“And you shall take on the first day the fruit of beautiful trees, branches of palm trees and boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days!” Leviticus 23:40.

IMG_2239These huge, slightly bizarre looking, lemon-like fruit are a constant presence in Sicily’s winter markets. Piles and piles of them: intensely, brilliantly yellow.  I was curious, but never imagined they might be of such ancient lineage or poetic association.  “The fruit of beautiful trees” –  possibly only those familiar with the Feast of the Temples, one of Judaism’s three annual pilgrimage festivals, would know that this refers to the citron – the slightly bizarre, overgrown ‘lemons’ that appear in such abundance on Sicily’s market stalls.

They may continue to look like slightly bizarre, overgrown  lemons, but for me they will now always be “the fruit of beautiful trees”.   Maybe a rose by any other name would not smell as sweet!

But what to do with “the fruit of beautiful trees”?    The citron is quite unlike an orange or lemon – it is almost all pith, with only a small amount of flesh at the centre and very little juice.  It’s often used for candied citron peel, an ingredient in many Italian sweets, including panettone and Sicily’s famous cannoli – and in English Christmas puddings. But that’s not where all the piles of citron in the market are destined.  Here are some of the other ways it is used.

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