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by Gazette staff

Food Forum

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Brighten up your winter with less-known citrus

This sure doesn’t feel like the right time of year for lemonade, but citrus season is in full swing.

Down South, it’s harvest time, and that means the stores are filling with ripe oranges, lemons and limes. But there’s a whole lot more out there than just these commonplace fruits, and when it’s as cold and dreary out as it is at this time of year, the flavors of citrus fruits can be a welcome reminder of summertime to come.

Take the blood orange, for example. Blood oranges taste very similar to regular oranges, but their color is a striking crimson. Try juicing them for a more vivid breakfast drink, or throw them in a salad for visual appeal and a burst of flavor.

Ready for something a little more exotic? Keep your eyes peeled for Meyer lemons: They’re a sweeter, slightly smaller relative of regular lemons. They’re especially good cooked into a lemon curd, but they can be used in most places you’d use a regular lemon, though you’ll probably want to cut the amount of sugar in the recipe.

Tasty hybrids

Tangelos are coming into season now. These fruits look sort of like oranges, but they’re actually a tangerine/grapefruit hybrid. They taste a lot like tangerines, but they tend to be more juicy. A glass of tangelo juice with your breakfast could be a nice change of pace.

Interestingly enough, grapefruits are themselves a hybrid fruit: They were originally created by crossing an orange with a pomelo. The pomelo is a large, pear-shaped, light-green fruit with a thick rind and pale flesh. They’re usually a bit sweeter than grapefruit and can be substituted for them in recipes.

Also in the produce section now are clementines. Clementines are actually a variety of mandarin orange, with a sweet flavor and few to no seeds. They’re fairly small and have thin skin that’s easier to peel, making them a great snack for kids as well as adults.

By the way, both mandarin oranges and pomelos are popular foods for Chinese New Year, which this year falls on Feb. 10. Mandarin oranges are considered lucky because the Cantonese word for “orange” sounds like that for “gold,” or wealth, while the Cantonese word for “pomelo” sounds like the verb “to have,” signifying abundance.

Sweet-and-sour combo

And then there’s a citrus that’s almost more fun to say than to eat: Kumquats. It almost makes you giggle just saying it, doesn’t it? It’s just such a funny-sounding word. But while most people have heard of them, few seem to actually know what they are.

You’ll usually find kumquats in a little plastic container, like those in which you’d buy grape tomatoes. In fact, they look quite a bit like grape tomatoes, except that they’re orange instead of red.

To eat a kumquat, you can actually just pop the whole thing into your mouth: They’re the only citrus fruit that can be eaten whole, skin and all. In fact, the peel is usually the sweetest part, while the flesh inside tends to be sour, creating an interesting sweet-and-sour flavor combination when you eat them.
Kumquats can be good for cooking, too. They’re good sliced in salads. They make an unusual and delicious marmalade if you substitute them for the usual oranges. Or try swapping them for other citrus fruits: A glass of kumquat-ade, anyone?

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