Cold winter weather got you down? Perhaps, you need a little taste of sunshine. There's nothing like the flavor of citrus to conjure up a sun-drenched beach. Oranges, grapefruits and kumquatsto name a feware not only incredibly refreshing, but very healthy. Luckily they're in season now, so get in the grove!
Citrus fruits were first cultivated in Asia thousands of years ago. They came to the Americas with the Spanish explorers. Citrus was the sailors' way of preventing scurvy (a disease caused by vitamin C deficiency) on the high seas. Today citrus fruits are grown in sunny climates across the globe from Florida to Israel.
Citrus fruits are high in vitamin C and potassium, contain good amounts of vitamin A and fiber and are also a source of some important cancer-fighting compounds. Remember, all that vitamin C can help your body ward off illness during the winter cold and flu season.
In the Grove
Grapefruit actually originated in the West Indies and were so-named because the fruit grows in clusters like grapes. It's a bit of a misnomer considering the fruit is about 10 times the size of its namesake. Initially, grapefruit was just a novelty in the United States, but it gradually became a beloved part of the winter breakfast.
Look for smooth, brightly colored fruit that feel heavy for their size. Grapefruits with pink flesh are usually sweeter than white ones and contain more vitamin A. Grapefruit are delicious eaten fresh, partner well with fish and are perfect for jazzing up salads.
You can munch this exotic, tiny fruit in one bite. Kumquats have sweet skin and tart pulp and you can eat them whole. They originated in China and their name comes from the Cantonese word for "golden orange." The olive-sized fruit grows on a small evergreen shrub that is a close kin to the citrus family.
Choose firm, fragrant fruit without any blemishes. Kumquats are a refreshing choice after a rich meal. Cooked, they make wonderful sauces for desserts or poultry.
For centuries, people have used this tart, yellow fruit not only for cooking, but also to treat ailments ranging from epilepsy to the common cold. Like most of their citrus brethren, lemons first came from Southeast Asia. The popular fruit plays a vital role in cuisines around the world.
Look for firm, plump, bright-colored fruit that feel heavy for their size. Avoid lemons with a green cast, which means they're under ripe. Always bring your lemons to room temperature before you use them. Lemon juice prevents certain fruits like apples, avocados and pears from discoloring once they've been peeled.
The British earned the nickname "Limey" because their sailors imbibed a ration of lime juice (along with a ration of rum) when they were at sea. Limes originated in Southeast Asia but quickly took off once they were introduced in the Americas. Indeed the smaller, more yellow-looking Key limes are so named because they thrived in the Florida Keys.
Look for limes that have thin, smooth green skin and feel heavy for their size. Brown spots don't mean the fruit is any less flavorful however; keep away from fruit with shriveled skin. Limes stand up well to strong seasonings like garlic.
The orange is definitely the darling of the citrus family. Sweet and succulent, it's a favorite fruit for all ages. Interestingly, according to the "Food Lover's Companion", oranges were not named for their color. Instead, the word "orange" originally meant fragrant. No surprise for anyone who has ever passed by an orange grove.
Loose-skinned oranges like tangerines and clementines are especially popular with youngsters because they're often seedless and are easy to peel. Sweet oranges like navels, Valencia oranges, and blood oranges (named for their red flesh) are good for juicing and eating. Bitter oranges like the Seville are the right stuff for marmalade. See our Season's Pick on oranges for a section-by-section tour.
Pomelos originated in Malaysia. The biggest citrus of all, these pear-shaped fruits can weigh as much as 25 pounds. Pomelos are also called Chinese grapefruit and shaddock, after the English sea captain who brought them to the New World.
The skin of pomelos varies in color from light yellow to pink and the flesh can be sweet and spicy, or tart. Look for fruit without any blemishes. They should have a sweet smell and feel heavy for their size. Use them as you would a grapefruit.
This bumpy-skinned, large, yellow-green fruit was discovered fairly recently growing wild in Jamaica. It's thought to be a cross between a grapefruit and a tangerine. This funny-looking fruit has a tart-sweet taste.
Choose firm fruit that feel heavy for their size. The skin is so loose and easy to peel, it's a cinch to eat them in sections, but you can also halve them like a grapefruit.
Cooking with Citrus
Cooking with citrus is a total pleasure. The fruits are fragrant, fat-free, flavor-enhancers. The zestthe outermost peelcontains aromatic oils that add tang to everything from stews to baked goods. A splash of fresh lemon, lime or orange juice can bring a salad dressing to life or draw out the flavor in other fresh fruits.
Across-the-board, citrus fruits will keep for at least two weeks and in some cases up to six weeks in the refrigerator. Alas, once they've been squeezed or cut, the vitamin content in many citrus fruits begins to wane.
There are so many tasty dishes you can make with citrus fruits. Here's just a sampling of what FoodFit has to offer. Use our recipe search to find more.
Get a taste of the sun with these citrusy recipes:
Blood Orange Marmalade
Beet, Orange, Onion, and Olive Salad
Grilled Pork Chops with Orange-Rosemary Relish
Grilled Turkey Cutlets with Raspberry Lime Glaze
Herbed Lemony Swiss Chard
Lemon-Basil Stuffed Chicken Breasts
Pan Roasted Scallops with Mandarins and Chickpeas
Allen Susser, Chef Allen's, Aventura, FL
Pink Grapefruit Sorbet
Gale Gand, Tru, Chicago, IL
Salmon with White Grapefruit Sauce
Tangerine Teriyaki Tuna