When it comes to Chinotto usually one thinks of the drink bearing this name. Marketing effect, but this name should lead us to think of a citrus that few people know. It is certainly not cultivated and used like lemon, orange and mandarin but it has several properties that can be interesting and it is important to learn how it is grown and also how it can be consumed.
The taste of chinotto is rather acidulous, it is not in fact a fruit that is peeled and eaten like a mandarin with its sweet and pleasant flavor. It is a fruit, and a plant, that comes to us from Southern China and that we can find in different areas of Italy which love the Mediterranean climate. It is grown systematically in Tuscany, in the Ligurian Riviera di Ponente, in Calabria and Sicily. We owe its presence in our country to a Ligurian navigator who imported it or so the legend goes.
It belongs to the Rutaceae family and its scientific name is Citrus Myrtifolia. This citrus fruit could be the result of many years of spontaneous selection work, starting from bitter orange and today it has numerous varieties: the large chinotto, the small one, the crispifolia and the box-leaf chinotto.
In all cases, the fruit of this plant has an orange skin and a rounded shape but a little flattened at both ends, it is not exaggerated in size, it can be compared to a mini mandarin. If you scratch the peel of the chinotto you will discover its cloves, usually there are about ten and they do not have seeds.
To get gods fruits to eat o to use in the kitchen it is necessary to have a lot of patience in the case of chinotto because the growth times are very slow and the ripening phase can last even a couple of years. They have a bitter but partly acidic taste, it can be picked between June and December, even when the area in which it grows varies. The plant is evergreen and it is the only one not to have thorns among all those that produce citrus fruits. It can even reach a height of 4 meters, it has many leaves of one bright green color and with a pointed shape, perhaps instead of thorns, and before offering its fruits it produces marvelous flowers of white color and strongly perfumed.
All citrus fruits are rich in properties that are valuable for our health and the chinotto he certainly has nothing to envy to his colleagues. Of course, it does not have a "trivial" taste and many may not like it but if we learn to cook it or use it in the kitchen, we will be able to enjoy many benefits.
Just the substance that makes it a little bitter and unpleasant for the most delicate palates, naringin is also the substance that motivates its most important properties: digestive, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory.
Like all citrus fruits it has a lot C vitamin and also a great deal of beta-carotene therefore in other times it was one of the foods that could be very useful for treating a disease due to lack of vitamin C, scurvy. Sailors made great use of it, along with paprika and acerola. The peel and flowers of the chinotto also have useful properties and are used in herbal medicine to combat insomnia above all.
Given the very particular flavor, it is not appropriate to eat the chinotto directly, as if it were an orange. Let's avoid consuming it raw and learn how to use it in the kitchen to prepare drinks and recipes. This fruit is the basis of the well-known drink of the same name but not only, we also find it in the ingredients of liqueurs and digestives, jams, syrups, candied fruit. Even the leaves can be used to prepare relaxing herbal teas and infusions and the fragrant flowers are useful in cosmetics, to prepare soaps and perfumed products.
One of the most interesting and delicious but at the same time interesting recipes is that of the liqueur with the taste of this citrus fruit. No weird ingredients are needed, and the procedure doesn't require a chef background. Let's get 600 grams of ripe chinotti and 600 ml of alcohol at 90 °, 600 ml of water, 1 kg of sugar and a vanilla pod.
To prepare the fruits it is necessary to wash them and remove the peel, not peeling them but grating them carefully: it must be set aside to be used. We start squeezing the juice from the fruits, then take the peel rinds and infuse them with alcohol, the extracted juice, vanilla pod. After two weeks of resting in the dark, we recover this liquid and boil the water and sugar in a saucepan until ready and at room temperature. At that point we can add the liquid to infuse and let it rest again for a week, always in the dark. Almost a month has now passed but we're almost there. We take the liquid, bring it back to the light and filter it several times until we obtain a clear fluid which will be the our liquor, with strong digestive properties.
In the ground or in pots, the chinotto is a plant that can be grown in many areas of Italy where it is at ease due to the excellent climate. Its ideal temperatures range from 18 to 32 ° C so if we have particularly cold winters it is absolutely necessary protect the chinotto. Watering must be abundant in summer, when the heat can cause drought problems, while in winter it is not necessary to overdo it, just give a little water every 10 - 12 days. The choice of soil is rather delicate, it is in fact necessary to do everything to prevent water stagnation from being created, so it needs to be fertile and well draining so that the roots do not risk rotting.
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