Citrus fruits are Mother Nature’s gift of vitamin C during the winter, just in time to chase away the sniffles. The bright colors of oranges, lemons, limes and grapefruit are a welcome relief to gray winter days; their juice is a refreshing treat; and they’re packed with ascorbic acid and antioxidants.
Today, we take a look at some of their less familiar cousins also rich in vitamin C. Think kumquats, pummelos, and pomegranates — and we’re throwing in pineapples because we love them.
Kumquats are about the size of a large grape. Unlike other citrus, the peel of the kumquat is sweet and edible, while the juicy flesh is tart. They add a nice snap of flavor in salads. They can be found at Middle Eastern markets fresh or pickled in heavy syrup.
“My very favorite winter citrus fruit is the kumquat,” said Cortney Smith, co-owner of Gather Food Studio & Spice Shop. “Yes, you eat the whole thing. Look for them to be bright and still ‘springy’ feeling. They’re no muss, no fuss, tart, fresh and delicious.”
You might have spotted pummelos in bins next to grapefruit and not realized they weren’t just oversized grapefruit. They are big and can weigh 2 to 4 pounds.
“They are native to Southeast Asia,” said David Cook, the other co-owner of Gather Food. “They taste a little sweeter than a grapefruit.”
Pick a blemish-free, bright yellow pummelo. Peel it like an orange, remove the pith and cut out the sections. It’s ready to eat and enjoy.
Pomegranates are most familiar as juice. Eating the fruit requires releasing the seemingly jillions of tasty, shiny, ruby-red seeds — which can be an adventure or a chore.
“To pick ripe pomegranates, I look for one that feels heavy, is dark red and soft but not bruised,” Smith said. “The weight means that you’ll have bigger, juicier seed pods. And they can be a real mess to get out. Pomegranate tools are great, but I just cut it in half, give it a few squeezes to loosen the seeds, then tap them into a bowl.”
Fresh pomegranate seeds can be used in various ways in sweet and savory dishes. Add them into salads, rice and grains dishes, or stir them into yogurt; sprinkle them on baked eggplant and other roasted vegetable dishes; or incorporate them in tarts, cakes, scones and chocolate desserts. They’re great to just eat with a spoon.
Although not technically a citrus fruit, pineapples are sweet, juicy, tangy, full of vitamin C and grow in tropical climates. But the similarities end there. Citrus fruit grows on trees, while pineapples grow in the ground.
So how can you tell when pineapples are ripe? And how do you easily access the good stuff?
“Choosing and cutting pineapples can be quite a challenge,” said Smith. “When I am looking for a ripe pineapple, I look for one that is golden or brown, and not green. Then I give it a smell and tug on a leaf from the crown. If it comes out easily, your pineapple is ripe.”
While pineapple corers and peelers are available, Smith takes the old-school do-it-by-hand approach.
“Cut off the crown and the base, exposing the fruit,” she said. “This gives you a flat end to work with. Then, using a serrated bread knife, cut away the skin from the top to the bottom, removing as little fruit as possible. When the skin is all gone, cut straight down the core, quarter each half and then simply cut out the core from each quarter and cut into desired size.”
The peak season for many of these fruits is coming to an end soon, so now is the time to enjoy them.
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