin.
Description. Evergreen tree with long, stiff spines on branches and trunk, 6-14 m (20-46 ft) tall. Alternate, leathery leaves ovate to elliptic, 8-20 cm (3-8 in) long with broadly winged petiole. Fragrant white flowers are borne singly or in small clusters in axils of leaves. Fruits globose, oblate, or pyriform, 10-30 cm (4-12 in) in diameter with a thick, fragrant, yellow to greenish-yellow rind. Juicy, subacid to sweet, pale yellow to pink pulp divided into 1018 segments. Fruits contain from few to several whitish seeds.
Origin and Distribution. Native to Southeast Asia. The pomelo was first referred to in Chinese literature around 2200 BC. By the end of the seventeenth century, trees were already being cultivated in Barbados and Jamaica. Today the pomelo is grown throughout the tropics and warm subtropical regions.
Food uses. Ripe fruits, which taste like a sweet grapefruit without the bitterness, are eaten fresh. Pieces of segments can be added to fruit salads or desserts. In the Philippines, pieces of fruit are dipped in salt before being eaten. In Assam, India, fruit segments are eaten with salt and hot chili peppers. The fruit produces a delicious juice. The peel is sometimes used to make marmalade or is candied or dipped in chocolate. It is also used in Chinese cooking, especially in a
Cantonese sweet soup called tong sui. Oils derived from the peel are used industrially as a bitter aroma for sweets, ice cream, and bakery goods. The seeds provide an edible oil of high quality for human consumption.
Comments. The pomelo is the largest of all citrus fruits, reaching a weight of 1-2 kg (2.2-4.4 lbs). In parts of Malaysia, these large fruits are used as decorations on altars. In various parts of Asia, the fruit plays an important part in religious ceremonies and rituals. Pomelos are a good source of vitamin C and fiber.
The citron rind (left) is smooth or rough, while the rind of the variety fingered citron (right) shows ridges.
Description. Evergreen shrub or small tree 3-5 m (10-16 ft) tall, with long, stiff spines in axils of leaves. Alternate leaves ovate to elliptic, 10-16 cm (4-6 in) long with short, almost wingless petioles. Fragrant white or whitish-purple flowers are borne in small clusters. Yellow fruits highly variable in form and size, usually ovoid, 10-24 cm (4-9 in) long. Aromatic rind smooth or rough. Segmented pulp rather dry, pale yellow, fairly sweet. Contains numerous white seeds. One well-known variety, called the fingered citron or Buddha’s hand, often produces split fruits with fingerlike protrusions.
Origin and Distribution. The exact origin of this plant is unknown. Probably native to Iraq, Iran, or possibly India. Seeds were found in excavations in Mesopotamia (today’s Iraq) dating back to 4000 BC. Some authors also suggest a Southeast Asian origin. The citron was known in the Mediterranean region before 300 BC. In the sixteenth century, seeds were brought to the Americas by Spanish sailors. Today the tree is cultivated in tropical and subtropical regions around the world. The citron prefers a warm subtropical or tropical mountain climate with no frost.
Food uses. The fragrant but not bitter-tasting rind of the citron is used for making jams. The candied peel, called succade, is widely used in bakery goods like cakes, raisin bread, buns, and puddings. Pieces of candied peel are often coated with chocolate and eaten as a confection. In India and parts of Southeast Asia, the peel and pickled chunks of the fruit are eaten with rice. Pieces of the variety called fingered citron are used in rice dishes and curries in Southeast Asia. The sweetened juice is used to make lemonade. In Korea, the peel is used for making tea. Comments. Essential oils from the peel and the flowers are used in the perfume and scent industry. In ancient times it was believed citron juice with wine was an effective antidote to poison. The highly fragrant fruits of the variety fingered citron (C. medica var. sarcodactylis) are often given as offerings on temple altars in China and other parts of Asia. In Israel, the citron is considered a Jewish symbol and used at religious festivities like the Feast of Tabernacles. Description. Evergreen, thorny tree reaching 6-10 m (20-33 ft). Ovate, alternate leaves 7-14 cm (2.8- 5.5 in) long with slightly toothed margins. Hermaphroditic flowers, white with 4 petals, are borne singly or in small clusters in axils of leaves. Fruit round to oblate, 10-16 cm (4-6 in) in diameter, with smooth, greenish-yellow to yellow skin sometimes blushed with pink and dotted with oil glands. Very juicy, subacid to sweet pulp pale yellow, pink, or deep red, in 10-14 segments divided by bitter-tasting membranes. Fruits can be seedless or contain numerous white seeds.
Origin and Distribution. The grapefruit is a natural hybrid of the orange (C. sinensis, p. 75) and the pomelo (C. maxima, p. 71), both species of Asian origin. The tree was first described on the Caribbean island of Barbados by Rev. Griffith Hughes in 1750. He referred to it as “the forbidden fruit” of Barbados. In 1823, the first seeds were brought to Florida and from there the tree spread to almost all tropical and subtropical countries. Today the main producers of grapefruits are the United States, China, and South Africa.
Food uses. Grapefruits are commonly eaten fresh, cut in half, sprinkled with sugar, and the segments scooped out. The fruits produce an excellent juice that is sold fresh, bottled, or concentrated. The
segments are used in fruit salads or for garnishing cakes and puddings. In Australia, marmalades and jellies are made from the pulp. Grapefruit juice can be made into gourmet vinegar.
In Costa Rica, emptied grapefruit halves are filled with pieces of cooked, sweetened pulp and condensed milk and served as a dessert called toronja rellena.
Comments. An aromatic oil that is extracted from the peel is used for flavoring soft drinks and sweets and also in aromatherapy. The bitter inner peel provides the flavanone glucoside naringin, which is used in the food industry to flavor bitter beverages, ice creams, and bitter chocolate. Grapefruit seeds contain en edible oil that consists mainly of unsaturated fats and tastes similar to olive oil.
Grapefruits are a good source of vitamin C, the fiber pectin, and antioxidants. This fruit is often promoted for weight loss in so-called grapefruit diets. It is believed to eliminate body fat because of its low glycemic index.
The grapefruit was called “shaddock” until the 1800s. Its current name refers to the grapelike clusters of round fruits on the tree.
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