Etrog Questions

Discussion in 'Citrus' started by Junglekeeper, Oct 25, 2005.

  1. mr.shep

    mr.shep Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    San Joaquin Valley, California
    Mr. Kirkpatrick is a member of this
    Citrus forum. He made contact with
    me a long while back in reference to
    what I had posted in this and another
    thread in this UBC Citrus forum.

    I think a lack of understanding about
    Citrus has been carried a little too far
    in some circles as to what percentage
    of Esrog and Etrogs are still pure, or
    at least have not had their genomes
    contaminated by a foreign rootstock.
    I know of an article that esrog re sent
    along to me in regards to work being
    done using chloroplast DNA to help
    settle or create even more confusion
    as to which strains of Citron are no
    longer pure. I felt the researchers
    should be working on cytoplasmic
    DNA instead, ala the rationale of E.
    W. Sinnott towards what causes
    variegation in Citrus. All I've seen
    are attempts to criticize the Etrog,
    even to the point of making claim,
    without foundation, that all Etrogs
    have been grafted at some point
    in time, meaning there cannot be
    any more pure line plants around.
    I do not believe this to be true as
    seed have been brought in from
    blessed plants in Palestine in the
    past, even during pre and post war
    WW II. I mentioned that some
    individuals had Etrogs in the
    Southern California area back
    in the 30's and 40's and perhaps
    before then even [We've been
    marketing Citrus in this state
    with San Francisco as the
    primary port of entry and
    for export even before the
    Gold Rush days, even before
    California became a state].
    These trees came mostly
    from seed being brought in
    as opposed to budwood that
    was later budded onto a
    foreign rootstock.

    As far as Mr. Kirkpatrick is
    concerned I feel he has done
    what he was expected to do
    in order to sell his fruit. I don't
    think any of you have any idea
    what he had to endure just to
    be able to market his fruit.
    One thing that none of you
    can take away from him is
    that he has documentation
    and provenance for the clone,
    of Esrog he is growing.

  2. Junglekeeper

    Junglekeeper Esteemed Contributor 10 Years

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    Vancouver BC Canada
    Diverting somewhat from the discussion...How is it possible for these trees to be propagated by seed which are monoembryonic? Is this another exception to the rule similar to yuzu which produces such seed but yet grows true to type?
  3. dan123

    dan123 Member

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    Jim, that’s pretty heavy stuff. Thank you for the thoughts and the effort. Re: the purity of Mr. Kirkpatrick’s citrons, I have not researched the matter and have no reason to cast any aspersions on the purity/acceptability of his fruit. Others more qualified than me will make such judgments. I have nothing but the highest respect for his efforts.

    It seems from the comments of Shalom Yaakov and Mr. Shep that the California Citrons are clones of/seeded from Citrons from Israel that have a tradition among many as being kosher. It also seems that Mr. Kirkpatrick does find a market for his Citrons. The fact that these Citrons are clones of a generally acceptable variety may indeed be the relevant distinction between the California Citron and the Panama Citron as regards the question of kashruth/marketability.

    The question remains, however: Can chloroplast or cytoplasmic DNA establish the purity of a Citron that does not have a tradition of use, such as that of Panama? And would such a “bill of health” present such a Citron to the market as acceptable, or perhaps even preferable, based on its purity? We may be getting a bit theoretical here, but if the technology is there, and given (a) the interest in the matter among consumers of Citrons for ritual use, and (b) the rejection of virtually all types of Citrons by various people at various times, as referenced by Aron and Mr. Shep, how far off is it before such research is done? And what would be the likely reception of such data in the marketplace?
  4. Shalom Yaakov

    Shalom Yaakov Member

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    ny ny usa
    I hope I'll be able to answer your questions at best of my ability.

    1) Jews only use those varieties which were traditionally used. If anyone wants to grow citrons and sell them on the Jewish he will need Rabbinical supervision that his propagation material are taken from a trusted source, in Rabbinical term.

