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The Citron from Calabria, a symbol between sacred and profane

Was the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden really an apple? It might have been a citron, or “etrog” in Hebrew — a bittersweet, lemon-like fruit with a pluri-millenary history prized for Sukkot, a Jewish fall festival that marks the harvest and the Biblical tale of Jewish people wandering the desert for 40 years.

The Citron is one of the most important typical Italian products, an incredibly flexible ingredient whose usage ranges from gastronomy to cosmetics. Almost all of the citron production comes from the stretch of the Calabrian coast known as “Riviera dei Cedri”, an area that combines natural beauty with a past steeped in history, culture and traditions. This one of a kind length of coast, thanks to its close proximity to both the Tyrrhenian sea and the mountains of the Pollino National Park, detain the ideal environment for the widespread cultivation of a specific variety of citron called the cedro liscio Diamante or the smooth Diamante citron from which the whole Riviera takes its name.

It’s not only a fruit, but the symbol of a territory! Just think about Santa Maria del Cedro, village located in the heart of the Riviera and unique case of toponymy: being the production centre of this special crop, it was renamed fifty years ago after this important cultivation. Moreover, to honor the cedro that flourishes in the area, the Citron Museum was founded, a cultural site that ritraces the long history of this citrus fruit, introduced to Italy by Jewish settlers in the 3rd-century BC.

The contemporary development of this unusual fruit is also very interesting and still connected to Jewish communities: today, every summer, rabbis from everywhere in the world are in Calabria to choose and pick up with their hands, after a meticulous process, the most beautiful fruits – as the Bible calls for – which are indispensable to the festival of Sukkot. It’s one of four species, representing different aspects of agriculture, that observant Jews wave and pray over during the holiday ceremonies. The cedars of Calabria are among the few in the world to present the required characteristics: for ritual purposes the fruit must be healthy, of a nice conical shape, green in color and with the crown intact. Then it will be taken in hand and held or waved during specific portions of the holiday prayers as the “Peri etz hadar”, the fruit of the most beautiful tree.

Francesca Politi – JUMP Team

“Alla scoperta del CEDRO di Santa Maria del Cedro”
“The cedar of the rabini. Cedro di Calabria a Santa Maria del Cedro”
“The Birth And Afterlife Of Israel’s Precious Etrog Fruit”

Museo del Cedro

Valentina Silvestri “Profumo di Luce” @ Museo del Cedro
Street Art in Santa Maria del Cedro by OSA – Operazione Street Art Festival