If there’s a silver lining to the gloomy days we’re seeing in the winter, it’s prime time for citrus season. These are the months you’ll begin to see an abundance of fresh mandarins, kumquats, Meyer Lemons and other seasonal favorites at your local grocery store. There’s no better way to start off the beginning of the year than with a hearty dose of nutrient-rich citrus. These fruits are loaded with powerful antioxidants, including Vitamin C. Not only are they healthy for you, they’re also delicious and add a bright zing of flavor to virtually any dish. You may be familiar with the common year-round citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons and grapefruit. However, there are many unique varieties you may not have encountered before. Let’s take a look at some of the popular types of citrus you can enjoy.
Characterized by their crimson hue and unrivaled in beauty, Blood Oranges are the glittering jewels of citrus season. They’re abundant from December through March. Surprisingly, they taste quite similar to regular oranges, except slightly less acidic and with berry undertones. The unique ruby-red color and delicious tart and sweet flavor of blood oranges make them a prized winter culinary ingredient among chefs. From sorbets to sauces to cocktails, can you think of other tasty uses for this gorgeous citrus?
One of the many prides and joys of citrus season are Ojai Pixie Tangerines. Grown in the beautiful Ojai Valley, these tangerines are bursting with the sweet sunshine flavor and delicious juice. Seedless and easy to peel, these amazingly sweet fruits are a favorite for snacking amongst kids and adults alike. Ojai Pixies are a later-season citrus variety that’s available from the months of March to May. Keep an eye out for this delightful variety!
Smaller in size than most mandarin varieties, Neapolitan Tangerines make up for it in their big flavor. They’re incredibly juicy, seedless, easy to peel. In fact, their high sugar content makes them very sweet and almost candy-like. Could this variety be the perfect mandarin out there? While a pleasure to eat out of hand, their sugariness lend themselves to some excellent dessert recipes, such as these Grain-Free Tangerine Bars. Photo by www.acleanbake.com
A cross between kumquats and sour mandarins, Calamondins are very small, round and vibrantly orange-hued. Though they make look adorable, their flavor packs a punch! Calamondins are rarely eaten out of hand because of their high acidity and sourness. However, they make great ingredient substitutions for lemons, where high acidity may be desired. Squeeze their juice into iced tea, meat and seafood for a touch of tartness or use in desserts like custards and pies.
You may have encountered blood oranges or regular oranges, but have you ever come across pink oranges? Cara Cara Oranges boast a pink-raspberry colored hue and are also known as red navel oranges. Their low acidity, abundant juiciness and sweet-cherry flavor undertones make them a popular choice during citrus season and are best when eaten out of hand. They also make some pretty remarkable garnishes in dishes and salads as well. Photo by www.savedbythekale.com.
Cocktail Grapefruits are a cross between Frua Mandarins and Pummelos. If you find traditional grapefruit too bitter to eat, then you’ll enjoy the much sweeter flavor and low acidity of Cocktail Grapefruits. Early in the season, they’re usually green-colored but become more yellow as the season progresses. Ripe and ready to eat, this incredibly juicy citrus can be enjoyed like regular grapefruit–cut in half and eaten with a spoon!
When it comes to finger limes, it’s the inside that counts. When sliced in half, this unique variety reveals edible pearlescent sacs that are bursting with sweet and tart lemon-lime flavor with an aromatic hint of fresh herbs. Finger limes are truly citrus in caviar form! They’re a fun snack to eat out of hand but their fruity vesicles can also be sprinkled as garnish onto desserts.
Organic Minneola Tangelos are also called Honeybells for their distinctive bell shape. Large in size and easy to peel, this bright orange-colored citrus is a cross between tangerines and grapefruits. They’re extremely juicy and offer a bright, intense tangerine flavor that’s balanced with tartness of grapefruit. Tangelos are typically available from January until March and are best eaten fresh or topped onto salads or grilled meats.
The largest member of the citrus world, Pummelos, also known as pomelos and shaddock, are a distant relative of grapefruits. Found primarily in Asia and now grown in the US, pummelos are a much favored citrus during its season. Although these exotic fruits resemble grapefruits, they’re actually sweeter, firmer and less juicy. Their thick rind is quite easy to peel and reveals a lovely pink flesh. They can be enjoyed like a grapefruit or make wonderful additions to fruit, vegetable or seafood salads.
Sweet, refreshing citrus fruits give dishes an unforgettable pizzazz. Different varieties offer different levels of sweetness, tartness and acidity and can be featured as the main ingredient or a simple garnish, depending on the recipe. From scrumptious drinks like smoothies and mimosas to desserts like sorbet, there are so many ways to celebrate citrus season’s winter bounty. Here are 10 of our favorite recipes with our many citrus varieties.
- Blood Orange Glazed Brussels Sprouts w/Grilled Corn
- Blood Orange Mimosas
- Dried Cranberry Pixie Tangerine Scones
- Pixie Tangerine Bread w/South African Baby Pineapples
- Pomegranate and Cara Cara Orange Salad
- Cara Cara Infused Coconut Milk
- Cocktail Grapefruit and Tarragon Sorbet
- Tangerine Crepes with Melissa’s Raspberry Sauce
- Cocktail Grapefruit and Radicchio Salad
- Pummelo and Uniq Fruit Salsa
What are your favorite citrus varieties? And what are some of your favorite things to do with citrus this time of the year?