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Winter Citrus

posted on February 22nd, 2017 by Lauren Murphy

There is a lot to love about winter in California, but our very favorite thing is the abundance of fresh and delicious Winter Citrus: sweet Sumo mandarins, bright Persian limes and everything in between. Add these ripe citruses to your drinks, salads, and or enjoy on their own!citrus-slices

NAVEL ORANGES

Navel oranges are the happy little “belly-button” oranges you’ll find in our produce section when the weather cools. Pretty much everyone agrees that navel oranges are the best and most beloved of all: they’re sweet, seedless and can be peeled and segmented easily by even the littlest hands.

In season: November through May
At peak: January through March
Produce Guru tip: Green-tinged oranges are ripe and still taste sweet (it’s just the chlorophyll helping protect the orange from sunburn!).

 

VALENCIA ORANGES

Though Valencias start coming into our store in February, they’re actually a summer orange, and as the “orange-juice orange,” they’re the most common in the world. They’re thin-skinned and even though they’re deliciously sweet, they’re usually used in cooking or in smoothies versus eating out of hand.

In season: February-October
At peak: May – July
Produce Guru tip: When choosing, look for firm and heavy oranges with thin, smooth skin for the ripest fruit.

 

BLOOD ORANGES

If you’ve been lucky enough to travel to Italy, you likely still dream about the delicious blood orange juice that accompanies most every continental breakfast. These small-to-medium oranges have thin skin, few-to-no seeds and have a dramatic crimson interior. They’re slightly more tart than a traditional navel orange, making them a great orange for a salad or vinaigrette.

In season: January through mid-April
At peak: February
Produce Guru tip: The signature ruby-red color comes from a pigment called anthocyanin, which is found in cherries, marionberries and other red fruits.

 

CARA CARA PINK NAVELS

The Cara Cara is the epitome of the old saying “don’t judge a book by its cover.” They may look like run-of-the-mill oranges on the outside, but once peeled, the Cara Cara reveals its complexity: a distinctive pinkish-red and seedless fruit with exceptionally sweet flavor and a tangy cranberry-ish zing.

In season: December through May
At peak: December through April
Produce Guru tip: Cara Caras have 20% more vitamin C than regular navel oranges, and the pink hue comes from lycopene, a powerful antioxidant.

 

LEMONS

While winter days are shorter, colder and darker, there is one thing to be grateful for: lemons! Unlike sweeter citrus, lemons are incredibly versatile, brightening almost any dish—savory or sweet—with one squeeze. While shopping, look for lemons that feel heavy, are bright yellow, and have a shiny skin. Dark spots or shriveled skin indicates an older lemon, which has lower acidity and less juice.

In season: All year!
At peak: December through April
Produce Guru tip: Roll a room-temperature lemon on the counter a few times to maximize the amount of juice it releases.

 

LIMES

Limes are the most acidic of the citrus fruits and have a distinct flavor: a little bit piney, a little bit floral. Nothing’s more frustrating than taking a bunch of limes home only to find out they’re on the dry side. To make sure you’re getting the juiciest ones, pick medium-to-larger fruits and make sure they feel heavy for their size. Also look for bright green skin without no discolorations or brown spots.

In season: All year!
At peak: May through August
Produce Guru tip: Limes have an ingenious enzymatic “cooking” action that turns raw seafood into delicious ceviche.

 

GRAPEFRUITS

It’s probably been a while since you bought a grapefruit (must be that reputation as a “diet” food!). But grapefruits are so uniquely delicious—sweet and tart in one amazing package!—you shouldn’t wait another day. Some of our favorites are the ruby-flesh varieties out of Texas, which are the sweetest variety and great for segmenting, juicing or just eating with a spoon.

In season: All year!
At peak: December through April
Produce Guru tip: Because grapefruits are almost three-quarters juice, make sure you’re getting your money’s worth by choosing a fruit that feels heavy in the hand for its size.

 

TANGERINES

Snack-sized, super sweet, and a snap to peel, it’s no wonder that tangerines are one of the citrus all-stars. An offshoot of the mandarin family of oranges, tangerines are grown primarily in California, Florida and Texas. Seedless varieties are the perfect to-go treat for kids and adults alike, and because they’re so sweet, they’re a terrific orange for making desserts.

In season: November through April
At peak: February through April
Produce Guru tip: Choose fruit with glossy, deep orange skins that are heavy for their size with pebbly skins and no deep grooves.

 

GOLD NUGGET MANDARINS

One of the newest varieties of mandarins, California-grown Gold Nuggets have quickly gained a reputation among professional tasters as being one of the best-tasting citrus fruits in the world. Just look for the extra bumpy exterior and you’ll find gold inside. Small in size and seedless, they’re easy to peel and make a great lunchbox addition.

In season: March through May
At peak: April
Produce Guru tip: Averaging a 50% juice content, the Gold Nugget is a great juicer.

