Citrus fruits come into full flavor during the winter, offering you the perfect solution to the winter blues. This winter citrus breakdown will help you choose which varieties to try this year.
The darkest, coldest parts of the year offer up a happy coincidence—citrus. Just as things are really getting chilly up north, citrus fruits are at their sweetest and juiciest down south, bringing a bright burst of color into the kitchen. If you don’t have a dwarf citrus tree in your home, or even if you do, exploring the many fruits in the citrus family is a great way to beat back the winter blues.
There are hundreds of varieties of citrus fruits out there. Here are some of the staples you can expect to find in stores this year, and a few, more exotic varieties to keep your eyes peeled for.
A juicy tangerine is in a citrus league of its own. Tangerines are close relatives of the orange, but with a thinner peel. While they tend to be smaller than oranges and with a slightly flattened appearance, there is nothing small about their flavor. This time of year, tangerines are perfect for eating fresh or served segmented in a salad.
Pink and White Grapefruit
Grapefruit, while not exactly exotic to today's shopper, is a large, tart citrus that comes in two varieties: pink and white. Pink grapefruit tends to be sweeter than white, but both are suitable for fresh eating, juicing, and serving with salads.
If you can’t get enough citrus, the pomelo is the bowling ball-sized fruit for you. Don’t be deceived by their size; the pith is thick, but once you cut through to the sweet fruit within, you’ll find it has the taste of a mild grapefruit without the bitterness.
Meyer lemons set the bar high for lemon lovers. This variety is juicy and sweet and also grows well indoors. Meyer lemons are the gourmet fruit of choice for good reason.
When life gives you lemons, you better hope they are ponderosa. These large lemons will not only give you more lemonade than the average variety, but they will also serve as a conversation piece if you have company.
Variegated Pink Lemon
When we think of lemons, we tend to think of a yellow fruit with yellow flesh. Shake up your menu this winter with variegated pink lemons instead. These zesty citrus fruit trees have green and yellow variegated foliage, and the fruits themselves share this quality. Plus, the flesh is a beautiful, pink color.
The key ingredient in key lime pie, these limes (also known as the Mexican lime, West Indian lime, and bartender's lime) have a unique flavor. Key limes are usually picked when they are still green, but they actually turn yellow when they are ripe.
Limetta, also known as sweet lime, is a type of lime that manages to be sweet and retain the essence of lime at the same time. There are several different limetta varieties, and all are worth trying.
Australian Finger Lime
Finger limes are a relative of the citrus family with a flavor somewhat similar to the Mexican lime. The fruits resemble fingers and are tart, juicy, and definitely unique.
Not to be confused with the clementine, mandarin oranges are small fruits with a distinctive flavor. Their skins are easy to peel, and this time of year, their flavor is at its peak. If you really love mandarins, consider ordering a dwarf variety for yourself for next year.
A winter favorite, clementines are an exceptionally sweet, small citrus that are perfect for fresh eating as a snack or added to salads for a sweet garnish. Kids especially seem to love clementines, and they are one of my favorite childhood winter memories.
Blood oranges are best known for their shockingly red insides, but their taste is also worth a try. Blood oranges are considered less acidic than other orange varieties, which gives them an almost raspberry-like flavor that appeals to people with a softer palette.
What makes a navel orange different from a regular orange? Aside from an exceptionally sweet taste, navel oranges have a distinctive “navel” that actually develops into a tiny second fruit, which can only be discovered once you peel them.
Yuzu is mostly used for its aromatic zest in Japanese cuisine, but its flavor is often compared to the grapefruit, with hints of mandarin orange. The fruit grows wild in parts of China and Tibet and is one of the most cold-hardy citruses, tolerating temperatures as low as 15 degrees F.
Inspired, perhaps, by the wide variety of citrus fruits in existence, gardeners have also created newer hybrids, and some have evolved naturally. There are several varieties in the tangelo family, including the “ugli fruit,” which is believed to be an accidental hybrid between a grapefruit and a mandarin orange. Crosses between tangerines and grapefruit produce large, sweet, and loose-skinned fruits called tangelos that are easy to peel and even easier to enjoy.
For a bite-size citrus with an edible peel, try kumquats. Kumquats are about the size of an olive, and dwarf varieties do very well indoors. You can eat kumquats fresh or serve them sliced in salads, cocktails, or even chutney.
Ready for something truly unique? Buddha’s Hand, also known as fingered citron, is a type of citrus you have to see to believe. The fruit forms finger-like clusters that are esteemed for their lemon fragrance. The fruit is mostly rind, but can be used as a zest, candied, or as an ornamental plant.
Try these citrus fruits to see which ones you love, and then maybe consider cultivating your own trees in the future to kick winter blues to the curb for good.