Citrus fruits are a good source of vitamin C and so, apart from being delicious, are also very nutritious. Although they originated in Asia, they are now cultivated all over the world. The term citrus fruits refers to oranges, tangerines, grapefruits, lemons, and limes, among many others. Even though they are winter fruits, but now we can find them all year-round at the markets.
Until the late Middle Ages, oranges were understood to be rare and expensive. Today, they are second only to apples in both popularity and consumption, and their uses in cooking are far-reaching. Like all citrus fruits, they have the ability to thicken sauces and are ideal for game, duck, and fatty meats, as well as fish. Their gratings are commonly used to flavor sweet confections, while in the distillery industry, liqueurs with orange aroma and flavor, such as Curacao, Grand Marnier, and Τriple Sec are widely renown. Orange juice, when added in small quantities to the other mixtures, perfects meat marinades and salad vinaigrettes.
It is common knowledge that lemons go well with all grilled meats and fish, as well as with many boiled or baked vegetables. A bit of lemon juice is employed to balance sweet flavors (stuffing with apples for an apple pie), or to ensure that the vegetables (cauliflower) keep their white color during boiling. An interesting use of lemons in the Mediterranean cuisine is pickled lemons. After boiling lemons for a while, Greeks then make small cuts in them before putting them in a jar with plenty of coarse salt, red pepper, paprika and hot pepper. In a week, the mixture has transformed into a very tasty delicacy that can either be enjoyed on its own, or as an accompaniment for meats (chicken, lamb), or fish (sardines, salmon, etc). Similarly, red grapefruit, because they are sweeter than the yellow ones, make delicious additions to green salads, as well as seafood dishes.
Tangerines are cooked like oranges and go well with kirsch and brandy. Clementines are a more sour hybrid, less flavorful than the tangerines with a thin skin and no pips. They are ideal for sorbets and sweet confections, aromatic vinegar, and pickles.
Kumquats look like small oranges, are eaten with the skin and are cultivated mainly in China, but also in the Mediterranean (Corfu and Italy).
Limes are tropical fruits of the same family, a basic ingredient in the cuisines of the tropical countries, especially of Thai cuisine. They are small green lemons with an intense, pleasant aroma, while their uses in cooking and confectionery are endless.
Small tips for the citrus fruits
- A little bit of lime, grapefruit or orange juice gives flavor and aroma to salad dressings.
- To get more juice from lemons put them in the microwave for 30 minutes.
- Lime’s gratings can be preserved in olive oil and give flavor to marinades for meats and fish.
- Spread some orange gratings over the buttered surface of the dish where you will make pasta au gratin in the oven. It gives a discreet and pleasant flavor.
- Choose citrus fruits with a clean and shiny appearance that are quite heavy for their size.