While I'm the first one to admit that I am not a huge fan of the weather this time of year, there is actually something I do love about winter....citrus fruit!
Citrus fruits are typically available year-round, but they are at their peak this time of year. Native to Australia and Southeast Asia, citrus trees are cultivated in warm, sunny climates with fertile soil and adequate rainfall. However, they require some time at a cooler temperature for the fruit to develop its color. Hence their harvest in the cooler months of the year.
Right now there is an abundance of brightly colored citrus fruit in my local grocery store, so I thought it might be fun to geek out and learn more about some of my favorites.
The blood orange is primarily cultivated in the Southern Mediterranean and gets its name from the deep maroon/crimson color of its flesh... I mean just look at that color! Most likely a natural mutation of the orange, this distinctive color is due to the presence of anthocyanin, an antioxidant that is rather uncommon in citrus fruits. The sweet flesh of blood oranges is ideal in salads or desserts, and the juice is delicious on its own or in a variety of cocktails (hello!).
Cara Cara Orange
The Cara Cara orange is a hybrid between two different types of navel oranges and has a peach colored flesh (courtesy of the phytochemical, lycopene) and sweet, complex, almost berry-like flavor. Prized for the delightful fragrance of their blossoms, Cara Cara trees can grown in the moderately-warm regions of the US (zones 8-11). Whether eaten as a snack or squeezed for their juice, Cara Cara oranges are delicious and refreshing.
Mandarin oranges, and the related clementines, are known for their sweet flavor and loose, easy-to-peel skin. They originated from China and are now widely cultivated in California under the Wonderful® Halos™ brand. Between their portability and delectable little segments, we eat these by the dozens at our house.
Navel oranges are the original 'sweet' orange which developed from a hybrid between the pomelo and the mandarin orange. Also easy to peel, navel oranges are grown to be eaten fresh or squeezed for their juice.
Ruby Red Grapefruit
Originating in Asia, the grapefruit is a hybrid between the pomelo and the sweet orange. The name is derived from the grape-like clusters of fruit on the tree. The Ruby Red variety was developed after an accidental discovery of a the red grapefruit growing on a pink grapefruit tree. Now grown almost exclusively in South Texas, the juicy, sweet flesh is perfect for eating fresh or being squeezed into juice.
Besides their delicious flavor however, citrus fruits are extremely beneficial for good health. Citrus fruits are a valuable source of vitamin C which is important for the immune system and helps to reduce inflammation. Citrus fruits are also a good source of soluble and insoluble fiber - both of which help to lower cholesterol and aid in digestion. In addition, citrus fruits are also high in a wide variety of vitamins and minerals as well as a great source of antioxidants.
Personally, I love citrus fruit for all of the health reasons I mentioned above. But I think what I love most about citrus is the vibrant color and snappy freshness of the fruit at a time when this kind of flavor and color are in short supply. Definitely something to be grateful for this time of year.
What about you? Any of your favorites make my list?
Until next time,