Guide to Winter Fruits
Grapefruits, a hybrid of oranges and pummelos, are not even remotely similar to a grape — the name comes from the fact that they grow in grape-like clusters on the tree. They can be pink, red or white and come with or without seeds. But whatever the color, the fruits are very acidic and often bitter.
When buying fresh grapefruit, look for blemish-free skin and fruit that is heavy for its size; the grapefruit should give a little when gently squeezed. In late winter, a greenish tint may appear on the skin of unpicked grapefruits — this is from chlorophyll and does not affect the flavor. Grapefruits can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
The easiest way to enjoy grapefruit is to serve it halved or sprinkled with a bit of sugar. But avoid the raw white pith as it's extremely bitter.
The acidity of this yellow citrus fruit is what makes it essential in many culinary preparations. Lemon juice can be used to "cook" the seafood in ceviche, offer balance in rich sauces and soups, create refreshing beverages and be fermented into an alcoholic beverage like Limoncello. The lemon rinds, bursting with aromatic essential oils, make great flavoring agents in sweet and savory dishes while the rinds from thick-skinned lemons are great for making candied lemon peel.
For a sweeter and less acidic taste, use Meyer lemons, which are a cross between a lemon and an orange. Meyer lemons are rounder and have a smoother skin than normal lemons, and are available from November through May. They are also a little more perishable, so store them for no more than two weeks in a plastic bag in the fridge.
When buying regular lemons, choose ones that are heavy for their size, with unblemished smooth, firm skin. Store them in the fridge for up to three weeks.
Oranges and Tangerines
Oranges are — surprisingly — not named for the color of their skin, but rather after the Sanskrit word for the fruit, naranga. The majority of oranges come from California and Florida; generally, the Florida oranges are thin-skinned and very juicy, while oranges from California have a thicker rind and are better for eating out-of-hand. Some of the oranges you'll see during this fruit's peak season from November to March are:
- Blood Orange: Burgundy mottled flesh and skin offer a berry-like sweetness, along with ruby-colored juice
- Cara Cara: Orange rind with pink seedless flesh that offers hints of grapefruit flavor
- Clementine: Small and thin skinned and great for easy snacking
- Naval orange: Large, seedless, easily segmented and one of the best eating oranges
- Seville: A bitter orange that is used for marmalades, savory sauces and liqueurs
- Tangelo: A cross between a grapefruit and tangerine
- Tangerine: Intensely flavored, easy to peel, very juicy
- Valencia: Thin-skinned with a high juice content
Choose oranges and tangerines that are heavy for their size. Color is not always the best indicator of flavor, as the rind can be dyed. Store the fruits either in the fridge or on the counter for up to two weeks. Fruits maintained at room temperature will juice better than refrigerated ones.