    2) Due to competition on the Etrog market, many are trying to convince that only their variety is kosher. That's normal politics-business which doesn't put anyone out-of-business, since there will allways be a sufficient costumary for each of the traditional varieties. The most that could happen is that a variety which had a small demand, should get to be no. 1, and vice versa.

    3) The basic Halacha has two obsticals 1) grafting and grafting history, 2) breeding by out-cross pollination and hybrids. In the past, people didn't know much about breedings, and linked all phenotypical changes that occured to a fruit or crop as to be a result of grafting. Many Religious authoroties were at this opinion too, others rejected that and showed evidence that grafting doesn't result in changes to the progeny. Grafting ancestry is already something else in the opinion of many. Some still argue that since grafting changes the crop (in theory), a grafted tree is already in-pure and so is with the propogation material derived from it. Not everyone within the Jewish world agrees with that, some of them use the argument that grafted ancestry cannot be detected in no way.
  5. dan123

    dan123 Member

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    If the grafting and cross-pollination issues were shown to be kosher, would an etrog from a particular location be considered not kosher for use because etrogim from that location were not previously used? Or is it, rather, that the reason it is necessary for etrogim from a particular location to have a tradition of use is in order to verify that there are no issues of grafting or cross-pollination, such that a botanical DNA "proof" as to its non-grafted and non-cross-pollinated status renders superfluous the question of its non-use?

    My understanding is that the reason why etrogim were at various times in the past banned for use was that there were doubts as to whether or not they were grafted, i.e. the Corfu etrog. If an etrog were shown, therefore, not to be grafted, would lack of a tradition of use still render it not kosher?
  6. Shalom Yaakov

    Shalom Yaakov Member

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    ny ny usa
    Lack of tradition doesn't render not-kosher, but it would be very controversial, and therefore I wouldn't recommend it to anybody. The use of DNA evidence in Halachic issues is still controversial, especially in this case, while since every tree propagated by seeds would show some difference and you’ll need somebody to judge if the difference is passable. Regarding grafting-history it is probably impossible to have evidence, since as we all know grafting doesn't show up on DNA testing at all. That means that even when you can check the tree with your eyes to see if it is grafted or not, you can check DNA to know if it is genetically pure, you cannot say anything about grafting history.

    Now the question:
    How could one be sure about grafting history, even with the traditional varieties?

    Dr. Goldschmidt wants to say in the article Search Authentic Citron that you cannot be sure about that in no variety. He says that even with Morocco which he himself examined to be free of grafting doubts, you may still ask "Maybe it was grafted before it reached Morocco?" and the same with Yemen: he didn't visit Yemen yet, and although he believes that grafting was not practiced in the near past, he still ask if it is originating form Mediterranean basin since it's DNA matches very closely the Mediterranean varieties, those which he and everybody agree that grafting doubts are present for example in Italy, Greece and also in Israel till 40-50 years ago.

    It sounds that the Goldschmidt mission is to put all the traditional varieties in one basket, as to stop to competing fights, which is a great idea. But it is very uncommon to think that Yemen or Morocco was grafted about 500 years ago when there is no such history. I don't know if there is any history of commercial grafting at that time. In any case this is not the Halachic way of policy.

    The real reason why not all the Jews are using the same varieties is because of the phenotypic differentials among them. And despite that Goldschmidt with his study claims that the Moroccan and the Yemenite has the same level of purity that for example the Diamante-Yanove, the Ashkenazi people would still be skeptic.

    As some of us here know, the Jewry is divided into three basic denominations: Ashkenazi, Sephardic and Yemenite. The Ashkenazi were since the destruction of the Second Temple mostly in Europe (not including the Iberian Peninsula which is Sephardic), the Sephardic in the Iberian Peninsula, Northern Africa, and Asia including Mesopotamia, and the Yemenite only in Yemen. Askenaz and Sepharad had closer communication in most of the times, than both with Yemen.

