The Cedar (citron lime), An ancient fruit from the many properties quoted seventy-two times in the Bible described as that of the most beautiful tree and as the forbidden homemade of the garden of Eden. According to Jewish tradition, it was indicated by God to Moses in the Torah. Today along with the Calabra coastal strip note as a Cedar Riviera, the most valuable variety in the world of this citrus is cultivated: the smooth diamond.
Etz Hadar, the fruit of the most beautiful tree, died: this is how God, during the exodus of the Jewish people to the promised land, indicated Moses citron lime as one of the four plants to be used for Sukkoth, the feast of the hut, together with a palm branch, two of willow and three of myrtle. “According to Jewish orthodoxy, it was precisely the fruit so beautiful and seductive, and not the apple, that caused the disobedience of Adam and Eve and their descendants from the garden of Eden, as historical sources testify. The Greek term Mêlon, in fact, does not mean apple but a rounded fruit or pear-shaped fruit, much more easily identifiable with cedar “tells us Giambattista Sollazzo, expert and scholar of the history of cedar, who dedicated his degree thesis to this topic, through a meticulous search for all existing sources.
Originally from Persia, that’s why Pliny the Elder, in the “Naturalis Historia”, called it “Mela anxire”, praising its excellent qualities as a repellent for mosquitoes, for its very penetrating odour and sour taste. In fact, at his time, cedar (citron lime) was not yet used as food. This ancient plant belongs to the Rutaceae family and, together with the Pomelo and the Mandarin, is considered one of the three citrus species from which all the others derive.
His history has crossed the centuries and various cultures and is rich in elements of sacredness, closely connected with the divine. Citron lime has been present in our country for over 2000 years. Today in the Cedri Riviera, and in particular to Santa Maria del Cedro, a country in the province of Cosenza, the smooth diamond variety, one of the most valuable in the world, constitutes 98% of the national production of this extraordinary fruit and represents an integral part of the culture and the local economy.
His history and binding with Jewish culture
The cedar (citron lime), known over time as Kedros, Medical Malus, Citrus, would originate from Persia, a territory that corresponds to the current north-western region of Iran, south of the Caspian Sea. This plant was already known in the time of the ancient Egyptians, about four thousand years ago. It is precise during the slavery in Egypt that the Jews came to know the cedar, during the Perian of the exodus, then importing it throughout the Mediterranean, in their numerous migrations. However, there are no certain sources on its arrival in Calabria and at the beginning of its cultivation.
The history of citron lime is closely connected to Jewish culture. In Italy, there was already from the times of ancient Greece, but there are many theories on his import: according to the most credited to introduce this cultivation in the West were the Hellenized Jews, which followed the journey of the first Greeks between II and III if. B.C. Even today the link with the Jewish tradition is very strong: every year in Calabria, hundreds of rabbis arrive in search of the perfect cedars of the smooth diamond variety, to be used between September and October, for the celebration of one of their main parties, Sukkoth, note as a hut party.
In 1939 the parish priest Don Francesco Gatto arrives in a small village called Cipollina. Here he immediately realizes the suffering of peasants, exploited by the merchants, according to logic absolutely out of the market, tending to the downside. The tenacity of him leads him to obtain the autonomy of this small municipality, which changes its name to Santa Maria del Cedro, own free to this precious fruit. Here Francesco Gatto became a spokesman for the interests of the Cedricolors, founding the Tuvcat cooperative, to protect their work: “We have the honour and burden of bringing on our shoulders an element of profound sacredness, a symbol of a rapprochement with God, a Time called mêlon, today called cedar “.
The riviera of the cedars
The stretch of coast that extends into the Tyrrhenian Sea, between Paola and Tortora, takes the name of Cedri Riviera. This territory enjoys a unique microclimate, ideal for the growth of cedar (citron lime), characterized by the meeting of two currents, the hot one that comes from the sea and the cold one that comes from the mountain, which finds its meeting point near the castle of San Michele, at the mouth of the Abatemarco river valley, one of the most important monuments of the Alto Cosentino Tirrenico municipality. It is a territory that has known human presence in ancient times and has been a crossroads of different peoples and cultures, as evidenced by the numerous archaeological sites present today. Here the soil composed of calcareous clay, sand and humus-rich in nitrogen and potassium, formed the perfect base on which to plant and cultivate this extraordinary fruit.
