Out-of-the-Box Etrogs

Written by Cook Kosher on Friday, 05 October 2012. Posted in Food for Thought

An Etrog or Esrog is a yellow citron fruit, one of the four species we use on Sukkos. This super exotic fruit is grown in different locations all over the world. And if you think you’ve seen them all on your hunt for the perfect etrog, here’s some more interesting varieties and etrog fun facts.
According to some opinions, the fruit which Eve gave to Adam in garden of Eden, was an etrog! This may shed light on a tradition practices in some communities that a pregnant woman bites off the “pitom”, or the hard tip of the etrog (without swallowing it) as a segula [a good omen] for an easy pregnancy. 
A fingered citron, or as some call it, a Buddha's hand, is a citron whose fruit is segmented into finger-like sections. It's of Chinese or Japanese origin and is not used as as one of the species, but if you do get your hand on one, it a good way to spook your kids out. It also works as a great conversation piece. 
A common custom is to save the etrog until Tu B’Shvat and eat it in a candied form or jam (you have to make the jam right after Sukkos, when the etrog is fresh). 
Others stick cloves into the skin to use as besamim all year round.
Use a needle to pierce holes through the skin and stick in a clove in each hole. 
My neighbors have even grown their own etrog tree. One year, they removed the seeds from an etrog and planted them in a small pot filled with potting mix. As the seedling grew, they replanted it in a larger pot. With constant care and watering, bringing the tree outside in the summer, and indoors in the winter, within four or five years, the tree bore fruit, suitable for use on the holiday, and for sweet-smelling pleasure the rest of the year.
Unlike etrogs grown anywhere else, which usually have a sour lemony taste, the Yemenite etrog in uniquely sweet. Consequently, the Yemenite etrog can be eaten raw as-is. This property is seen as an indication of the authenticity of the Yemenite etrog. As the Talmud
mentions, there was a tradition that children would bite into the etrogim following the services on the last day of Succos. This feat is difficult to imagine with the sour etrogim that require cooking and sweeting to be edible. If they were using Yemenite etrogs, however, the story becomes clear. The pitom of Yemenite etrogs also falls off naturally, early in the growing process, so these are one of the etrogs which are kosher for use without a pitom (also making them kid-friendly!)

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