    Back to Etrog. The Ashkenazi tradition is to use the Italian etrogs, of which we have today what we call the Diamante. The Sepharadic probably had an etrog in Spain and/or Portugal until the expulsion. After that the switched largely to the Greek which was used by the local and Turkish communities before that either. North Africa had some etrogs in Tunisia and Egypt, but the Moroccan was still the most dominant. This could be because of beauty of the fruit, or shipping reasons as well. The Palestinian was used at the local communities, should it be Ashkenazic or Sephardi, (they didn't have a large native Jewry, and the Sephardi were first to settle on large basis). At some point, the Greek, Corsican, Palestinian and Moroccan was used largely by Ashkenzim as well as Hasidim (Ashkenazi follower of Rabbi Yisroel Baal Shem Tov), but still many remained true to the Yanover.

    Israel had many selections which are still akin with most properties, almost pointy shape, acidic pulp, tasteless albedo, non-persisting style. But when the Greek arrived, than phythophtora too, and the grafting started to be a common practice, some Rabbis made selections from the native type which were (according to their opinion) still in a non-grafted status, and those are called Hazon Ish (who made two selections, one he gave for R' Yakov Halperin and is named Hazon Ish-Halperin, the other Hazon-Ish Lefkowitz which he gave for R Michel Yehuda Lefkowitz who is a dean in Bnei Brak even today), Braverman and Kibilewitz.

    Each of all above varieties has supporters and opposes, and so will it be until the come of Messiah. But it is very risky for one who wants to invest time and money into a variety which is traditionally not used, unless he gets the confirmation form somebody who is politically safe (Obama for example...) to make such a step.

    If somebody wants to plant, all he has to do is to contact a well recognized and authentic rabbi, get propagation material from a traditionally used source, under his supervision and advice, and plant it wherever is advisable, but with supervision that it is not grafted. If he is successful in growing nice clean etrogs, he will make money.

    Now back to research points and competing arguments.

    1) The Diamante followers and supporters are some Ashkenazim who say that this is the only variety they are familiar with, during generations, and that this is the desired phonotype and genotype, with which nobody can compete. Even if it may have been grafted in the past, since many trees there are grafted, they would deny it, or rely on the lenient ruling which permit’s such an etrog. The Diamante farmers are delivering an exceptional cleanliness of outer surface which is hardly found somewhere else.

    2) The Yemenite say that theirs is the only pure one since Yemen is primitive country, and since it has no pulp which is according to them a sign of introgression from the Lemon or different citrus species. Than the sweet taste of it's albedo is a sign that it wasn't grafted on sour rootstock, and that Talmudic sources say that the etrog was eaten at the end of the holiday, big size of fruit, similarity between wood and fruit, mentioned in there, comprises only with their type. The Yemenite lack in beauty and in persistent style, the pulplessness is also too curious for a normal person to deal with. The Yemenite arrived with their etrog to Israel some 60 years ago so nobody was familiar with it during history, and could have been grafted in Israel (a small doubt).

    3) The Moroccan say that theirs is the only one that could still be checked in its cultivation home, for non-grafted state, which Halachically takes completely away the doubt of grafted ancestry, plus a traditional use which certifies the phenotype and genotype as well, and a history of use even by Ashkenazi Giants. The Moroccan pulp is acidless, so it could serve the above Talmudical phrase as well. The Moroccan has to deal with its seedlessness which is not found in any other traditional etrog, and makes questions on its purity. The Moroccan comprises beauty and persistent style which is very much demanded by etrog.

    4) The Greek is today cultivated only in Israel, it comprises beauty and persistent style, and nobody talks about the Greek origin and its relation to the Corfu controversies. But according to different rumors and rise of Yemenite voice its popularity melts drastically.

