Jan 242012
 

citrusAny way you look at it, delicious and nutritious citrus fruit is appealing—it’s both beautiful and useful. The colorful peel can be a wonderful garnish and a flavorful ingredient. Succulent slices make a nutritious snack as well as an addition to a main dish. The zesty juice refreshes as a beverage and enhances other flavors when used in a recipe.

There are hundreds of hybrid and cultivars in the citrus genus. Some of the most familiar are Clementines, grapefruits, kumquats, lemons, limes, mandarins, navel oranges, pummelos, (like a grapefruit but sweeter), and tangerines. Because most citrus fruits are sweet, they are a healthier alternative to sugary snacks, and are in season NOW.

Citrus Health and Nutrition Benefits

With its rich source of nutritious Vitamin C (ascorbic acid), citrus has been touted and valued for its health benefits for centuries—and for good reason. It promotes wound healing, fights infection, and helps the body absorb iron, for starters.

A diet rich in citrus fruits has been found to prevent cataracts, aid the body in absorbing calcium, protect your heart, reduce bad cholesterol, and counter the harmful effects of free radicals, reducing the risk of certain cancers. Citrus fruits are known as great mood enhancers, and can help your skin stay healthy and young.

Check out these tips to help you select, store, and use nutritious citrus fruits, even after the season is over.

Selecting the Citrus

  • Select fruit that is heavy for its size; the heavier, the juicier.
  • Look for fruit that is resilient to the touch and doesn’t have any soft spots.
  • Choose fruit with a smooth, shiny skin, avoid wrinkled or bruised skin.
  • Choose thin-skin fruit for juicing, making relishes, or for recipes that call for the whole fruit. Thin skin fruit has less pith that can give foods a bitter taste.

Using the Rind

  • Scrub fruit with a stiff bristled brush and warm water.
  • To remove thin strips of rind to use for flavoring or garnish, use a channel or sharp paring knife.
  • To remove zest, use a zester or microplane. Hold firmly against the fruit, and pull down with long strokes. Remove only the colored portion of the skin.
  • Store grated citrus rind in an airtight container in the freezer for up to one month.

Using the Juice

  • Roll the fruit on the counter or microwave for 20-30 seconds to make it easier to squeeze. Refrigerate juice immediately after squeezing; it will retain most of its Vitamin C content for up to a week.
  • Freeze freshly squeezed juice for up to 4 months.

Storing Citrus

  • Citrus stored in a cool place (45-48 degrees) will keep for several weeks.
  • Fruit will keep at room temperature for up to two weeks with little loss of Vitamin C.
  • If refrigerated, store citrus in the vegetable crisper or in a plastic bag.

citrus shrimpNow that you are ready to enjoy all this sun-drenched flavor, check out these unique ways of incorporating citrus in your diet year round, and enjoy this week’s recipe for Sizzling Citrus and Garlic Shrimp.

  • Pour juice into ice cube trays and freeze it for dressings and marinades. Just remember to remove the cubes from the trays when they’re frozen. If you leave them in trays, the juice will evaporate quickly.
  • Freeze the empty rinds of oranges, lemons, or grapefruit and fill with sorbet for a dramatic and healthy dessert.
  • Bookmark this excellent webpage http://www.pickyourown.org/canningcitrus.php where you can find easy instructions to learn how to make and can your own marmalades and preserves. You can also use the site to locate a pick-your-own farm near you.
  • Don’t waste the peel—you can use lemon peel to bathe in the shower, throw an orange peel in with your brown sugar to keep it soft, or add any peel to a pitcher of water for a refreshing taste. You can chop it and put in your garbage disposal to rid it of odors, compost it, or use the dry peel as kindling.

~ENJOY~

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