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Citron: Fruit of Naxos

The Citron fruit was known in antiquity as the median apples or in latin Citrus Medica. It is used in Arab countries as a replacement for vinegar because of it's acidity. In Persia it is used for flavoring fruit salads and marinating meat. The leaves are used for tea  and the fruit is used to make citron oil and citric acid. They say the fruit was introduced to the Mediterranean area by Alexander the Great and was called the Median Apple, from Media, the ancient name for Persia. Up until the Christian era it was the only citrus fruit cultivated in Europe. (click on photos to see full size)





In Greece the fruit is preserved and made into spoon-sweets and candies. The leaves were distilled into a raki and the Kitron liquor which the island of Naxos is famous for. By the late 19th Century citron was the main export of Naxos to Russia, Austria, France and the USA. Up until the sixties the fruit tree was abundant on the island but then they began to be replaced by other crops and the drink became less popular with the introduction of alcohol from other countries. The citron trees are still cultivated in Naxos Town, Engares, Halki, Melandes and Apollonas. The tree has purple flowers and large, thick-skinned aromatic fruit and orchards are usually surrounded by kalamia (reeds) to protect them from the winds.




For distillation the leaves are collected in October, being careful not to take too many and hurt the tree. The trees have thorns so care must also be taken not to hurt yourself. They are then laid out and dampened with water. They are then placed in a broiler with pure alcohol and water and distilled up to three times, then flavored with sugar.

In 1896 Markos Vallindras established the first Naxos Kitron distillery in Halki. They have been producing their Kitron in the traditional way since then and their brand can be found all over the world. The original factory is a museum where you can see how the product is made and sample some for yourself. There is a shop where you can buy the different flavors, one is yellow, one is green, as well as their excellent ouzo which is pure and distilled. Vallindras is the ouzo featured in Platia Iroon Ouzerie in the Psiri district of Athens, the area famous for good food and ouzo.

Be sure to visit the old Vallindras distillery-museum in Halki!




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