I know its winter because the citrus trees in my neighbourhood are laden with fruit. The citrus fruit family has something for everyone, whether it be the sweet and juicy orange, the cute and easy to peel mandarin, the gorgeously fragrant lime, the cook’s favourite lemon or bittersweet grapefruit. Then there are the more exotic citrus fruits such as the gigantic pomello (aptly named citrus maxima), the oh-so-hip Japanese yuzu or the gorgeous pot plant and preserve favourite, cumquat. There really is a citrus fruit for everybody but the whole citrus family shares the qualities of intensely exhilarating refreshment and beautifully bright colours.
Citrus is famous for its fresh zing, both in your mouth and in the air around you when you peel them. For cooks, their sour astringency makes them ideal to partner with creamy or fatty foods as they ‘slice through’ the richness for an altogether more satisfying taste sensation. This is used to great effect in Asian savoury dishes, in the famous French dish duck a l’orange and my grandma’s specialty lemon butter (or lemon curd). Citrus zest packs amazing flavour. Use a microplane or zester and add zest to baking, sauces and anything with a citrus ingredient to turn up the citrus flavour volume to the max. The sourer the citrus, the better they balance with sweetness, so lemon and lime cakes taste divine and lemon curd is sunshine and happiness on a spoon.
Citrus are also perfect for juicing but limit to small amounts and eat mostly whole fruit to preserve all their nutritional goodness and fibre. If you only drink citrus you juice yourself this puts a natural brake on your intake. And once you’ve experienced the joy of freshly squeezed, it’s hard to go back.
Citrus fruits are a powerhouse of nutrition. They are perhaps best known for their vitamin C content, however this is only part of their good news story. They are packed with natural phytochemicals with a laundry list of health benefits including antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties. All this and they are also low GI.
Nicole Senior is an Accredited Practising Dietitian, author, consultant, cook and food enthusiast who strives to make sense of nutrition science and delights in making healthy food delicious.
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