New Citrus Varieties Liven Up Winter Months
Jan 29, 2017 10:33PM
● By Lesley Stiles
February represents hearts and love in so many ways; you could celebrate one or the other every day of the month. Since this year isn’t a leap year, February will pass through bearing only 28 days. Being a shortened month, uncommonly, it can pass completely without a single full moon. For some that would be yet another cause for celebratory swings. Named for the Latin term februum, which translates into purification, February can easily carry on the cleaning and betterment of our physical abodes, perhaps starting a tad slowly from January. That dang month slipped by far too swiftly anyway.
If you are fortunate enough to be born in the short month, you have Viola for your birth flower, Aquarius for your sign, and the all powerful and stunningly beautiful crystal amethyst for your stone, chosen, as legend goes, as a fertility enhancer, as plants were being started for the new year’s season of crops. Currently in our gardens, we can find loads of life-sustaining green vegetables. Red kale brings bright ruby beauty to winter faded landscapes as does vibrant Swiss chard, while delivering power punches of sautéed or steamed flavor to ramp up energy to get on the slopes or clean up the yard. Lettuces, radishes, carrots, peas, onions, and garlic, to name a few, are winter weather crops and lovers of the cold, just when we need an immune system boost.
Bending farmers’ market tables this month you will find an amazing array of stunningly different, albeit very tasty, citrus backing up the nutrient power play for long, cold, wet days and nights. As with most other seasonal offerings, farmers are always looking for a wow factor to bump up sales. A newer to us but ancient citrus with a crazy, unusually awesome flavor is Yuzu. Perfectly pairing a sour mandarin orange with an ichang papeda, an Eastern Asian fruit that slightly resembles a small grapefruit with overtones of lime, a Yuzu is born, which is rapidly becoming the darling of the culinary world, regardless of the nature of the cuisine. Yuzu itself looks like a small, bumpy grapefruit, mottled with yellow and green, and has a history of being confused with pommelos. Used for skin and juice, the center does have some pulp, but it is mostly seeds and juice. Flavor scale ranges from indescribable to a cross between the best qualities of mandarin, lemon, lime and grapefruit, which doesn’t do it justice. Possessing that ethereal quality of umami, where you have a taste of some delectable morsel and are hit with a “Hello! What is that flavor?” Yuzu is indeed very difficult to put into a box but not, however, a farmers’ market bag.
Another lovely citrus making a splash among sweet, juicy citrus lovers is the Cara Cara orange. Originating from a somewhat freakish mutation, it’s a cross between two different oranges, a Brazilian Bahia and Washington navel on the Hacienda de Cara Cara in Venezuela in 1976. This luscious, candy sweet, non-acidic orange locked itself into the hearts of low acid citrus lovers everywhere, with wide distribution and availability outside Argentina in the late 1980s. Initially only available from savvy California growers at farmers’ markets after the first imports, this ruby red to deep-water salmon pink flesh-toned orange is almost too beautiful to grasp at first sight, leading one to think only of ruby grapefruit. But, alas, the Cara Cara has no connection at all to any grapefruits, aside from the color, and it has no ill effect on our drug popping, high cholesterol friends. Now, several years after its initial burst upon the scene of who’s who in citrus land, this tropical and richly sexy winter citrus has earned a spot in line with the bloods and tangerines in the winter fruit mix at farmers’ markets.
Roasted Beet and Orange Salad
Beets are probably one of the most amazing cleansing vegetables there is, not only because they are strong diuretics but because they leave copious amounts of iron in their wake while blending seamlessly with oranges, as if married for years with many babies.
I use golden beets when I want color integrity of the dish, as red beets tend to color everything in their wake with its stunningly hypnotic hue. Using half and half will lend a brilliant outline to the yellow beets.
4 medium sized beets, any color you wish
1 Cara Cara orange
1 blood orange
1 navel orange
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
¼ cup crumbled chevre or feta
3 cups assorted salad greens
Salt and pepper to taste
Wash beets and remove stem end and root tail. Rub with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place in baking dish, cover and roast at 350 for about 45 minutes to an hour, until beets are easily pierced with a knife. Let cool until you can easily handle them. Peel, quarter, and slice the quarters about ¼ inch thick.
Peel and slice the oranges. Place greens in a bowl. Toss in the beets, oranges and goat cheese. Drizzle remaining olive oil and rice vinegar over. Season with salt and pepper and gently toss to mix all. Serves 4.