In Season: Perk up dark days with a spritz of citrus
It’s as if Nature knows how dreary it can seem when winter storms set in, and so she gives us citrus to cheer us up.
Citrus, whose sugars and acids are the summation of the last season’s warmth and sunshine, is at its peak of sweetness just when we need it most. From now until April, even the grapefruits remind us of candy.
Citrus fruits are the most widely grown, diverse and useful fruits in the world. While a few of the citrus fruits in commerce are species, most are hybrids and crosses and further crosses between species and other hybrids.
Because so many modern dishes call for a bit of citrus peel zest, it’s important to use organic citrus. Fortunately, it’s not hard to find. Oliver’s, Whole Foods, Community Market and the tree in your neighbor’s yard may all have organic citrus. In these parts, Meyer lemons are as common as pussycats.
Besides, claims that organic culture yields the “most nutritious citrus” isn’t just smoke and mirrors. Students at Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri, under the direction of visiting chemistry professor Theo Clark, investigated the vitamin C content of organic and conventional oranges. The conventional oranges were larger than the organic oranges and had a deeper color. Because of their size, “we were expecting twice as much vitamin C in the conventional oranges,” Clark reported. But spectroscopy revealed that the organically grown oranges contained 30 percent more vitamin C than the conventionally grown fruit, even though they were only about half the size.
While the nutritional effects are a bonus, the real joy of citrus is its delicious taste that ranges from the sharply sour lemons to the wonderfully sweet Murcott’s tangerine-and- orange hybrid.
Who could predict that oranges would go so perfectly with chocolate or strawberries, that lime juice would focus the taste of corn and meld with raw fish, that grapefruit and goat cheese are a natural match? And lemons — they make half the teams of lemon and lime, lemon and honey and lemon and black currants.
A white grapefruit variety called “Marsh” used to be available at Raley’s, but they’ve been gone from the shelves there and elsewhere for many years. Too bad, because they were sweeter and more delicious than the red-to-pink grapefruit that dominate the shelves today. There’s a shipper in Florida that will sell you tree-ripened Marshes, but at $6.75 a fruit, including shipping and handling, they’re exorbitant.
The following are the cream of the citrus crop.
KUMQUAT (Fortunella crassifolia)
Meiwa — A superior kumquat, sometimes seedless, for eating out of hand or for making marmalade.
Mandarins and Tangerines (Citrus reticulata)
Brown’s Select — Satsuma type; flesh sweet, melting.
Clementine — Excellent small tangerine with rich flavor.
Dancy — America’s favorite tangerine; high quality.
Fina — Spain’s favorite tangerine; Clementine type.
Honey — Extraordinarily rich in flavor and aromatics.
Kinnow — Large tangerine with very rich flavor, aroma.
Owari — Old Japanese satsuma with rich, sweet flavor.
Silverhill — Much like Owari satsuma, but sweeter.
ORANGE (Citrus x sinensis)