Not just a giant lemon

October 15, 2013 / Food & Wine

Liguria is full of different fruits and vegetables, and its normally mild climate (last year’s winter we can just chalk up to a freak year) means that citrus particularly can grown even through the colder months.¬† Aside from oranges and lemons dangling from the trees over your head, you can also find the famous cedro, which is called citron fruit in English.

Milder then lemon but still with a strong citrus flavor, it looks like a giant mutated lemon but it’s actually a unique fruit.¬† You can find it served candied, especially in the part of the Riviera Ligure closer to France, preserved in vodka, or in the famous soda of the region, cedrata.

Cedra, on the right, dwarfs a regular lemon from Liguria
Cedra, on the right, dwarfs a regular lemon from Liguria

Christine Mitchell

by Christine Mitchell

Christine has a Master’s Degree in Food Studies and Culture from New York University, and spends most of her waking hours cooking food, serving food at La Cantina Di Miky, happily talking about food and writing about food – and wouldn’t have it any other way, except maybe with an Italian craft beer in her hand.

You can follow her adventures on her blog, and you can follow Monterosso’s continued progress on

14 Responses to “Not just a giant lemon”

  1. Susan Caracciolo Keane

    I purchase it candied here in NY, at Eastertime, and use it in ‘pizza grana’, the wheatberry, ricotta cake tradionally made during Lent. It has a unique flavor!

    • Christine Mitchell

      We make a cake just like that for Easter at home! My grandparents are from Calabria but raised in NY and that is one of my favorite traditions that we keep.

      • Marie Giacalone

        My family also makes the Easter “Wheat Pie” as we call it, with Ricotta & citron. I was having such a hard time finding whole candied citron here in California (the chopped kind in plastic containers tastes like cardboard) that I have planted my own tree, a Ponderosa lemon, which is as close as I could come to Citron, and now I make my own candied Citron. I would love to hear more from people who have the Easter pie/cake tradition. Our family’s version is from my Neopolitan grandmother. I know that on the East coast many people make it, but here in California we seem to be alone.

  2. The citron is called an “etrog” in Hebrew and is part of the festivities during the Jewish holiday Sukkoth (which just ended a few weeks ago). After the Holiday, it is popular to either turn into a liqueur (with vodka) or to use it in baking/cooking/candy-making.

  3. How amusing, for the last month I’ve been considering planting a “cedro” tree being that prepared citron is available only during the Christmas season here in California unless one goes to an upscale market and is prepared to go into mortgage. Last night I made sweet Sicilian cotognata (a type of semi-hardened cooked quince paste), being that cotognata is not to be found in the San Francisco Bay Area (California), and if so would probably be of inferior quality; years back the only way to solve the problem was to plant a quince tree. It would one day be interesting for ItalianNotebook do an article on how Italians outside of Italy “make do” when it comes to producing a true Italian kitchen.

  4. Pat Carney Ceccarelli
    Pat Carney Ceccarelli

    Many thanks for this. I like cedars ya very much and it’s beautiful rich lemon color if served in the right glass has helped me resist a prosecco too many on summer apperativo hour. But I failed miserably in trying recipes. Will try again! Oh and my iPad refuses words in Italian, any solutions?

    • Donald Civitella

      Your iPad probably has “auto-correction” on. You can turn this off by going to “Settings” and turning “auto-correction” off. You can also leave “auto-correction” on and just touch the “x” next to the suggested word that shows up in the bubble below the word you’re attempting to type.
      Depends on which is more convenient for you.

  5. Ann Helgeson

    As a graduate student studying cultural geography many years ago I remember reading about the citron as a striking example of the importance of religion in the human impact on the landscape. The citron is cited in Leviticus as necessary for the Jewish Feast of the Tabernacles. Its distribution closely follows Jewish settlement around the Mediterranean. Those interested can read an article at

  6. Thank you for the story about the lemons. I recently uncovered another reason for these great stories and work need to bring things Italian to the public. I stopped into a supermarket that recently started to carry various alcohol beverage products. I asked the department manager who claimed to be an expert – for lemoncella. They looked at me with a great question on their face then said, “sorry, but the lemon Jell-O is on the other side of the store in isle 17”. This query was repeated a second time in slow motion with the same response. Then I explained, hopefully to the future benefit of those folks that enjoy the lemon flavored Italian liqueur.


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