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The Farmer and the Foodie: Bring on the citrus

Jan./Feb. 2011 California Country magazine

Glen Ikeda, the farmer, and Gwen Schoen, the foodie, discuss oranges, lemons, and more.



Just when everyone needs a lift, citrus fruit splashes into season to fill markets and kitchens with wonderful flavors, scents and colors.

Farmer: Most citrus needs four distinct seasons. Trees go dormant in winter and blossom in spring, while fruit sets in summer and ripens in fall and early winter.

Foodie: I love citrus season because it comes along when there aren't as many other fresh California fruits available.

Farmer: There are a lot of varieties to choose from and the season does last a long time. Depending on the type, citrus season is generally November through April, although some California citrus is available throughout the year.

Foodie: For lunchboxes, I like navel oranges because they are so juicy and easy to divide into segments, but tangerines and mandarins are also great take-along fruit because they are so easy to peel.

Farmer: The season for navel oranges begins early in January and runs through mid-June. The season for valencia oranges is just about the opposite of navel oranges. They begin to ripen in early spring and last through October. Tangerines and tangelos have a shorter season that runs from about January through March. Lemons, however, are harvested just about year-round in California.

Foodie: I love the way the kitchen smells when I've just peeled a fresh orange or sliced a lemon.

Farmer: Have you ever seen a Buddha's hand? This unusual fruit is also called fingered citron because it grows in finger-like sections. Buddah's hands have a thick peel and practically no juice. They are very fragrant so they are often used as a decoration, but you can also zest the peel to use in recipes.

Foodie: Speaking of recipes, lemon bars are one of my favorite cookies. When I have an abundance of lemons, I juice them and freeze the juice in 1/2-cup portions. That way I'm ready to bake lemon bars whenever the mood strikes. One large lemon will give you about three tablespoons of juice and about a tablespoon of grated zest.

Farmer: Most citrus will stay fresh at room temperature at least a week, but will last about six weeks when refrigerated.

Citrus sampler

Red pomelo looks like a large grapefruit. The flavor is tangy, but sweeter than a grapefruit. Try adding diced segments to salads or using the juice for a beverage similar to lemonade.


Red pomelo

Buddha's hand grows in segments like fingers. It is primarily used for decoration and fragrance. It has little or no juice, but you can zest the peel and use it for citrus flavor.


Buddha's hand

Blood oranges are smaller than other oranges, with bright red flesh. Flavors range from tart to sweet. They make interesting marmalade. Italians often use them for gelato and vinaigrette-type salad dressings.


Blood orange

The Meyer lemon was primarily an ornamental lemon until chefs began featuring it in recipes. They are slightly less acidic and have a sweeter flavor than other types of lemons.


Meyer lemon

The cara cara orange is a red navel orange. It is less acidic and tends to be sweeter than other oranges, often with a hint of cherry or berry flavor. The peak of the California season is generally late November.


Cara cara orange

Minneolas, like other types of tangelos, have a loose skin, which makes them easy to peel. The Minneola variety is bell shaped and the peel is a bright red-orange. It is very juicy. The peak of the season is January.


Minneolas

 

Recipe


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