    5) The Israeli lacks beauty and persistent style, and the un-clarity about origin and stories throws a bad shade on them. It is actually used only by the followers of the founders of the selections, but this is the good news about it, the Hazon Ish for example was and is still very much respected. The bad news besides the above, is that the Hazon supported also the Yemenite, Moroccan (he gave it to plant for disciple but it didn’t flourish) and the Braverman (the last he even used at one year).

    I have worked hard enough for now, see you again later. Hope this helps.

    Dr. Goldschmidt's article which could be purchased at

    Wikipedia articles on Etrog etc. and sources cited.
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2008
  7. dan123

    dan123 Member

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    panama in essence there is no etrog currently used that does not have grafting in its history (possible exception of Yemenite, which is not accepted by Ashkenazim anyway)..Diamante/Yanover has a history of grafting, Israeli varieties have a history of grafting..yet all of that is overlooked due to the fact that it has been used (and hasn't been grafted recently)..whereas an etrog from a place where there may be no evidence of grafting in its history..would be not accepted due to the fact that it was not previously used..correct?

    (The Moroccan may not have grafting in its known history, but, as you noted, some do not allow the Moroccan due to the lack of seeds, which is an entirely different issue particular to the Moroccan)
  8. Shalom Yaakov

    Shalom Yaakov Member

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    ny ny usa
    As I explained you, its how the perception is, and it depends to whom you are talking. Many Ashkenazim go crazy for the Yemenite and/or Moroccan because it has no grafting history. Especially those who care for the opinion of the Hazon Ish, that you may use an etrog only which has no grafting history. Those who use the Yanove are Greek (from Israel) rely on the linient authorities on the subject of grafting history, because for them the traditional morphology (which has to be from their own) is more inportant.

    An Etrog with a clean record and morphology that should please everyone, is probably impossible. If you get such, it is kosher, but you need to find the one who is ready for the headackes, and his certifying it will be accepted by the people.
  9. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    WA USA (Z8)
    My local supermarket has some of the fruits for sale in the produce section at this time.
  10. mr.shep

    mr.shep Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    San Joaquin Valley, California
    Junglekeeper, Etrogs came into the Southern
    California area either as seed from a fruit or
    whole fruit came in, in which seedlings were
    grown from seed. Not all of the experimental
    stations chose to have budwood come in to
    have scion wood immediately budded onto
    a foreign rootstock for Citrus. The ideal was
    to have a whole plant come in rather than
    have budwood be sent in but for some Citrus
    whole, live, plants could not be shipped in
    directly or live plants were not shipped at
    all to researchers. Nurserymen brought
    (bootlegged) the plants in themselves if
    they wanted to have one, whereas some
    experimental stations were not always
    allowed to bring in live plants. We even
    had a USDA research station established
    in Chico, California just to be a West
    Coast (including some areas of Western
    Canada) holding and evaluation center
    for all imported plants from Pacific Rim
    countries. In other words, let's say UC
    Riverside wanted to have a red fleshed
    Mandarin come in from Japan, the tree
    or trees had to be held under quarantine
    at Chico and certified to be free of certain
    insects and diseases before the tree or
    trees would be released to UC Riverside.
    To bypass the quarantine transition period,
    some experimental and research stations
    preferred to have budwood sent in to them

    Some work was done on having seed
    come in to select experimental stations
    and USDA research stations and through
    germination seedlings were grown on. I
    know of one experimental station that
    had Diamante wood come in and that
    wood was immediately budded and a
    few years while waiting for the young
    plants to develop along, it was learned
    that a homeowner near Pomona
    already had an established tree of it,
    to the amazement of everybody at
    that time. I believe there is an old
    California Citrograph article that
    may have announced the Pomona

