OUR FRUIT - Citron (citrus medica L. )
The Alimea co-op was named after one of the island's iconic fruit crops : "a limia" or "alimea," which means citron.
The species originates from the Himalayas and Indochina, where citron trees still flourish in the wild.
Citron was the first citrus fruit to reach Europe. It was brought back from Persia by the Greeks during the 3rd century B.C. Strangely enough, it is also one of the least known citrus fruits, except amongst grandmothers who used them in focaccia and fruit cake, as well as typical Corsican food connoisseurs.
Citron is an enormous fruit, sometimes tipping the scale at 2-3 kilogrammes. It has the appearance of a huge deformed lemon, with a dense and very thick white skin to the point where there is almost no pulp (it is not very juicy and full of seeds). All of these attributes make it undesirable for fresh consumption. However, its subtle aroma is incomparable ! Its skin can be candied in sugar or alcohol (liqueurs).
The citron variety found in Corsica is typical of the island and very much in demand because of its low acidity and refined aroma. Its cultivation reached its peak at the end of the 19th century, with a thousand hectares planted and expanding well outside of Corsica.
Citron, or more specifically its thick skin, including peel, is used in the preparation of marmalades, fruit pastes and candied fruit.
To achieve this, the fruits are first soaked in brine to remove the skin's bitterness. Traditionally, whole or cut citrons were placed in barrels filled with seawater. A large part of the harvest was sold at this stage and headed for Bastia in brine barrels to be sold to confectioners. After rinsing, the candying process began in successive soakings in sugar syrup, a long process requiring quite exceptional skills to achieve outstanding results.
Candied citron can be consumed as is (whole fruit) or used for cooking and baking (diced or cut).
Citron liqueur (cédratine) is prepared with fresh peel and a good spirit.
Corsica's Mediterranean climate is conducive to citron cultivation on the coast.
The tree is small (3 to 4 meters high), its branches are prickly and its flowers are in bloom year-round.
Citron orchards are found at an altitude below 300 meters, in areas protected from occasional frost, since this citrus fruit is especially sensitive to cold. Protection from prevailing winds with hedges, walls or other windbreaks is also vital to prevent the tree's thorns from damaging the fruits.
Harvest occurs between the months of September and November.
Given its sharp bitterness, citron is rarely used fresh. All of the richness of its aroma comes out with candying, baking, confectionery or decorating. It is also ideal for marmalades and liqueurs.
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