We are in prime citrus season! When the cold and ice and snow have just about done us in here in the north, orchards in sunnier, warmer south begin to harvest their fruits. The front entrance of your local grocery store should smell like a fruit salad, full up of tangerines, grapefruits, clementines, and oranges.
Below are my favorites in order:
1. Blood oranges are easily identified by the blood red flesh that discolors the exterior orange skin, it will burst with a crimson juice that stains everything it touches. There are three varieties: Moro, Tarocco and Sanguinello, each vary slightly in size, color intensity, and flavor. In from now until April. They make the best orange marmalade on the planet.
2. The Cara Cara is hard to find here in Buffalo, but if you do discover it, buy it in bulk and tell us where you found it. It’s a pink navel orange, that is unusually sweet and has a lower acidity than other navel oranges. It’s in from now until April as well.
3. Clementine’s are a family favorite. The clementine is a cross between a mandarin and sweet orange, simple to peel, and almost always seedless. These fruits are usually sold in those ungainly press board boxes with netting on top. Regretably, they are nearly out of season, as they really are only at peak from late November to late January. Any you find here on out are likely to be smaller, more sour, and with green streaking.
4. Mandarins are a glorious seedless fruit, larger than a clementine, but bursting with juice and sweetness. They are often called a Bride’s fruit, and their blossoms were traditionally used in bridal hair pieces in the UK from the late 1700s till the last half-century. Good from early March till June.
5. I love Ruby Red grapefruit, but don’t eat enough of it to push it farther up the list. This grapefruit is mostly grown in Texas, but has been having difficulty there with the wild weather. It’s in season from October to April, with January and February being the best time to buy.
6. Navels are difficult and so are at the bottom of my list of favorites. Fine to juice, good sturdy structure lends itself well to orange marmalades and fruit salads. But can be deceivingly small, trapped inside a thick pith heavy skin, can dry out easily, and can be inedible if green streaked due to a sudden freeze. It’s a guessing game. Best to squeeze gently and smell for freshness and select ones with absolutely no green whatsoever. Good from December to March, February is probably their best month.