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Alemow citrus is a medium to large fruit, averaging 8 to 10 centimeters in diameter, and has an oblong shape with a rounded, non-stem end tapering to a small, protruding apex known as a mammilla. The rind is rough, semi-thick, leathery, firm, and bumpy, ripening from dark green to golden yellow with maturity. Underneath the textured surface, there is a thin layer of white, bitter, and spongy pith that tightly adheres to the flesh, which is divided into 11 to 13 segments by membranes. The pale yellow-green flesh is comprised of pulp vesicles with very little juice, creating a drier consistency, and there are many small cream-colored seeds embedded into the flesh. Alemow citrus contains a high amount of bitter, tart, and acrid oil, giving the fruits an unpalatable, sour flavor.
Alemow citrus is available in the late fall through early spring.
Alemow citrus, botanically classified as Citrus macrophylla, is a rare, ancient variety belonging to the Rutaceae family. The hybrid fruits mature on short trees reaching up to 6 meters in height and have been growing wild on the island of Cebu in the Philippines for thousands of years. Alemow citrus is also known as Colo, Alimau, Macrophylla, and Alemon, and the variety is believed to contain papeda citrus in its parentage, contributing to the fruit’s very little juice and sour, unpalatable taste. Alemow citrus is considered mostly inedible, and the fruits are not commercially grown. Despite the fruit’s lack of culinary use, the variety has been discovered as an important commercial rootstock for the cultivation of modern citrus varieties.
Alemow citrus is an excellent source of vitamin C to strengthen the immune system, protect the body against free radical damage, and reduce inflammation. The fruits also provide some hesperidin, a flavonoid containing antioxidant-like properties that can stimulate and regulate blood circulation.
Alemow citrus is not often used for culinary purposes as the fruits are challenging to find, and the flesh is dry, bearing an acidic, very sour flavor. In some areas of Cebu, the fruits may be occasionally used as a flavoring in sauces or soups, or the flesh can be cooked with copious amounts of sugar to make marmalade. Beyond culinary applications, Alemow citrus is primarily used as a digestive aid in tonics, and the leaves are sometimes incorporated into topical skin treatments. The fragrant, essential oil is also extracted from the rind and used in perfumes, body lotions, or mixed with coconut oil as a hair fragrance.
Alemow citrus is one of the most important rootstocks used in commercial citrus orchards worldwide. The variety was first utilized in the United States in the 1950s when Dr. Bill Bitters studied it at the University of Riverside Experiment Station. In the study, Bitters trialed over 500 citrus cultivars to observe which varieties exhibited resistance to vector transmitted viruses, which were threatening to destroy the citrus industry in California. Bitters found the Alemow citrus to be one of two varieties that showed the strongest virus resistance, and the cultivar was selected for its cold tolerance, disease resistance, and deep root system. Alemow citrus trees are also known for their adaptability, growing in sandy, limestone, and clay soils. In California, Alemow rootstock has contributed to frost-resistant lemon varieties with increased yields and size. Outside of California, the rootstock is also used in regions of Italy and Spain for improved lemon, orange, kumquat, and tangerine varieties.
Alemow citrus is believed to be native to the island of Cebu in the Philippines and has been growing wild since ancient times. While the parentage of Alemow citrus is unknown, many experts believe the variety to be a hybrid of a papeda citrus and a pomelo. Alemow citrus is very rare and is not grown commercially. The variety is primarily utilized as a rootstock and is used worldwide to produce improved varieties of lemons, oranges, and kumquats. Today Alemow citrus may be occasionally foraged from wild trees in the Philippines or grown for research purposes in orchards in California.