Winter is the perfect season for fresh citrus

One of the great joys of the winter season is the peak-season availability of fresh citrus, from oranges to grapefruit, lemons to tangerines, and pummelos to kumquats, to name just a few. In addition to the regular treatment of citrus (peel and eat, or juice and drink), there is a world of good cooking to be had.  

Citrus means any number of fruits of the genus citrus with thick rinds and juicy pulp that are grown in warm climates. The first citrus came to the new world with Columbus in 1493. And in the 1500s, Spanish explorers planted the first orange trees in Florida where the unique sandy soil and warm climate is perfectly suited for cultivating oranges. Since the 1800s, citrus has been commercially cultivated in Florida.

There are many varieties of citrus to choose from. I like to experiment with blood oranges, available in late winter and early spring—they are tart with raspberry overtones and a colorful addition to salads and desserts. Or, Minneola oranges are easy to peel and have that just-right amount of tartness.

Grapefruits are a wonder food—not just to accompany your breakfast toast or cereal, but as a savory sauce for fish or a sweet sauce for cheesecake. Plus, they are a delicious revelation when broiled with brown sugar!

I would never be without lemons as a staple ingredient in the kitchen. Just a squirt can liven the taste of any prepared food, from seafood to a smooth and luscious lemon curd. My favorite is the Meyer lemon. Small and a cross between a lemon and a mandarin orange, Meyer lemons are very juicy and sweet. In season, I buy as many as I can and preserve them in salt to use all year long.

Have you tried pummelos yet? This cousin to the grapefruit is larger in size with a thick skin. Grown in California and Florida, pummelos originated in Asia. The juice of this exotic-looking fruit is sweeter than grapefruit and its skin is candied to make a type of marmalade.

All these citrus fruits boost your intake of vitamin C and fiber, but like magic, they can also wile away the blues in the winter kitchen.

Try these fantastic citrus recipes:

Categories: Food & Recipes