Citrus myrtifolia

Citrus myrtifolia, popularly called Moorish orange tree in Spain and chinotto in Italy, is a tree belonging to the citrus group and originating from China. For a time it has been considered as a variety of bitter orange tree and called Citrus aurantium L. var myrtifolium, however due to the numerous differences between both, at the moment it is considered an independent species with the name of Citrus myrtifolia.

The tree is small in size and does not usually exceed 4 meters in height. It grows slowly and is generally propagated in gardening by grafting. It has small lanceolate leaves, simple, alternate, leathery and slightly wavy, reminiscent of those of Myrtus communis or myrtle, the flowers are white, very fragrant and abundant. The fruits are small, yellow or orange and persist for several months on the plant.

The edible fruit closely resembles the orange (Citrus sinensis) in color and shape, but is much smaller, being about the size of a large olive. Quinoto is a fairly cold-hardy citrus fruit.


The English name “kumquat” derives from the Cantonese kamkwat (Chinese, 金橘; pinyin, jīnjú; jyutping, gām gwāt; literally, ‘golden mandarin orange’).


The tree grows up to three meters high and is found in various regions of Italy (Liguria, especially in Savona where it was introduced and where consumption of the popular Italian drink began, Tuscany, Sicily and Calabria) and France (French Riviera).
Citrus myrtifolia is sometimes planted in gardens. Because of its compact size, it can also be planted in a pot or other container.


In Italian the chinotto owes its name to China, from where it would have been imported in the late 16th or early 17th century by someone from Livorno or Savona. However, according to some researchers, the plant would have originated in the Mediterranean Sea, where it would have developed from a mutation of the bitter orange bud. In this case the name could only mean that it is a “Chinese type” fruit. Currently, there is no news about any kind of chinotto cultivation in Asian countries. Outside Italy (Liguria, Tuscany, Sicily and Calabria), its presence is limited to the French Côte d’Azur.


The plant produces small bitter fruits, traditionally used to produce jams, candied fruit and syrups.

In Europe it was traditional, in the late 1800s and until 1918, (the so-called Belle époque), an extensive use of unripe fruits (1-2.5 cm in diameter), partially treated to reduce the bitter taste and syrup in sugar solutions; they were consumed together with alcoholic beverages (such as wines with absinthe), as an aperitif. The canned product is still on sale. The fruits, of which there were extensive cultivations in Italy (mainly in the Ligurian Riviera), were exported to several European countries.
Quinoto juice is a component of many digestive and bitter drinks. However, most of it is used for the production of the drink of the same name, known in Italy as chinotto and in Malta as kinnie . Quinoto is also an essential component of the Italian bitter drink Amaro, of some digestives and of the popular Campari liqueur.


Hodgson names four different varieties:


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