Citrus Fruit Biology

Before delving (yes, it’s a word)too far into the world of Citrus, it’s probably a good idea to get basic biology of the fruit down pat, and then turn it into food terms so that the differences in the fruits can be discerned.

First things first however. Citrus fruits actually have their own special name – hesperidium. It means “berry with a leathery rind”. So now we have another euphamism for naughty male bits, as in “Nigel, if your going to play rugby, it’s best to protect your hesperidiums.” Let’s see if we can get the young folks to work that into their vernacular, shall we?

Generally speaking, a citrus fruit has 6 components that comprise the fruit. They are:

  • Exocarp: aka the Flavedo. This is what we foodies consider the zest of the fruit. Other people consider it the outside part of the skin. It’s the part of the fruit that is colored and fair amount of oils that taste great.
  • Mesocarp: aka the Albedo, or the white, inner part of the skin, usually an off white color and differing thickness depending on the fruit. This section, although edible, is quite bitter and is best left alone.
  • Endocarp: The Juice ventricles found within each slice of citrus. It’s the tasty bit that has the juice. A juice that coincidentally has a fair amount of citric acid. Funny how that worked out, huh?
  • Septum: The skin that surrounds the Endocarp, that in turn creats the fruit segments.
  • Seeds: The..uh…seeds. The hard things which we spit out or de-seed.
  • Central Axis: aka “The Pith” or “That long stringy thing in the middle of the fruit that’s terribly easy to pull out of a tangerine, but darn near impossible to pull out in a lemon”.

With this knowledge, we can move on to more specific fruits. Hooray!

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