Winter produce means one thing in many parts of the country – citrus, and lots of it. From backyard trees loaded with fruit to bins overflowing at farmers’ markets, winter citrus is ripe and ready to enjoy.
So I ventured deep into a forest of citrus experts and master gardeners who live, breath, eat and study citrus for a living.
Winter Citrus Varieties
Citrus varieties are plentiful in every region of the country, with catchy names like Cara Cara, Fukimoto, Lane Late, Trovita and MidKnight among oranges. Blood oranges with deep red fruit go by names like Moro, Ruby Salustiana and Tarocca.
Grapefruit varieties are a bit less complex, with either white or pink natural fruits. Pink grapefruits are a seasonal bestseller because they are considered the sweeter of the two. Truth is, white grapefruit is just as sweet as pink if it is left on the tree long enough to ripen.
While lemons bring a zesty kick to food and drinks year-round, you may be unaware that commercial growers typically treat lemons with ethylene gas to bring out the yellow color earlier in the season. Naturally grown or organic lemons can be easily harvested and eaten while the rind is still green.
Quick Lemon Tips
Because lemons are among the most commonly used citrus in the kitchen, here are a few quick tips:
- Wash fruit carefully before removing zest with a citrus zester or a grater to avoid contamination from any outside sources.
- Do not cook recipes that use a large amount of lemon juice in an aluminum pan. Food can pick up a very unpleasant metallic taste as a result.
- Store fresh-squeezed lemon juice in a tightly closed container for up to three days in the refrigerator.
- Lemon juice enhances flavors of other foods. You can reduce the amount of salt in a recipe by adding a squirt of lemon juice to just about any dish.
For Your Health
Citrus can be an important part of our healthy diets, as all varieties are rich in Vitamin C and potassium, while remaining low in calories.
Vitamin C supports healthy capillaries, blood vessels and teeth. It also helps in the absorption of iron and has antioxidant properties.
Because our bodies don’t store Vitamin C, we should consume foods high in ascorbic acid daily. Citrus is at the top of the list, along with red peppers, kale, Brussels sprouts, spinach, broccoli, strawberries and guava.
Vitamin C is also one of the best immune system boosters of all. The U.S. RDA for vitamin C is 75 mg for men and 90 mg for women.
In the Kitchen
This smoothie is loaded with citrus and is quick to make. Feel free to sub any citrus variety, depending on what’s available. Try lime, tangerine, tangelo or blood orange.
- 1 orange
- 3/4 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
- 1 lemon
- 1 red grapefruit
- 2 tablespoons honey or agave syrup OR 2 packets Stevia
- (optional) 1 scoop vanilla protein powder
- 1 cup ice
Peel citrus, segment, remove white pith and seeds. Place the fruits into a blender and add remaining ingredients. Blend until smooth and pour into 2 glasses.
Nutritional Info Per Serving (Without Added Protein): 160 calories (5 from fat), 35mg sodium, 32g carbohydrates, (6 g dietary fiber, 24g sugar), 10g protein.
ALASKAN COD WITH LEMON, SOY & HONEY GLAZE (courtesy Sunkist)
- 4 Alaska cod fillets, fresh or thawed
- 1 lemon
- 1 1/2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons honey
- 2 teaspoons dark sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger (or quarter the amount if using dried ginger)
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- Zest the lemon into a bowl then cut the lemon into wedges.
- Combine the lemon zest soy sauce, honey, oil, ginger and red pepper flakes in a broiler-safe baking dish or pan (about 8 inches by 8 inches).
- Add cod to the dish, turning fish over to coat all sides.
- Let stand 10-15 minutes to marinate. For a richer taste, marinate the cod for up to 4 hours in the refrigerator. When ready to bake, set the cod on the counter for 15 minutes to take the chill off.
- Set broiler temperature to high; move oven rack to 7 inches below the broiler element.
- Turn cod in marinade again just before broiling, and tuck in any thin cod end pieces to prevent overcooking.
- Cook just until cod is opaque throughout, about 5-8 minutes.
- Spoon cooked marinade over the cod and serve with lemon wedges.
Around the House
Here’s a great recipe for an all-purpose household cleaner from The Prairie Homestead that uses citrus peels that you might otherwise discard.
What You’ll Need:
- 1 or 2 quart sized mason jars
- A spray bottle
- 1-2 quarts white vinegar
- Orange, grapefruit, lemon, or lime peels (any combination of these will work, too)
- Optional: 3-4 drops lemon, grapefruit, or orange essential oil
- Stuff jars about half full of citrus peels
- Fill jars the rest of the way up with white vinegar
- Cover tightly with a lid and shake
- Write the date so you don’t forget!
- Steep peels and vinegar 2-3 weeks (The longer it sits, the more potent it will get!)
- Remove peels and strain through a fine strainer
- Dilute 1:1 with water (one part citrus vinegar to one part water) and place in a spray bottle
- Optional: add 3-4 drops essential oil to boost it’s cleaning power
- Use as as an all-purpose cleaner: on sinks, countertops, bathtubs, toilets, floors, etc.