After the dreary winter, our souls long for the warm sunshine. The smell of citrus is reminiscent of rays of sunshine brightening up our palates and awakening our senses. A splash of citrus juices or zest can lend just the right amount of zing to many dishes. These fruits require the simplest of preparation techniques making them extremely easy to work with. There are a wide variety of citrus fruits including lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruits, kumquats, and tangerines. Within each of those, there are a number of different varieties within that family. For instance, there are nearly 50 varieties of lemons alone.
When shopping for citrus fruits look for ones that are heavy for their size, firm, free of wrinkles, bruises, or soft spots, and show no signs of puffiness. Although good color can be appealing, it does not always indicate quality or ripeness. Storing them in a cool, dry, dark place will help them stay fresh for a few days. Storing them in the refrigerator will keep them for up to two to three weeks. Avoid storing them in sealed plastic bags, as they will soften more quickly and may spoil.
When juicing the fruit, roll the fruit firmly on a work surface or squeeze it between your palms to maximize the amount of juice. This will bruise the interior cells that hold the juice so that the juice will release more easily. To remove the juice from the fruit, cut the fruit in half, hold the citrus half over a bowl, stick a citrus reamer into the center of the cut side and turn and squeeze the citrus half to release the juice into the bowl, or use a citrus press. If you find yourself throwing out way too many citrus fruits that have spoiled, freeze it. Fresh fruit juice can be frozen for up to six months. Pouring the fruit juice into ice cube trays makes for easy storing. Once they are frozen, pop them out and store in a freezer zip top bag.
Citrus zest is the perfect pick-me-up for many sweet and savory dishes. You want to rinse and dry the fruit well before zesting. If you are juicing and zesting the fruit, do the zest first. Once the fruit is juiced, the zest is almost impossible to remove. To finely grate the zest, use a micro plane zester, or the smallest holes on a box grater, being careful to remove only the colored portion of the peel and not the white pith directly beneath it. The pith under the peel is very bitter and will ruin the flavor profile you are seeking.
One of the most popular of the citrus fruits is the lemon. They have a crisp floral smell and distinct tangy flavor that make them well- loved all over the world. They are great for cooking in both savory and sweet dishes but also have many other health and beauty benefits along with many household uses. The fresh scent of lemon oil has been shown to perk people up and reduce anxiety. Lemon juice and water is a refreshing and calming combination. Lemon is an all-natural way to flavor food, boost potassium intake, and cut down on sodium. Oranges are juicy and sweet and packed full of vitamin C. They are the perfect snack all on their own and add the perfect tang to many recipes. Oranges can help relieve tension and stress and can create a peaceful and calm atmosphere. Limes are a staple in many international cuisines. They have a distinctive piney, floral flavor, and a spicy aroma. As the most acidic of citrus varieties, limes have a wide array of culinary uses, from marinades and pastries to soups and beverages.
Beyond their uses in the kitchen, citrus is one of the most effective scents for reducing stress. Just cutting open the fruit will bring a sense of calm. All citrus fruits are full of vitamin C, fiber, and small amounts of other nutrients and disease-fighting chemicals. It’s the C that makes citrus a super fruit, because this vitamin counters the effects of sun damage, regulates oils glands, and can even prevent age spots. Not only are they good for you, but they are also absolutely delicious.