January to March is citrus season, the time when North American oranges, lemons, grapefruit and limes are at their peak.
Take full advantage of the season and explore all the citrus fruit offered in the produce aisle. To help you make the best of the season, here are some tips and recipes for you to consider.
Selecting the best
To find the freshest, sweetest and juiciest fruit in the display case look for the following:
- Clear, blemish-free rinds with no soft spots.
- Fruit that feels heavy compared to those around it. The heavier, the juicier!
- Fruit with finely textured peel versus thick, heavily dimpled peel.
- Rind that is firm around the entire fruit. Only tangerines, clementines or mandarins should have peels that are loose around the orange.
If your grocer has several variety of oranges, try them all.
Navel oranges are favoured for their classic sweet, juicy flavour. These plump, seedless fruits with their telltale belly button are perfect for eating out of hand and taking along for wintertime activities.
The cara cara orange is a sweet, mild orange with salmon-coloured flesh. It’s considered a low-acid orange, perfect if you find other oranges too acidic.
The tangelo, a member of the mandarin class of oranges, is the juiciest of the bunch. Easily recognized by the nub on the stem end, it’s also one of the easiest oranges to peel. Read the label carefully as many tangelos and their clementine cousins are not seedless.
The moro blood orange is smaller and a little tarter than a regular navel orange, but that mottled burgundy colour is stunning and makes a great addition to salads.
Stored correctly, citrus fruit will last for several weeks — so, go ahead and buy that big bag of oranges, lemons or grapefruit. To keep them fresh and juicy, keep your citrus cool in ventilated bags that allow airflow. A mesh bag or plastic bag with holes kept in the fridge, a cold room or even a cool corner in the basement will work.
While the bulk of your citrus should be kept cool, be sure to keep some oranges, tangelos and grapefruit in the fruit basket to encourage healthy snacking. At room temperature, they’ll release more juice and taste sweeter. They’ll keep fresh for about a week on the counter.
Storing cut citrus
When a recipe calls for half a lemon or lime, don’t let the other half go to waste. Cut lemons or limes can be kept tightly wrapped in plastic or in a snug, airtight container for three to five days in the fridge. If you don’t have a plan for using the leftover lemon or lime, freeze it using one of these methods:
- Place the whole leftover citrus in a freezer bag and toss in the freezer as is. When ready to use, thaw and juice the lemon or lime. Use within three months.
- Cut into small wedges and place in a freezer bag as is or place wedges in ice cube trays, cover with water and freeze. Use frozen wedges or ice cubes in tea, punches or other beverages. Use within three months.
- Zest and juice the lemon or lime. Freeze the juice in ice cube trays and freeze the zest in small airtight containers. Use in any recipe calling for fresh juice or zest. Use within six months.
While perfect for eating just the way they are, citrus can also be used in sweet or savoury recipes for every meal of the day. Here are three recipes to try.
Grapefruit Parfait to Go
- 1 ruby red grapefruit
- 1/2 cup plain yogurt
- 1/2 cup lemon yogurt
- 1/3 cup granola
Peel, segment and cut grapefruit into bite-size pieces. Mix plain and lemon yogurt. Alternate layers of grapefruit, granola and yogurt in a jam jar. Seal jar and take anywhere. Pack extra granola for a crunchy top layer.
Makes 2-3 jars.
Orange, Fennel and Celery Salad
- 1 cup sliced fennel
- 2 stalks celery, sliced
- 1 apple, diced
- 3 oranges, diced
- 1/3 cup toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
- 1 tbsp. celery greens and/or fennel greens
- 1/4 cup plain yogurt
- 1 tbsp. honey
- 1 tbsp. orange juice
- 1/2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
- Pinch salt and pepper
In salad bowl mix fennel, celery, apple and blood oranges. Top with dressing and mix well. Garnish with celery greens and/or fennel greens and toasted pepitas.
Add all ingredients in a jar and seal tightly. Shake vigorously. Taste and adjust accordingly.
Luscious Lime Bars
- 3 tbsp. sugar
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup butter
- 2 large eggs
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 2 tbsp. flour
- 1/4 tsp. baking powder
- 2 tsp. lime zest (1 lime)
- 3 tbsp. fresh lime juice (1 to 2 limes)
- 1 tbsp. icing or powdered sugar
Preheat oven to 350 F.
In medium-size bowl mix 3 tbsp. sugar and flour. Cut in butter until mixture is crumbly. Press crumbs firmly and evenly into bottom of an 8×8-inch square pan. Bake for 15 to 17 minutes until just starting to brown. To prepare lime filling, beat together eggs, 2/3 cup sugar, 2 tbsp. flour, baking powder, lime zest and lime juice. Pour over baked pastry layer. Bake for 20 minutes or until lightly golden around edges and centre is set. Cool completely on a wire rack. Cut into 20 squares/bars. Sift powdered sugar over top of bars and garnish with extra lime zest.
All recipes: GettyStewart.com