Delicious Citrus

“Citrus’s naughty by nature proclivities ensure an ever-expanding family tree.”

It’s funny isn’t it, that flavours as zippy and tropical as those of fresh, in season citrus also serve to celebrate the arrival of winter. The citrus harvest, aligning with the dormant winter of our local farms, creates a delicious distraction from all of the squash and hardy crops we are eating through these cold months.

Though there are thousands of citrus varieties roaming the world, the food industry is dominated by only a few dozen of the finest, hardiest or perhaps just best marketed. This is the citrus 1%, and though they are spectacular, they are only the tip of the iceberg. The 99% is rich, diverse and quite fascinating.

All the delicious citrus we get to enjoy throughout the year comes from three primary ancestors: Citrons, Pomelo and Mandarin. This is not genetic modification, this is nature making gloriously different and delicious babies (hybrids) because almost all citrus has the rare genetic combination of being both sexually compatible and highly prone to mutation. Because of the, ahem, promiscuous nature of citrus, we benefit from an ever-expanding family tree both under cultivation and in the wild. The breeding of citrus has been fascinating scientists for decades but has been happening in the wild for millions of years. Fossils of citrus leaves date the ancestors of our citrus back seven million years.

The huge spectrum of citrus diversity results in something for everyone. Pithy citrus (Buddha’s Hand, Seville) is ideal for those looking to candy, zest or marmalade the rind. Juicy citrus because fresh OJ makes every breakfast better (Valencias are best, but any citrus in peak season will provide great juice). Peelable citrus for eating out of hand (navels large and small, Tangelo, Mandarins, grapefruits or pomelos) are perfect for snacking and lunch kits. Then there are the novelty citrus varieties for diversity lovers (blood oranges, finger limes, limequat, pink zebra lemons, sweet lemons, the list is infinite). Limes and lemons in all their varieties grace lemonade stands, provide bar drink enhancements or show up in warm lemon water to start your day.

Not everyone likes a kumquat, knows what to do with a finger lime or a Buddah’s Hand, or can be bothered with tart, seedy, hard-to-peel Seville oranges, but there can’t be a soul whose life isn’t enhanced by some branch of the citrus family tree.

SELECTION: Choose citrus that is heavy for its size; this indicates a high water content and you can expect a nice juicy pulp.

STORAGE: Citrus keeps in your fruit bowl just fine but will dehydrate/deteriorate faster. Refrigerated (loose or in a mesh bag, not in plastic) it should last up to several weeks. If juicing or peeling, allow the fruit to regain room temperature before use.

TASTE: Super-sweet to mouth-puckering. There is a citrus for every palate and preference.

TREND: Citrus has influenced cultures around the world for all of recorded history. It has and will continue to influence poets, politics, war, global economies and breakfast, lunch and dinner tables.

SUSTAINABILITY: Citrus thrives on many continents, but most of the world’s citrus is produced in the U.S. Citrus Belt (running from California through Arizona, Texas, along the Gulf Coast and into Florida), the Mediterranean, Asia, Brazil, Mexico and India. Although citrus has been successfully grown on Vancouver Island, there are no commercial growers so buying citrus in season from the U.S. growing region is our most sustainable option unless you grow it yourself.

  • By Daisy Orser (Daisy is co-owner of the Root Cellar in Victoria, BC)


Written By:

We get many people writing guest articles for us, as well as past contributors. This is the Guest ...

Comments are closed.