What if you went all out this Sukkot (a time of harvesting)? You constructed and decorated your sukkah (a 3-sided temporary structure) with the kids, filled your calendar with friends and family to enjoy a meal in it, and purchased a lulav (palm, myrtle and willow bundled together) and etrog (a citron). When the holiday ends, everything goes back into storage, but what about the fragrant etrog you spent $30 on?
An etrog is a citrus fruit that is ritually important during the Jewish holiday of Sukkot. Many people purchase one, and simply toss the exotic fruit in the garbage when the holiday ends. This seems wasteful, especially when there are many uses for fragrant fruit after the holiday!
Before you toss your etrog, below are some examples of possible uses:
Scented Oil: You can make etrog-scented oil simply by infusing oil with the zest. Grate the peel of a cleaned etrog and put it in a small glass bottle so it fills half the bottle, then add almond oil, light olive oil, or another oil to the top. Set the bottle in a sunny place for a few days, shaking it a few times every day, then store at room temperature. Add a few drops of this scented oil to a bath, or fill a spray bottle with water and a few drops of the etrog oil for a pleasant air freshener.
Spice Box: Another way to employ the etrog’s lovely fragrance is to pierce the skin of the fruit and fill the holes with dried cloves, covering the etrog completely. As the etrog dries, it releases a wonderful scent and the whole fruit may be used as a “spice box” for the Havdalah ceremony to mark the end of the Sabbath.
Grow an Etrog Tree: Remove the seeds from your etrog, wash them, and plant them in a well-drained potting mix. Keep the plants warm and moist, and repot when necessary. If you are patient and care for your citrus plant well, in about four or five years you may have your own home-grown etrog to use on Sukkot—and after the holiday ends.
Pregnancy and Childbirth: A variety of old world practices connect the etrog to pregnancy and childbirth. According to the Talmud (Jewish scriptures), a childless woman who wanted to bear a son was advised to bite the pitom (tip) of the fruit. A pregnant woman who ate the etrog after Sukkot would give birth to a “good” child. And a woman in labor could ease the pain of childbirth, it was said, by placing the etrog’s pitom under her pillow. Wish I knew that ten years ago-- I surely would have saved our etrog!
Food and Drink Around the World: After Sukkot, John Kirkpatrick, an etrog-farmer in California, sells great quantities of the remaining fruit to St. George Spirits for its citron-infused vodka. The citron peel has also been used to flavor other beverages, such as lemonade or sangria. In Sicily, people cut the pith into thin slices and sprinkle them with salt or sugar for a snack, or combine them in a salad with fennel, oil, salt, and pepper.
What if you don't have an etrog or a sukkah at home? No worries. Come celebrate with us! We have some great events for families on Sukkot at the JCCNV!
On October 7 in Ashburn, families can enjoy a PJ Library® story time, build their own mini-sukkah and shake the lulav (special branches) and etrog. Learn more.
On October 12, families can enjoy yoga in the sukkah at our Stretch in the Sukkah event at Gesher.
On October 21, we have our Fall Jewish Holiday Jamboree featuring dinner in the sukkah, a petting zoo, and more. Check out this flier for more details on this exciting family event.
We hope to see you at these fun events!