Thursday, December 18, 2008

In season Now: Citrus


I am a big fan of citrus. It seems to be our only friend in the fruit department in the dark cold months of winter.
 Unfortunately, it also has to be shipped from far away to be enjoyed, when nothing else will grow in the northern hemisphere. But it seems somewhat more justified to sponsor long distance shipping for a fruit you would otherwise never be able to enjoy at all, in a time when nothing else will grow where you live.
I don’t like to sponsor long distance shipping when it is meant to deliver something at abnormal times during the year - see apples, or when there is an abundance of other local options to chose from - like in the middle of the summer. With citrus it is very easy. Either they are shipped or you will not be able to enjoy them at all, unless you are in Florida or California of course.


The citrus family contains widely available favorites for everyone from the tiny key limes to the basketball sized pomelos.
They all feature a baseline nutritional profile they can be proud of with some of them sporting additional benefits. Their flavors range form quite sweet mandarins and oranges to grapefruits with a bitter note and lemon and limes with their mainly sour tastes. There is a citrus for everyone - and even though there are slight differences nutritionally they are all quite comparable.
 It is important to point out that we are talking about whole fruits here. Juicing especially when the pulp is removed is a really bad idea. All of a sudden the nutritional profile changes and the sugar takes over.
Orange juice, the most popular of the citrus juices, should not really count towards your recommended daily fruit and vegetable servings, it should count towards your daily allowance of desserts though. Juicing any fruit has several consequences - the fiber is filtered out - the nutrients are exposed to air - which means they rapidly die off, since they are all relatively unstable and often the product, in order to halt this quick die off, is pasteurized, which means heating the juice to high enough temperatures to kill off all harmful microorganisms. Unfortunately we know that a lot of antioxidants and beneficial phyto-nutrients are very unstable and easily destroyed by the exposure to heat, so what you are left with is liquid sugar with a touch of vitamin C maybe, but don’t kid yourself you mainly had sugar.


Whole citrus fruits are a completely different matter. They come in their own packaging, supplying us with nutrients just at a time - usually in the middle of winter - when we could use the boost of Vitamin C, fiber and antioxidants.


Nutrients: The citrus family is famous for the Vitamin C it provides - all of its members are an excellent source of high quality unprocessed Vitamin C. They are also rich in folate, fiber, potassium, calcium and Vitamin A. All citrus fruits have a nice range of carotenoids and flavonoids. Some have their own unique flavonoids - lemons and limes boast hesperitin and naringenin which are powerful antioxidants. Grapefruits promote detoxification and seem to interrupt the growth of tumor cells.


Seasons: Their availability in the winter months is one of the main reasons the citrus family is one of my favorites They get us through the months of November through March. Enjoy all the grapefruits, oranges, mandarins, clementines, kumquats, pomelos, tangerines, lemons and limes you can, and then give them a rest until next winter when they will be most affordable and nutritionally at peak.


Organic: With oranges at #19, tangerines at #22, lemon at #25 and Grapefruit at #27 in the EWG list of most contaminated fruits and vegetables I would say to go with conventionally grown citrus unless the organic variety is on sale and even in price. Having said that, with certain recipes which ask for citrus cest - the grated peel mainly of lemons, limes or oranges - I would recommend to go organic.


2 comments:

earthmother said...

I couldn't agree with you more. Love my apples, but I'll be darned if I'm gonna pay for something that was picked back in October and shipped to Ohio all the way from Washington state. It's citrus for me this winter. Crazy for clementines! Although, I've also been enjoying persimmons of late, since they have such a short window of being in season.

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