  11. Junglekeeper

    Junglekeeper Esteemed Contributor 10 Years

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    Vancouver BC Canada
    So are the Southern California trees considered true to type even though they're propagated by seed?
  12. mr.shep

    mr.shep Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    San Joaquin Valley, California
    Diversity in Citrus is not a new phenomenon.
    Some Citrus have experienced morphological
    changes over the years, even from seedlings
    grown on and compared to the seed parent
    plant. At one time there was the notion that
    Citrus can be receptors to foreign pollen in
    that a Citron, as an example, could host but
    may not ever express the physical attributes
    of the Orange pollen parent the female flower
    received. Makes it difficult to say we have a
    bona fide hybrid when we see no clearcut
    differences in the parent plants seedling
    offspring when the parent was exposed to
    Orange pollen. On the other hand, some
    people felt the Citron could store the genes
    offered, delivered, from the Orange pollen
    but may not ever show any of that gene
    expression in the fruit. Then again that
    does not mean that what may have been
    stored in the genome of the Citron could
    not ever be seen at some time in the future.
    There were even attempts to bombard the
    prospective seed parent host with the same
    foreign pollen year after year hoping to achieve
    seeing some changes occur in the seed bearing
    plants offspring but much of the time to no avail.
    This does not mean that gene expression from
    the Orange pollen parent could not eventually
    show up in a Citron seedling but usually for this
    to happen there had to be a trigger mechanism,
    perhaps a stress factor or a series of stresses,
    an insect caused condition or a mutation in a
    gene, more likely a mutation in more than
    one gene pair, for the trigger to happen - much
    like seeing a Mexican Lime that had perennially
    been a non variegated plant yield a variegated
    seedling or two among 1000 or so siblings after
    five to ten years of germinating seed. By the
    way the first variegated Mexican Lime that I
    knew of did come from seed, did not come
    from a chimera in a fruit or limb sport and
    then was perpetuated on by way of budding
    or grafting in some instances later on when
    the seedlings raised from the variegated
    plant yielded a high percentage of non
    variegated offspring.

    So, in a sense that Etrog seed imported into
    California could be different than the parent
    plant or plants was or were in Palestine or
    Israel was not immediately seen by those
    that grew plants on from that seed. That is
    not to say that a few generations down the
    road that the offspring from progeny of
    the parent line plants that were imported
    could not be different at some point in
    time later. I'll give you an example with
    another plant to show that it could happen
    with Citrus. Let's say someone got a
    cone from a native five needle Mexican
    Pine and brought the cone into Scotland
    from Mexico and attempted to germinate
    the seed from the cone and got some
    seedlings to grow. Should we see
    some differences in those F1 seedlings
    from the parent plant 15-20 years later
    in needle color and needle count? Let's
    take some seed from the F1 progeny
    plants cones and grow them on and see
    if any of those seedlings show any real
    differences from the parent plant in
    Mexico when those F2’s become
    old enough to produce cones with
    viable seed in them. What happens
    when we see needles from the F2
    adult trees have needles 2 inches
    shorter in length all around the tree
    than the parent tree has in Mexico.
    What do we think then? Is it genetic
    variance that we are seeing occur
    or is it more of a cultural and perhaps
    environmental related change we are
    seeing in those F2's?

    We can surmise that a change is
    or has taken place so we wait until
    those F2 or F3 trees yield cones with
    viable seed and grow those seedlings
    on and see it the needle length stays
    constant or we see other changes in
    the needles, such as a five needle
    Mexican Pine that may have five
    needles to a bundle and later on
    in the year what was a five needle
    became a four needle bundle in
    older growth. We may not have
    seen this happen before so we
    what are we to think has happened
    to cause this? So we take seed
    from that tree, grow seedlings on
    and see if that trait continues on
    in its offspring or was just a one
    time solitary event for one tree.
    Chances are that we will see this
    sloughing off of one needle
    continue on in another tree but
    how many more trees do we have
    to see and monitor to see if this
    phenotypic change happen again?
    Later on comes the hard part to
    determine that the change was
    and is genotypic.

    There are a lot of things that could
    influence what we see in our Citrus
    trees such a rind color, amount of
    albedo in the interior of the fruit,
    the number of seed per segment,
    molded ribs, textured as opposed
    to smooth skin and even the change
    in the sizes and shapes of the fruit
    and leaves. How do we explain
    what went on for these changes
    to have come about?