But the flowering of the citron lime is also due to the care and passion of the dedicators who for generations have brought love and respect for the cultivation of this precious citrus fruit, through an operation to protect biodiversity. Cedar (citron lime) is not a fruit like the others, because it has a very strong intrinsic symbolic value. Being a very delicate plant, very sensitive to temperature changes, it is essential that each operation is carried out with the utmost attention. In the cultivation of Cedricolors, the Benedictine rule of time and work is followed. It is a very tiring job, both for the reduced height of the plant and for the difficulty of mechanizing the cultivation: most of the operations are carried out manually and kneeling, praying. “The citron lime is a desperate fruit with an incomparable scent, but it is a desperation that leads to redemption. A cedar plant produces as much as the farmer looks at it” explains Angelo Adducui, president of the Consorzio Cedri di Calabria.
Features and properties of the smooth diamond variety (citron lime)
Its scientific name is medical Citrus. The plant of this citrus does not grow much in height and presents branches protected by dark green thorns and leaves, up to 20 cm long. Its flowers are large, with reddish buds, which when they open white. It blooms all year round, but the fruits are collected between October and December.
This special variety is commonly called smooth diamond because it has a smooth peel and shine of the diamond. The fruit and light green colour, with a half-shaped shape between the spherical and the oval, and an average weight of about a kilogram. The peel is smooth, thick and hard, yellow, with a sweet taste. The pulp is unaware and has a sweet and acidic taste. From a nutritional point of view, this fruit is a real touch for our health. Rich in vitamins and mineral salts, cedar (citron lime) is able to carry out a beneficial effect on most of our organs: cardiovascular system, colon, intestine, stomach, hair and kidneys. It is rich in flavonoids, from high antioxidant power and has germicide, disinfectant, digestive, laxative and anticancer properties. Valid Allied to combat abdominal gases, combat hypertension, cystitis and kidney disorders.
Candied and fruity fruit and scent
The tradition of using cedar (citron lime) in gastronomy is very ancient and dates back to the time of the Romans, with Apicio that in its “de King Coquinaria” lists some recipes flavoured with cedar. This tradition also belongs to the local gastronomy and, above all, to the pastry shop. Over time he managed to fit into many recipes, from the first to the seconds, both meat and fish, for his particular organoleptic properties.
Not being edible in purity, this fruit requires appropriate transformations. Until 2000 the almost totality of the citron lime harvest was destined for the food industry for the production of candied fruits. Today, thanks to the work of the consortium, diversification of production took place and with the cedar, there are many other specialities such as aromas for creams, flavoured extra virgin olive oil, jams, candies, syrups, liqueurs and grappas. The cedar is also used in the preparation of typical Calabrian products, such as Panicelli, cedar leaf bundles containing Zibibo passed grapes with candied cedar pieces related with vermemine broom and then baked, the crowds of dried figs flavoured with the rind of candied cedar; but also the artisan gelato and the granita, born in the Italian bar of Santa Maria del Cedro, the digestive Zafarà, based on cedar and spicy chilli and, of course, the Cedrata (Italian Citron Juice Soda), sparkling drink, very popular in the 1960s, still today loved by young and old
Even the cosmetic industry appreciates the qualities of this precious citrus. The company Perris Montecarlo dedicated to this cultivar a perfume: the diamond cedar, from the sweet olfactory notes, enhanced by a spicy agreement in the heart and the soft and musky base.
The Consortium and the Cedar Museum
To protect this precious citrus, in 1999 the Consortium of Cedar of Calabria was born, recognized with regional law in October 2004, established to give value and dignity to cedriculture. The consortium brought as long as two important objectives: implement the production of the cedar by bringing it up to 40.OOO quintals and break the cartel between speculator traders, bringing the transformation of the product within the Calabro territory. Another important milestone was the diversification of product use. The revaluation of culture linked to the production of the cedar of Santa Maria del Cedar and its arrival in the peninsula is usable by the public through the Cedar Museum, established by the same consortium, in order to pass the historical memory of this fruit and its territory, With an archaeological path and an artistic one.
The museum tells the story of the cedar, through references linked to the biblical world, to Jewish traditions, in addition to the numerous literary quotes: from Apicio to Boccaccio and Tasso, up to D’Annunzio. Thanks to the collaboration with Chef and Barman in the short place the project will start the ‘La Via del Cedro’: an agro-mystical-sensorial route, which starts from the Museum of Cedar, which houses 50,000 people a year from all over the world, and yes Just on the entire Cedri Riviera.
Santa Maria del Cedro (CS)
Tel: 0985 42 598
Email: [email protected]