Need a break from the typical hardy winter meal? Look no further than to nature’s timely refreshing treat: citrus. Although oranges may remind you of summer soccer game halftimes, oranges are actually winter fruits. Somehow nature had it right in knowing that we’d need something bright, refreshing, and juicy during this sometimes harsh, dry time. Lastly, a little trivia to whet your appetite: What country is the largest orange producer in the world? (See answer at the very bottom of the post)
When buying oranges, the type of orange you get actually makes a big difference. So how do you tell one from another? Here are three oranges you’re likely to stumble upon in the store.
Named after Valencia, Spain, the Valencia orange is primarily used for juice and has a later peak season (May through July) than most other oranges. The orange was patented by agronomist William Wolfskill in the 1850s in California, who then sold the patent to a company that later became Sunkist. Fun Tidbit: Besides just having an awesome name, Wolfskill is credited for starting the commercial orange industry and for the naming of Orange County, CA.
This popular orange is less juicy, seedless, and easier to peel, making it the obvious choice for eating, rather than juicing (it also tends to produce more bitter juice). Its peak season is from January through March, so go out and buy some! The best way to identify a navel orange? Look for a second group of segments at the bottom.
Not quite as common, but often admired for its unique dark crimson color, the blood orange has mystified people from the get-go. The earliest record of the blood orange dates back to 1646, when a priest wrote about a strange and grape-flavored orange. Most often found in Spain and Italy, blood oranges thrive during Mediterranean winters, as the pigments that make up their distinct color only develop during cold nights (cool, huh?).
Pomegranate Citrus Salad
Pairing citrus with pomegranate seeds—another one of nature’s winter wonders—creates an eye-popping salad that bursts with tangy and sweet flavors.
- 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds (about half a pomegranate)
- 3 small oranges
- 1 medium-sized grapefruit
- mixed greens (I used dandelion greens in my original recipe, which is what you see in the photo- but I found them to be too bitter and thus recommend its less bitter sister: mixed greens)
- 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds, toasted (see my previous post on how to toast pumpkin seeds)
- spiced citrus dressing (see recipe below)
Slice the oranges and grapefruit by following the first two steps in my previous post about supreming a grapefruit. Once you have the skin cut off the fruit, lay the fruit sideways onto the cutting board and slice into rounds.
Toss greens in dressing and place on a large, shallow oval platter. Place the citrus rounds on top, followed by the pomegranate and pumpkin seeds. Although you can serve this in a typical salad bowl, a shallower dish highlights the citrus and ensures that the pomegranate and pumpkin seeds don’t fall to the bottom of the bowl and get lost.
Spiced Citrus Dressing
Toasting the seeds whole brings out an aroma that pre-ground spices just can’t. Go the extra mile and do it (it only takes about 5 minutes), and you won’t regret it.
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cardamom seeds
- juice of one orange (about 1/3 cup)
- 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 1/2 teaspoons honey
Place a small skillet over low to medium heat. Once the pan has heated up, add the cumin, coriander, and cardamom seeds and toast for about 5 minutes, until the spices become fragrant (note: do NOT add oil. You want to toast these in a dry pan). Stir occasionally, about every minute or so, to ensure that the spices don’t burn. Set aside.
While the spices cool, prepare the rest of the ingredients in a small bowl or liquid measuring cup (I often prepare all liquid ingredients in a liquid measuring cup to minimize clean-up).
Grind spices in a coffee grinder, and then add to the liquid mixture. Whisk well with a fork or small whisk until the dressing has emulsified.
Answer to trivia question: Brazil! Who knew? The U.S. trails Brazil, but is a distant second–in 2010, Brazil produced 18.1 million tonnes of oranges, while the US produced 7.5 tonnes.