The more familiar and common citrus (lemons, limes, navel oranges, grapefruit, tangerines) are seen in our produce departments year-round. They are harvested around the world, reaching maturity in the cooler winter months of each hemisphere. Chilly nights help mature citrus and boost sugar content. Now that temperatures are dropping in California, we can expect some delicious local citrus!
The flavors, shapes, colors and uses of citrus are as diverse as the seasonality. Citrus can be eaten out of hand, juiced, sectioned and enjoyed with a spoon, tossed into salads or desserts, zested for baked goods and cooking, or used to marinate fish for ceviche. Nutritionally, citrus is low in calories with good amounts of carbohydrates, fiber, Vitamin A, Calcium, Iron and of course, Vitamin C. Isn’t it interesting how nature takes care of us having this delicious fruit high in Vitamin C naturally ripen in the winter!
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Keep reading for more citrus facts, tips for choosing citrus and some of our favorites.
How to select citrus
Citrus does not ripen or improve in flavor/sweetness after harvest. There are no color changes that will indicate ripeness, so the only way to know the flavor is to cut and eat. When picking citrus, a common rule of thumb is to look for fruit that is heavy for its size, free of blemishes and has a nice natural sheen. Fruit that looks dehydrated or are split are obvious signs of age.
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Our top picks for this time of year
California Navel Oranges enjoy a long season from November through May, so we are just in the earliest part of the season. Navel oranges get into stride after Thanksgiving and just get better all the way. The navel is seedless and easy to peel.
Another favorite at Mollie Stone’s is the Stem-n-Leaf Satsuma Tangerine. When the leaf is attached, you’re assured that the fruit has been tree-ripened. The skin is easy to peel and will become puffy as the season progresses. A simple pull of the skin starts the peeling, and is so easy that they are often referred to as “zipper skins.”
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Like the chicken and the egg, there is always the question of whether it is a Tangerine or a Mandarin. Essentially, all tangerines are derived from the Mandarin family and actually got their name as they landed in the port of Tangier many years ago. So, a Tangerine is a Mandarin and a Mandarin is a Tangerine!