Bring the Sunshine to January with Exotic Citrus

Exotic Citrus Fun

Greetings from Minnesota, where things are grey and cold. Nothing epic, but it’s definitely a time when folks feel a little low on energy. Add the recent outbreaks of flu and you have a real yearning for some healthy fruit that just might give you an edge in the war with germs.

Luckily, this time of year is citrus season, somewhere far far away. Places like Peru, Israel, South Africa, and Spain. As much as we love to eat local, these bright, tart fruits are exactly the antidote to the heavy food and weather we are slogging through right now.

So, when I visited my nearby Seward Community Coop to shop, I was delighted to see a display of some new, exotic citrus that is not usually available. In the front of the photo above, the tiny yellow fruits are Limequats, a cross between a kumquat and a lime. To the left are wrinkly green Kaffir or Makrut Limes. Behind them, yellow-greenish Meyer Lemons. The three deep orange, small fruits are Tangerinequats, and to their left, smaller Kumquats. The big ones in back, Cara Cara oranges, to their right, a group of Blood Oranges, and in the center, Satsuma Mandarins, with the stem and leaf attached.

I didn’t pick up the Buddha Hand, but bravo for having it.

You see, all that stuff they say about vitamin C and colds, well, there is something to it. Linus Pauling, the scientist and nobel laureate, studied and popularized C throughout the 1970’s and 80’s. Pauling recommended megadoses of C as the key to a long and healthy life, and he lived to be 93.

C has been shown repeatedly to shorten the length and severity of upper respiratory infections. It also boosts your phagocytes and T-cells, the immune system warriors that patrol your body. C is also a potent antioxidant, which boosts healing and prevents problems.

But don’t think that taking C pills is a better option that the fruit. Whole foods are always best. My basket full of citrus contains far more than just vitamin C. The blood oranges are red from anthocyanin, a potent antioxidant. The edible peels of the tangerinequat and kumquat are full of terpenes, valuable anti-cancer chemicals. All citrus has zeanthin and carotenoids that also protect.

But mostly, they are ourageously delicious, juicy and fun.

I immediately took my citrus home to give these newcomers a try. I’ve had kumquats, but the lime-and tangerinequats were new to me. All the ‘quats are edible peel and all, so I took a juicy bit of a tangerinequat first. Yow, it was tart, with a definite tangerine undertone. Then, a bracing chomp on the limequat. It was also intensely tart, but with a more mysterious perfumey quality. I sliced some of the fruits and took a look at their jewel-toned sections.

My Citrus Sampler

They were gorgeous, right? So, since I was going to a friend’s house for dinner that night, I decided to play with making this citrus haul into an interesting salad. I got out my sharp chef and supremed all the fruit- you know, slicing off all the peel and pith, then slicing out the sections, leaving behind the membranes and removing the seeds. I went with lots of blood oranges, since they were so beautiful, and a medley of everything but the kaffir limes, which are really all about peel, not the juice. I will use those to flavor a Thai curry or something. This is what I got:

My Supreme Citrus Medley

It was a little messy, the juice was definitely flying. So, then I took all those membranes that had been cut away and squeezed them into a strainer over a bowl, and extracted all that precious juice. I whisked in some agave, to balance the tart ‘quats, and salt, pepper and olive oil. I poured it over the fruit and let it soak on the way to the party, where I arranged some cress on a platter, mounded the fruit in the center, and drizzled the remaining dressing over it. I scattered some sugared pecans over it and we dined.

Sorry, didn’t get a picture of that.

It got eaten up pretty quickly, which is a good sign, right?

The other things I would love to do with these exotic ‘quats in the future include salting them like Moroccan preserved lemons, and candying them in an agave syrup. I did throw one into my juice mix today, and it added that bit of tartness I like with my greens and cukes.

So, if you see some exotic new citrus out there, pick some up. It’s great fun to play with!

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