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The Ichang papeda is shrub-like evergreen tree that averages between 4 and 5 meters tall. Its leaves differ from all other papeda varieties in that they are extremely long and narrow with a double wing shape. The fruit is small and spherical with a somewhat elongated shape and approximately 4 to 5 centimeters across. When unripe, the surface has a deeply pebbled texture and a dark green color, but as the fruits fully ripen they become smooth and yellow. Below the tough thick rind there is virtually no edible flesh, but a rather dry pithy interior with very large seeds. Though mostly inedible, the Ichang papeda has a very fragrant zest and occasionally yields juice similar to that of a lemon.
The Ichang papeda is available late fall through winter.
The Ichang papeda is an ancient variety of citrus native to southwestern and west-central China, specifically Yichang in Hubei province, the city from which its name is derived. It is botanically classified as Citrus ichangensis and a member of the subgenus, Papeda, the oldest and most primitive type of citrus known for its extreme cold tolerance. Incredibly acrid and almost completely void of juice, the fruit of the Ichang papeda is rarely eaten on its own, but rather useful for aromatizing food and cosmetics due to its rich oil content.
Like most citrus varieties, the Ichang papeda is rich in vitamin C.
Though too bitter to be eaten on its own, the Ichang papeda may be used as a lemon substitute, but only when very ripe. More often it is valued for its aromatic oil which can be used similarly to other citrus zests for adding a very concentrated flavor to anything from marinades to ice cream.
The Ichang papeda is used in traditional Chinese medicine as well as a hair wash when combined with coconut oil.
Originally a wild growing tree in the monsoon regions of Japan and China, the papeda is the father of both the yuzu and present day lime. Today, the domesticated Ichang papeda grows in almost any temperate climate worldwide, and is perhaps the most cold-tolerant species of all the citrus family, able to withstand temperatures as low as 10 degrees F. In 1926 Walter Tennyson Swingle, an agricultural botanist that specialized in citrus, first brought the Ichang papeda to America with hopes of breeding more cold-resistant hybrids.