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Citrus Varieties

Citrus Varieties
Oranges
First cultivated in China more than 2,000 years ago, oranges have long been a symbol of abundance and prosperity. Navel oranges, descriptively named for the indentation in the skin at the fruit's stem end, are a favorite for eating out of hand. Easily peeled and virtually seedless, they have sweet, juicy flesh. For a refreshing winter salad, toss navel orange slices with thinly shaved fennel and red onion, and garnish with black olives. Valencia oranges, which are smaller than navels, have smooth skin and yield abundant juice that is excellent for drinking and for blending into vinaigrettes and pan sauces.

Blood Oranges
Originally from Sicily, these sweet, aromatic oranges are distinguished by a reddish blush on the skin and intensely flavorful, deep red flesh and juice. They're delicious in a salad with roasted beets and arugula. Or scatter slices of blood oranges over grilled asparagus.

Mandarin Oranges
Mandarin oranges are named after officials in the Chinese emperors' courts who wore orange robes and headpieces with distinctive buttons resembling the fruit. Commonly known as tangerines in the United States, they are less acidic and smaller than other types of oranges, with loose peels and mild, sweet flesh. Mandarins are traditionally part of the celebrations at Christmas and Chinese New Year. Among the more familiar varieties are Satsuma, Clementine and Dancy. Because they're easy to section, mandarins are ideal for fruit salads, or try them in a salad of basmati and wild rice. The juice and zest add a refreshing tang to ice creams and sorbets.

Tangelos
A cross between a tangerine and a pomelo or grapefruit, these sweet-tart fruits resemble large oranges with knobs at their stem ends. They have similar uses as mandarins.

Grapefruits
A relative newcomer, the grapefruit first appeared in the 18th century, when it was bred from a cross between oranges and pomelos. Yellow grapefruits have pale yellow skin, whitish flesh and a bracingly tart-sweet flavor. Pink grapefruits, with an orange-red blush on the skin and pink flesh, are usually sweeter than yellow varieties. Some food historians claim the grapefruit got its name because the fruits bunch together on the tree in clusters, like grapes; others say it was so named because the fruit tastes somewhat like a grape. A favorite for breakfast, grapefruits are often paired with avocados in salads; for a special treat, toss in some fresh crabmeat as well. Grapefruits are also the key ingredient in a classic French dish, soufflé au pamplemousse.

Pomelos
Considered to be ancestors of the grapefruit, these giant fruits have thick, bumpy skins and bittersweet, seedless flesh that ranges from yellow to pink to red. Pomelos are delicious in fruit salads.

Eureka Lemons
The lemon was grown in tropical regions of Asia and India for centuries before the Moors introduced it to Europe. Commonly available, the thick-skinned Eureka is valued for its sharply acidic juice and flavorful zest; both are used in vinaigrettes, sauces and desserts, including custards and cakes. Lemons also enliven seafood, meats and poultry. Before roasting a whole chicken, stuff the cavity with lemon wedges and fresh herbs.

Meyer Lemons
A hybrid, the Meyer lemon was discovered by Frank Meyer in 1908. The exact derivation of the fruit is disputed, although many believe it is a cross between a lemon and a mandarin orange. Rounder than Eureka lemons, Meyer lemons are prized for their exceptionally sweet, aromatic flesh and juice and thin, soft edible peel. Lemon slices can be deep-fried and served with fried calamari. Or use the juice and zest to flavor ice creams and sorbets.

Limes
Smaller than lemons, limes have thin green skin and pale yellowish green flesh. They also yield a more acidic juice than lemons. Limes are commonly used in Mexican cooking as well as in marinades for meats, poultry and seafood.

Kumquats
A native of Asia, this fruit takes its name from the Chinese kam kwat, meaning "gold-orange." Resembling elongated miniature oranges, kumquats are usually eaten whole. The sweetness of the skin balances the tartness of the flesh. Kumquats can be candied, preserved in brandy, or used in marmalades and jams. For a quick dessert, dip fresh kumquats in melted chocolate.