    The trend today is to force feed
    the belief that we are seeing some
    of these changes more rapidly,
    sooner that we would otherwise,
    due to the trees having been grafted,
    more likely budded in the Western
    world, either perpetually or having
    a grafted parent somewhere in the
    trees background. I cannot disagree
    that forcing a two parent union
    cannot have achieved these results
    but who knows for sure whether
    the blessed plant in Israel was
    or came from a grafted parent
    plant at one time or another?
    This predicament has to put
    the Rabbis in between a rock
    and a hard place, especially
    when professors from leading
    Universities are emphatically
    stating that all of the Etrogs
    have been grafted at one time
    or another, rather than attempt
    to explain what has gone on
    to change the morphology of
    the plant we see now. It is
    my personal feeling that the
    professors do not know how
    to tell if the blessed tree is
    on its own roots or not upon
    visual inspection of it. I don't
    think they have been trained
    to know if a tree was budded,
    grafted or is on its own roots
    either by way of rooted cutting
    or by way of being a seedling.
    The latter is the toughest to
    know as it has to be shown
    to someone how to tell if
    the plant, seemingly on its
    own roots, came from a
    rooted cutting or came
    from seed. There are a
    whole lot of people around
    that can only guess since
    they do not yet know what
    to look for at the base of the
    tree to be able to tell a rooted
    cutting from a seedling plant.

    Junglekeeper, if you are asking
    could a tree grown in California
    arising from seed taken from a
    fruit that came in from Palestine
    differ from each other in 30 or
    so years, my answer is that yes,
    it is possible that they could
    appear different from each
    other. That the sibling plant
    grown here may not look the
    same as the parent plant does
    but that does not mean they
    are not genetically the same.
    It could be more of a factor
    of how these trees were grown
    differently from each other that
    could lead one to believe they
    are different. We’ve seen it in
    Mexican Limes that grown in
    some locations we can see
    much larger sized leaves than
    we normally see from trees
    grown here. Take one of those
    larger sized leafed plants and
    grow it here and later on we
    usually but not in all instances
    see the leaves scale back down
    to normal size after a few years
    of adjustment.

    The Shaddock was considered
    to be a Pomelo by early day
    researchers. We should be
    aware that there was and
    hopefully still are Citrus that
    were felt to be Citrus grandis
    and Citrus maxima, which at
    one time were the Pomelo
    and the Pummelo. I am not
    overly confident that both
    groups have not been more
    recently, subjectively, merged
    together to become one all
    inclusive grouping now to
    appease the masses of
    people that could not or
    cannot distinguish the two
    group members apart from
    each other. The Etrog and
    the Esrog were not included
    as members in either of the
    above Citrus groupings.

  13. Junglekeeper

    Junglekeeper Esteemed Contributor 10 Years

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    Vancouver BC Canada
    Thanks for taking the time to prepare such a detailed response, Jim. I think I understand. Citron seedlings may not express the characteristics of the pollinator. Furthermore, if the initial batch of seedlings brought into California were like this, then clones from their budwood would also retain that quality. Then it's possible for trees currently in cultivation that were propagated in this manner to be members of the F1 generation. Differences from F0 may not be expressed at all or only under adverse conditions.
  14. Shalom Yaakov

    Shalom Yaakov Member

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    ny ny usa
    I think you may try to get seeds from covered/isolated citron orchards. b
  15. aron

    aron Member

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    the article is really about rothberg and zaks two of the most respected names in the traditional esrog market. the california farmer is not growing his "own" stuff or something he found in a nursery. he is growing the varieties researched by zaks who is probably the grower/researcher of today. several other american growers grow esrogim for holiday market in arizona (lapidus) and mexico (perr). also the lulav and hadas (myrtle) branchs are grown by non-jewish farmers in california.

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