Thursday, December 11, 2008

Plantastic! Citrus Edition

It's December, which means that from now through the spring, delicious varieties of citrus will be ripening across the more temperate climes of the northern hemisphere. My childhood bedroom window looked out onto a side yard that had an orange tree and a lemon tree growing in it. To this day, the smell of citrus makes me happy (particularly when we're talking about virtually any citrus juice combined with a good amount of vodka), but what of the rarer citrus fruits that don't share the spotlight with their more popular cousins? Here are a few interesting varieties and hybrids.

Common Name: Pomelo
Latin Name: Citrus maxima
Alternate Names/Spellings: Pomello, Pumello, Chinese Grapefruit, Shaddock
Uses: Juice, Marmalades, Garnishes, Salads, Cocktails, Candied Peel
Other: The Pomelo is extremely fragrant, and not as acidic as many varieties of grapefruit. It's also been hybridized to create the Oro Blanco Grapefruit (Pomelo + Grapefruit) and the Tangelo (Tangerine + Pomelo). It has a very thick, somewhat mild pith, and though the rind is green, the fruit can range from pale yellow to pink, like a grapefruit.


Common Name: Buddha's Hand Citron
Latin Name: Citrus medica var. sarcodactylus
Alternate Names/Spellings: Buddha's Hand, Fingered Citron
Uses: This citron is all peel and pith; no juicy fruit like other varieties of citrus. As such, it's culinary uses are limited primarily to zest, which is lemon-like and floral.
Other: Obviously, the name of the fruit comes from it's "fingers." In some parts of southeast Asia, these citrons are used as offerings at Buddhist temples. The "closed hand" variety (pictured above), where the individual fingers grow close to one another, are preferable as offerings, as it resembles a hand closed in prayer.


Common Name: Blood Orange
Latin Name: Citrus sinensis
Uses: Juice, Marmelade, Garnishes, Salads, etc.
Other: A hybrid of ancient origin, there are several varieties of blood orange, though all of them get their distinctive color from anthocyanin, a pigment found in many fruits, but rarely in citrus. Somewhat shocking to look at, most blood oranges that I've had are actually surprisingly sweet.


Common Name: Tangelo
Latin Name: Citrus tangelo
Uses: Juice, Marmalade, Zest, Garnishes, etc.
Other: Another old hybrid (likely of a tangerine and a variety of grapefruit or pomelo), the Tangelo has a distinctive loose rind (like a tangerine or clementine) with an odd "nipple" formation on top. Like a tangerine, they can range from somewhat tart in flavor to extraordinarily sweet.


Common Name: Oro Blanco
Latin Name: Citrus paradisi
Uses: Juice, Marmalade, Zest, Garnishes, Candied Peel, etc.
Other: The Oro Blanco is a medium to large grapefruit that's a hybrid of a Pomelo and a white grapefruit. Other similar crosses include the Melogold. Both range from tart to moderately sweet, and are extremely fragrant and juicy. Awesome with vodka.


Common Name: Kumquat
Latin Name: separate genus under Citrus: Fortunella
Uses: Juice, Marmalade, Garnish, Cocktails, Candied (whole fruit)
Other: A surprisingly small, tart and juicy citrus, the Kumquat is eaten whole. The rind is thin and holds tight to the fruit, and, strangely, the rind is somewhat sweet while the fruit is bright and tangy. Swap out the limes in a Mojito with quartered kumquats—you'll thank me.


Common Name: Sunquat
Latin Name: member of Citrortunella
Alternate Names/Spellings: Lemonquat
Uses: Juice, Marmalade, Garnish, Cocktails, Candied (whole fruit), etc.
Other: A hybrid of any variety of lemon and a kumquat. Like the kumquat, it has a thin peel and can be eaten whole. It's fragrant, tart and, also like the kumquat, fairly small (like a little, brightly-colored bird egg).


Common Name: Limequat
Latin Name: Another member of Citrofortunella
Uses: Juice, Marmalade, Garnish, Cocktails, Candied (whole fruit), etc.
Other: Yet another hybrid, this time between a lime and a kumquat. These little guys are very tart and can range from light green (like a pale lime) to bright yellow when fully ripe. Like the Kumquat and Sunquat, they can be eaten whole and are fairly small.

3 comments:

BJK said...

i've never eaten a kumquat. i want one.

i like tangelos.

and i saw a buddha's hand at the grocery store the other day. i almost bought one just because it looks so rad.

NAB said...

My grandma has Kumquat tree, and if they're ripe when we're out there for Christmas, I'll send you some. They are delicious.

Anonymous said...

Tangelos are better than candy. Hope you get some for Christmas.