 

ORO BLANCO GRAPEFRUITS

Oro Blancos get our vote for the best kept secret in citrus. A cross between a white grapefruit and an acidless pummelo, the fruit has a subtle “white” flesh (“oro blanco” translates from Spanish to “white gold”) that’s sweet and delicious without any of the bitterness found in a common grapefruit. In fact, some people say they taste like grapefruit that’s already been sprinkled with sugar. And if that weren’t enough to convince you, they have thicker skin than grapefruit, too, so they’re easy to peel.

In season: December through March
At peak: January and February
Produce Guru tip: Unlike most citrus, a green exterior means the oro blanco is ripe and ready to eat.

 

PUMMELOS

Pummelos (also called Pomelos) are one of the largest and most exotic citrus—the largest varieties can get as big as watermelons! The flesh ranges from creamy white to bright pink, and they have a refreshingly sweet and mildly tart flavor. The large segments are firm and juicy making them great for salads and salsas.

In season: October through April
At peak: November through March
Produce Guru tip: Pummelos are a popular treat in Asian cultures, especially during Chinese New Year when they’re given to friends as a symbol of good fortune and prosperity.

 

CLEMENTINES

These tiny mandarins steal our hearts every winter because of their “can’t eat just one” deliciousness. They’re super sweet with intense tangerine flavor and a bit of apricot nectar taste mixed in for good measure. They’re almost always seedless (yay!) and easy to peel, making them a great snack when you’re rushing out the door.

In season: November through April
At peak: January through March
Produce Guru tip: When picking fruit, give it a sniff. It should smell good! And the rind should never feel puffy (no space between it and the flesh).

 

DANCY TANGERINES

Dancys are the classic tangerine with thin, leathery skin, sweet juice and an intense floral aroma. The Dancy’s nickname is the “zipper tangerine” because they’re so easy to peel! Dancy tangerine flesh is tender, but be prepared to enjoy the edible “rag” from the membranes surrounding the segments.

In season: January through April
At peak: February through March
Produce Guru Tip: Research shows tangerine rind has lots of great health benefits. Just let them dry out and then put a few pieces in hot water for tangerine peel tea.

 

Shasta Gold Tangerines

With a later peak season than most tangerines, Shasta Golds let us enjoy sweet citrus once the weather gets warmer. Shasta Golds are bigger than other mandarins and have a trademark bright orange skin. They’re sweet as can be and have a unique pineapple-like flavor. Plus like other tangerines they’re easy to peel and seedless so they’re a perfect snacking fruit.

In season: February through April
At peak: March through April
Produce Guru tip: Shasta Golds are only here for a short time—you definitely don’t want to miss them!

 

PIXIE TANGERINES

Grown on small family farms just up the road in Ojai, Pixie Tangerines are a late-season hybrid mandarin without a single seed. Pixies are pint-sized and have bumpier skin than most tangerines, but don’t let that fool you: they’re bursting with amazingly sweet, rich tangerine flavor.

In season: February through May
At peak: February through May
Produce Guru tip: The origin of the Pixie tangerine is shrouded in mystery, making them even more deliciously unique.

 

MEYER LEMONS

Though no one is exactly sure how Meyer lemons came to be, some scientists think they’re a cross between a lemon and a sweet orange. They’re thinner skinned than regular lemons and have a darker yellow, almost orange color. They produce tons of juice, which has an intense and unique flavor that comes from the fruit’s lower acidity and higher sugar content.

In season: November through April
At peak: December through April
Produce Guru tip: Meyer lemon rinds have a more complex aroma than regular lemons. It’s a bergamot fragrance that tastes and smells a bit spicy.

 

BUDDHA’S HAND

Without a doubt the most unique citrus in the world, Buddha’s Hand has long been a symbol of longevity and good fortune. A close cousin to the lemon, the Buddha’s Hand got its name from its shape: lots of cool finger-like segments emerging from its base. There’s no pulp or juice, but the flesh adds a wonderful complex citrus flavor when minced. It also makes a great ornamental fruit for your party table.

In season: February through May
At peak: February through May
Produce Guru tip: Choose Buddha’s Hands that are firm and avoid blemishes and shriveled or moldy spots.

 

SUMO MANDARINS

You can’t miss the Sumos—they’re the lumpy bumpy mandarin with a crown on top! Grown in our own San Joaquin Valley, these supersized mandarins are naturally seedless, sweet and juicy. They’re also easy to peel, with delicate flesh and very little “rag” (the white part of the citrus). Sumos easily pass the “Eat in the Car Test”: hands stay dry and there’s no sticky mess.

In season: February through April
At peak: February through April
Produce Guru tip: When you’re picking a Sumo, give it a gentle squeeze. If it “gives” a little, it means it’s at its peak of flavor.

 

DAISY TANGERINES

Grown here in California, Daisy tangerines have a pretty, round shape with a deep orange, smooth rind that’s easy to peel. The flesh is also a rich orange, delicately textured and quite juicy with a full-bodied, sweet flavor. And unlike most mandarins, Daisys contains very few seeds making them great for kids on the go.

In season: February through April
At peak: February through April
Produce Guru tip: The Daisy was created by mandarin-loving researchers at University of California – Riverside who wanted a seedless fruit.

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