Winter is time to make citrus shine in food, drink

Tribune News Service photo

That the vast majority of domestically grown oranges becomes juice likely comes as little surprise.

But the variety of oranges available in mainstream grocers may be a bit surprising.

Blood oranges, Cara Cara and mandarins all were featured in this month’s Oregon Healthy Living story about citrus. Numerous ways to prepare the season’s citrus and reasons to eat them accompanied an eye-catching photo spread.

Produce experts, both locally and nationwide, are touting the Cara Cara orange for its complex flavor. Taking a navel orange to the next level, Cara Caras have an herbal, floral quality and striking pink flesh. It’s a grapefruit’s aesthetic without any sourness or bitterness.

A grapefruit-tangerine cross, minneola tangelos are juicy and sweet, encased in a bell-shaped peel that often separates easily for little fingers. And just when it seems that citrus varieties can’t get any more audacious, there’s the TDE mandarin, which commingles the genetics of Temple, Dancy and Encore mandarins for tangy-sweet, well-rounded flavor.

Botanically, oranges are the berries of subtropical evergreen trees. An average-size orange contains 100 percent of the recommended daily intake for vitamin C and also boasts vitamin A, potassium and plenty of dietary fiber.

Their acid make oranges a great culinary stand-in for tomatoes. They’re delicious with avocados and olives. Cooks increasingly are tapping into the power of citrus zest, which is popping up in more cocktails and mocktails, even plain water to lend flavor without added sugar.

Citrus keeps for a month or longer in the refrigerator, particularly if not stored in plastic bags, which draws out moisture. Keep them on the counter for a few days, just not in company with apples or bananas, which emit ethylene gas that accelerates ripening.

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