Add Some Lightness to Your Meals with Citrus Fruit
“When life hands you lemons…”
by all means, make and enjoy lemonade, lemon cheesecake, lemon chicken..!
Winter meals can feel a bit heavy, yet one thing that can add some lightness is including citrus fruit. Tangy, bright, and packed with essential vitamins and minerals, citrus is a natural and welcome “pick-me-up” during the winter months. Although there are many varieties from which to choose, some with year-round availability, citrus season is in high gear between January and March.
Originating in Southeast Asia in about 4000 BC, citrus was brought to the Americas by Spanish explorers. Today, the majority of citrus is grown in Brazil, the United States and countries surrounding the Mediterranean. It is believed that the many varieties of citrus available today are hybrids of three original types – mandarin, citron, and pummelo (pomelo).
Most of us are used to automatically removing and discarding the peel of citrus fruit before eating it, but the entire fruit is edible and incredibly healthy. Eating the peel, pith and all provides about five times more antioxidant power than the juice alone due to the high level of flavonoids concentrated in the outer layers. The pith and peel can taste bitter, so try juicing the entire citrus fruit in your next smoothie for a flavorful antioxidant boost.
Many of us already know that citrus fruits are a great source of Vitamin C – an antioxidant that helps boost the immune system and reduces inflammation which can lower the risk of cancer. Vitamin C also aids in the absorption of iron from plant-based foods and aids collagen production. Citrus fruits also provide fiber, calcium, folate, potassium, and Vitamin A to our diets.
With many varieties of citrus available it’s easy to move beyond the standard lemons, limes and navel oranges. How many different varieties have you tried? Check out our CITRUS FRUIT GUIDE – and explore something new this season.
When shopping for citrus, choose fruit that is:
- heavy for its size
- no signs of soft spots, decay or damage
One great thing about citrus fruit is that it comes with its own wrapper! Citrus keeps well at room temperature for several days and can be refrigerated for up to two weeks. Do not store unpeeled citrus fruit in plastic bags as it requires airflow to stay fresh.
For those pieces of fruit that you will not eat before those timeframes, consider zesting the peel and then juicing the fruit for later consumption. The zest can be stored in zip-lock bags and frozen for later use. Refrigerate the juice for several days or freeze in freezer-safe containers. Frozen zest and juice will last up to six months.
Not only are they convenient and delicious for snacking, but citrus fruits are an essential flavor component in cooking as their acidity and brightness bring out the other flavors in all types of dishes. Citrus pairs well with fish, seafood, pork, chicken, vegetables and many other foods. Change up the varieties you use for new flavor experiences.
- a sprinkle of citrus juice or zest in soups, stews, entrées, and vegetables to perk up the flavors
- a slice and squeeze of citrus in sparkling water, hot tea or other beverage
- citrus “SUPREMES” in salads, desserts or garnishes
- whole citrus fruit in smoothies
- freshly squeezed juice in marinades and vinaigrettes
- fresh juice, fruit sections or zest to flavor cakes, cookies, pies, and other desserts
For a few simple ideas on how to use oranges and limes, check out 10 Ways to Enjoy Oranges and 10 Ways to Enjoy Limes created by Fruits & Veggies–More Matters®, or some slightly more complex ideas from The Kitchn, 25 Essential Ways to Use Winter Citrus.
MIXED GREENS and CITRUS SALAD with GRAPEFRUIT-THYME VINAIGRETTE
Enjoy a welcome burst of citrus sunshine with this light and flavorful salad!
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Main photo: iStock/510082266