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Purple Onion

Citrus can add an unexpected bright spot to your winter palate.

Purple Onion

Knock, knock! Who’s there? Lemon! Lemon Who?

Knock, knock! Who’s there? Lemon! Lemon Who?

Knock, knock! Who’s there? Orange! Orange Who?

Orange you glad I didn’t say Lemon?

It’s an oldie but a goodie if you’ve got little kids in the house.

Even if you don’t, we think you ought to have a bowl of lemons and oranges and grapefruits and limes on your counter. This is the time of year when we’re all hungry for hearty tastes. Yet, sometimes, our palates are ready for something bright and refreshing and, well, citrus-y. At The Purple Onion, we love this time of year when citrus fruits are fresh and bright and ready for just about any meal. These leathery-skinned beauties have their peak seasons between mid-December and April.

There is a lot of variety available in markets today. Some of the most popular and readily available varieties include:

  • Sweet oranges: Valencia, navel, blood orange, cara cara
  • Mandarins: Satsuma, clementine, tangor, tangelo
  • Limes: Persian, key lime, kaffir
  • Grapefruit: White, ruby red, oroblanco
  • Lemons: Eureka, Meyer
  • Other kinds: Citron, sudachi, yuzu, pomelos

Citrus fruits are a great source of vitamin C, which helps strengthen our immune systems and keeps our skin smooth and elastic. Eating one medium orange will give you all the vitamin C you need in a day. Also rich in B vitamins, potassium, other mineral and plant compounds, these fruits have other health benefits including anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.

Citrus fruits are a good source of fiber, which helps lower cholesterol and aids digestion. They are low in calories yet with their fiber and water content, they’ll fill you up. Moreover, citrus fruits have been widely studied for their protective effects on some types of cancer. And, many of the compounds in citrus can benefit heart health by improving cholesterol levels and lowering blood pressure.

Finally, citrus fruits and juices may help boost brain function and protect the brain from neurodegenerative disorders.

Now, “orange” you glad you know that!

A couple of notes here: Citrus fruits have some drawbacks. Their acid can erode tooth enamel and grapefruits can interact with some medications. Also, citrus juices can contain high amounts of sugar. Keep these in mind as you increase citrus in your diet and menu planning.

When you’re choosing citrus fruit, avoid choosing fruit that’s bruised or browning on the outside; that’s a sign it’s not at its best. Also, feel for fruit that is evenly firm yet has some resistance when you gently press it. If, for instance, a lemon or lime is too firm, it won’t release as much juice as a slightly softer piece of citrus. If your fruit is firm, you can roll it on a hard counter or heat it in the microwave for 10 to 30 seconds, depending on its size. If you go the microwave route, let it cool for a minute before squeezing with your hands or a juicer.

All citrus can be safely stored at room temperature for three to four days. If you want to extend the life of the fruit, store it in the crisper section of your refrigerator for two to four weeks. An upside to storing citrus at room temperature is that it allows you to enjoy the bright colors while the fruit act as natural air fresheners.

You can use citrus to add pleasant aromas to your home and add moisture to the air during the dry winter months by simmering thin slices of citrus with additional herbs and spices on your stovetop. We offer three options for simmering citrus potpourris here. Feel free to experiment!

Give breakfast a bright side with Sunny Morning Salad, a fresh citrus eye-opener that’s sweet and tart at the same time. You can vary the citrus you use in your salad, depending on what you have on hand. While this recipe is citrus-centric, you can add blueberries or strawberries to the mix if you have them on hand.

If waffles or pancakes for weekend breakfast or brunch are your jam, give your family and friends an option of syrups by adding this quick Citrus Syrup along with the usual maple syrup. The pink peppercorns, cardamom pods and vanilla beans are available in The Purple Onion spice and herb section. Because you will be using only the peel and not the fruit, you could make the syrup and use the reserved fruit for the Sunny Morning Salad.

If you’re a fan of Mexican and Tex-Mex foods, here are two salsa options to lighten and brighten up your plate. Both the Blood Orange Salsa and the Red Grapefruit Salsas would be good with fish, shrimp or chicken tacos, tostadas or fajitas. We’re offering a fish recipe here and we encourage you to experiment with your favorite protein.

For a change of pace from spaghetti sauce, we hope you’ll brighten and spice up an Italian dinner with Pollo alla Diavola or Chicken with Lemon, Oil and Black Pepper. You could serve it with any pasta, but you might want to try this dish with pan-fried or oven roasted potatoes. Add a bright tomato salad and dinner is served!

It won’t matter what citrus comes knocking, you’ll be ready to enjoy it!