Though these fruits might make you think of summer lemonade and margaritas on the patio, winter is the perfect time to be enjoying them. It's peak season for harvesting many citrus varieties, according to Camelia Miller, fourth-generation owner of Twin Peaks Orchards
in Newcastle, California.
In California and Florida -- the two states where most citrus fruits are grown in the United States -- the climate conditions mimic that of the Mediterranean and southern Asia, with warm summers and mild winters.
Before overnight shipping and instant grocery delivery was the norm, it was a splurge to have oranges and other citrus fruits sent from these areas to the colder regions of the US during the winter -- a tradition that persists to this day. (Count this writer in as someone who vividly remembers getting boxes of Indian River oranges shipped from her grandparents in Florida to her college dorm in Pennsylvania.)
All citrus varieties have high levels of vitamin C, antioxidants and flavonoids that are natural cold and flu fighters. "Citrus naturally produces those essential things," Miller said. "Nature's kind of figured it out."
Thanks to cold storage, limes, lemons, navel oranges and grapefruit are available year-round. But you should take advantage of the winter citrus crop and try a few different varieties while they are in season.
Snack on a few citrus fruits that might be new to you, and experiment with the following recipe ideas for desserts, cocktails and savory dishes. Winter sunshine is on its way!
Though you might not always be able to see the difference in the peel, slice a blood orange open and you'll know why this variety of orange is so named. The deep red color of its flesh is thanks to high levels of anthocyanins, naturally occurring pigments that come out as the fruit ripens. Some blood oranges are fully crimson or burgundy inside and others have a more mottled or ombré look, but all are incredibly sweet.
Juice the oranges and use the dramatically colored liquid in recipes that let the hue shine through, like an Aperol spritz-style cocktail
that tastes like an orange-and-vanilla ice cream bar.
Blood oranges make any dessert more beautiful, which might entice you to whip up a yogurt snacking cake
with a pastel blood orange glaze or tangy blood orange bars
that look much more dramatic than regular lemon bars. If you're a fan of orange sherbet, indulge even further with blood orange ice cream
Cara cara oranges
Another orange variety with a glowingly gorgeous color, cara cara oranges have a ruddy pink hue to their flesh and hints of berries in their taste. Just like their cousin the navel orange, cara caras are seedless, too.
Slice cara cara oranges into wedges and roast them with honey
to intensify their natural sweetness, then serve with a salad
or wilted greens, or as part of a cheese and charcuterie snacking board. If marmalade is your jam, try a cara cara orange jam
to mix up the morning routine.
Or keep it easy, as I like to do: My favorite use for cara cara oranges is to juice a bunch and make the sweetest mimosas ever.
One of the most well-known citrus varieties, Meyer lemons are the thin-skinned lemons with rinds that look almost marigold in color. They taste more floral and less tart than the Eureka lemon that most people consume year-round, and their juice brings a sweet, almost herbal note to many recipes.