The etrog is a citrus-scented, awkwardly-shaped, thick-skinned, lemon-like fruit that Jews hold with their lulav on the festival holiday of Sukkot. While the humble lemon may be available for a quarter at the local supermarket, the price of an etrog can climb to hundreds of dollars based on its size and flawlessness.
The etrog is referred to in the Torah as p’ri eitz hadar, meaning “fruit of the beautiful tree” and sages have suggested the etrog was actually the forbidden fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge in the Garden of Eden.
The colorful history of the etrog includes the fruit's depiction on Jewish coinage from the time of Bar Kochba, a tax on its import by Empress Maria Theresa during the 18th century and a global boycott of etrogim from the Greek island of Corfu, once considered the source for the most beautiful etrogim in the world, by powerful interests in Europe and Palestine.
Ultimately, Israel triumphed, nearly 70% of the world’s etrogim are now grown in the holy land. Etrogim are also grown in Italy, Greece, Morocco and even the United States. A grove in California owned by a Presbyterian farmer produces several thousand etrogim every year.
In the eye of the beholder
A kosher etrog is a model of purity, according to tradition it cannot be grafted or bred with any other species and no two are ever alike. Throughout Israel and the world, observant Jews search for the ideal specimen, examining each candidate as if it were a diamond and enshrine their chosen etrog in decorative sterling silver boxes. The choice is ultimately a personal one, a cast off etrog from one discriminating buyer will be perfect for another.
Although the etrog comes in many shapes and sizes, a round etrog is not kosher. A slanted or bent etrog is acceptable, however scrupulous citron seekers will seek out an oval. An etrog with an intact pitom (the extension on the other side of the fruit from the stem) is particularly valuable, but varieties that shed their pitom during growth are still kosher. If the pitom falls off, the etrog cannot be used for ritual purposes.
After Sukkot, most people will leave their expensive etrog to wither and dry, since it is prohibited to throw it away. With so much effort going to growing and selecting an etrog, may we suggest a few delicious and interesting ways to preserve the fruit of the beautiful tree. After all, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. When life gives you etrogs, make etrog vodka or try any of the other clever recipe ideas from
Since an etrog will yield only about 1 to 2 tablespoons of juice, unless you have an etrog tree in the backyard or a really rich uncle, you probably won’t be able to afford to make “etrogade” this year. Instead try an infused vodka that will last for months.
Succade is the candied peel of any citrus – try this easy recipe with the rind of an etrog.
Etrog Preserveshas a distinctive flavor that carries the scent and spirit of Sukkot well into the new year. Many people have the custom of saving this unique treat for the holiday of Tu B'shvat.
is a creative and delicious idea for a Shabbat dessert. With a vibrant citrus flavor, this cake will excite your senses and impress your family and friends.