Citrus by Pierre Laszlo: a book review

Citrus: A History by Pierre Laszlo

This fun little book from 2007 contains everything you ever wanted to know about the history, economics, and properties of oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit, and other citrus fruit.

Somewhat unusually for a book of this kind, it even includes a number of recipes – for fried valencia orange slices, sea bass with tangerine juice, marmalade, tarte au citron, citrus sabayon, orange mousse, and a few other things. For example:


12 limes, halved
1 medium onion, peeled and quartered
4 hot green chilli peppers
1 inch ginger root
4 oz seedless raisins
7 green cardamom pods
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 tablespoon mustard seeds
4 dried red chilli peppers
1 1/2 cups cider vinegar
3 tablespoon coarse salt
1 lb light brown sugar

  • Juice the limes. Discard 6 lime halves.
  • In a food processor, combine remaining 18 lime halves, green chilli peppers, onion, ginger and raisins. Chop finely. Place mixture in a non-metal bowl.
  • Open cardamom pods. In a heavy skillet, toast peppercorns, cardamom seeds, mustard seeds, coriander seeds, and the dried red chillies for about 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Let the spices cool on a dry plate, then grind finely.
  • Add spices, lime juice, sugar, and vinegar to the chopped fruit mixture. Stir thoroughly, cover, and let steep at room temperature for 2 days.
  • On the third day, pour mixture into an enamelled pot (no stainless steel), add salt, and bring to a boil slowly. Simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes.
  • Place in prepared clean jars. Close jars with a tight-fitting lid. Store in a cool place.

Still-Life, Jan Davidsz. de Heem, 1642

I found the chapter on art a little frustrating, though. There are many oranges in art and lemons in art, but authors who discuss such works should provide a few more illustrations. And equating oranges with “golden apples” in Greek mythology was rather dubious, I thought. But overall, I enjoyed reading this book.

Citrus: A History by Pierre Laszlo: 3½ stars


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