Source: Penn State Extension
There are many different types of citrus fruit available in the market and many can be found year-round. Oranges are a citrus fruit that can be traced back to ancient times and can be used to enhance many types of food. Other citrus that can be used to enhance the flavor of foods are lemons and limes. These fruit have a variety of uses and can brighten any cold winter day with their burst of tangy flavor.
Citrus fruit provide vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, to the diet. Vitamin C plays an important role in wound healing. Citrus are also naturally fat free, saturated fat free, cholesterol free, sodium free and oranges are a good source of Vitamin A. Several classes of phytochemicals have also been associated with citrus fruit. These include flavanoids, carotenoids and hydroxycinnamic acid. Phytochemicals are important to the diet because they have been shown to protect the body from a variety of chronic diseases including heart disease and cancer.
To extend the freshness of citrus fruit, store them in the refrigerator. Most can last up to two weeks or longer if refrigerated. Store cut citrus in a non-metal container in the refrigerator. When you are selecting fruit, choose those that have firm smooth skin and are heavy for their size. Before peeling and eating citrus, make sure to rinse in cool water and pat dry.
Oranges come in several varieties that include Navel, Valencia, Pineapple and Hamlin. Navel oranges are popular because they are seedless and sweet. Oranges are relatively low in calories. In fact, 1 medium orange without the peel only has about 60 calories and about 15 grams of total carbohydrate. One medium orange actually counts as 1 cup in the MyPlate.gov guidelines.
Fresh oranges make a good snack and a healthy addition to a lunch bag or dinner plate. You can also use oranges in dessert dishes or add a slice to a glass of water or to a beverage for a nice zest of flavor. Oranges offer a unique flavor to many recipes including salads, stuffing, stir-fries, rice dishes and mixed fruit dishes.
Orange juice can also be incorporated into several different recipes and dishes. Try blending orange juice with yogurt, your choice of fruit, and ice to make a fruit smoothie. Mix chopped fruit, orange juice and chopped nuts for a twist on fruit salad. Or, when cooking rice, use orange juice in place of some of the water or broth for a unique flavor.
Lemons are very versatile and can be used in a recipes ranging from chicken to pies. They have a distinct tart flavor and aroma. If you are looking for a lemon variety that is slightly less acidic try Meyer lemons. Some lemon varieties are in season all year. Lemons can be used to enhance the flavor of vegetables, such as broccoli, thus reducing the need for salt.
If a recipe calls for lemon zest, use a zester, paring knife or vegetable peeler to remove the zest, which is the colored part of the peel. Be careful and do not include the white pith which is directly beneath the peel. The pith is very bitter.
Limes can be switched for lemons in number of recipes. This will change the flavor and give the dish a new taste. Try adding lime juice to bottled salsa. This will freshen the flavor and give the salsa a tangy kick. Lime juice can also freshen the flavor of non-cream based canned soup. The flavor of lime blends well with strawberries, raspberries, oranges and even cucumber. Lime juice can also enhance the flavor of barbecue sauce.
To juice limes, warm them to room temperature and make sure to roll the fruit on a flat surface by hand before squeezing out the juice. This will give more juice per lime. This technique for juicing citrus can also be used with lemons.
The citrus experts with the University of Florida Extension tell us that there are two major types of limes, Mexican or Key Limes and Persian or Tahiti limes. The Key Lime is a smaller lime and is more acidic than Tahiti limes.
Citrus fruit can be found in the market throughout the year and come in several varieties. They are very nutritious and an especially good source of vitamin C and other nutrients. Add excitement to winter meals and snacks with a burst of citrus flavor.
Here is a great recipe using orange juice and sweet potatoes, two winter staples.
Skillet Sweet Potatoes with Orange Juice
- 4 sweet potatoes (about 1 pound, peeled and sliced 1/2 inch thick)
- 1/2 cup orange juice
- 6 teaspoons brown sugar (or 2 Tablespoons of molasses)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil or butter
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon (if you like)
- Place sweet potatoes in a 12-inch skillet; cover with hot water, and bring to a boil. Lower heat, cover, and cook for 10 minutes until soft. Drain.
- In a small mixing bowl, combine orange juice, brown sugar, and oil. If using cinnamon, add that too.
- Pour the sauce over the cooked potatoes in the skillet. Cook and stir until bubbly. Uncover and gently boil for about 5 minutes until the potatoes are glazed, spooning sauce over potatoes from time to time.
Source: Recipe adapted from the Florida Department of Citrus.