A peek into the world of citrus and a refreshing winter's bounty citrus salad!

You know I almost don't want to admit it but just a few weeks ago I was a self-proclaimed most ardent orange lover who had hardly tested any other orange varieties other than pure old navel oranges! All this changed when while browsing one day I came across this Mark Bittman winter citrus column.. listening to it somehow motivated me to go out and explore and experience the world of those 'other' citruses. Luckily for me being in California exploring citrus varieties is not much of a trouble. I just kept buying a new citrus every time I visited my farmers market. I talked to the vendor about its properties, growing seasons, hybrids and also got some samples in return for my curiosity! Sure, me and my husband we both have our favorites at the end of these citrus tasting weeks but in these weeks I learnt so much about these various relatively lesser-known (to me atleast) citruses that I thought I'll do a post noting each one I tested. Mind you though, describing a taste is nowhere near the refreshing burst of each of these citruses in your mouth. If say we were leaving in a Harry Potter world and I could take you in my memory to experience the flavors and smells of each of them I would so do that, but since my magic voodoo is not that good yet, lets just embark on a citrusy photo tour for the day :)
(Follow the read more link below for the rest of the post...)
What better variety to start off with than the most commonly found orange in US, yup, you guessed it right, its navel oranges. Navels are a sweet and seedless variety. It is widely accepted that the first navel oramge originated somewhere in 1800's when a single gene mutation caused the orange fruit to develop a small second orange at the base as a conjoined twin. The mutation also left the orange seedless hence relying on grafting as a main method of cultivation. These are the sweetest and most readily available oranges owing to its sturdiness for transportation. Someone correct me if I am wrong but I really do feel that navels in US are more parallel in flavor and looks to Mosambi sold in India, don't you think that?

The second stop on the citrus tour is what my vendor calls 'rose oranges' alluding to the rose colored flesh inside. These are called cara-cara oranges and they look very similar to navel from outside except for may be a more blush-orange hue. Inside though is a different story. Cara caras have a beautiful rosy flesh inside which I thought was very photogenic (not to mention gaining a response from my husband about my being superficial and going for looks :D) In my favor they are super-sweet too though and the taste I felt was more of a navel orange taste with some strong undertones of sweet cranberries.

Now if you give your cara cara oranges a shot of blood transfusion then there you have it, a next variety: blood oranges (or Moro)! As the name suggests these are deep red inside, outside is a bit reddish too. All the blood oranges I saw were a bit smaller than navels and they had a lot more white pith and skin so pound to pound I got much less blood orange flesh compared to a navel. Neverthless its deep red color makes it super desirable in marmalades or as a salad decorations. Like beets blood oranges also have the canny ability to stain whatever comes in their way, so be careful! Tastewise I found them very close to navel, may be a bit more watery but that could just be the ones that I had.
(Starting from the front we have some cara-cara, satsumas, navels and way towards the end are meyer lemons)

Now comes my least favorite of all citrus, any takers? If you said grapefruit then yes you are right! Grapefruits are a hybrid between sweet oranges and pomelos. The most common grapefruit variety (ruby red) has the same pinkish rosy color inside as cara cara oranges but the taste is citrusy with slightly bitter tones. The bitter tones is what shies me away from this health packed citrus but hey, don't let my coldness towards it make you partial. If you generally love bitter veggies, you will probably like it. My husband loves these.

Then there are pomelos which are the heaviest citrus I have yet encountered. The ripe ones are still green on outside. One pomelo can weigh as much as a couple of oranges. The flesh inside resembles lemon while the flavor is a cross between orange, lemons and grapefruits.

Now to the readers from outside US: you might find it strange but all the above mentioned oranges are un-peelable or atleast very difficult to peel. You need to slice them and then eat. Enter now the class of peelable oranges which were imported from southeast asia to US. These are satsumas and mandarins. Both these varieties have a loosely attached oily skin making them easy to peel but at the same time more prone to bruising etc. So in regular supermarkets these are less frequently found or are higher priced than sturdy navels.
(Fresh satsumas -- these are so sweet and delicious they can be eaten as is for desserts!)

A post about citrus just won't be complete without mentioning meyer lemons! I bought them last week and was so amazed at the uniqueness of their flavors! These look like regular lemons but with a much softer skin. Inside though is a whole different story.. they are a cross between tart lemons and sweet oranges, more on the sweet side, I felt. The flavor I thought was one of the most unique citrus flavors that I have ever tasted. I sure hope to be able to buy more of these and try out in different recipes soon!

So, anyway, thanks for reading through this rather long post! What better way to wrap up this citrus primer than making a simple refreshing and most delicious citrus salad?

Recipe: Winter's bounty citrus salad
2 navel oranges
2 blood oranges
1 meyer lemon (sweet lemon)
1 grapefruit (or cara cara orange)
1/2Tbsp chopped mint
1/2Tbsp chopped red onion
crumble of toasted slivered almonds
2Tbsp olive oil
1tsp lemon juice
salt & pepper.

Salad dressing:
  1. Zest one navel orange to get 1/2Tbsp orange zest.
  2. Combine olive oil, lemon juice, orange zest, red onion, mint, salt & pepper. 
  3. Mix well. Taste, add more lemon juice if not acidic enough; add more olive oil if too acidic. 
  4. Set aside.
Assembling the salad:
  1. Using a knife remove the tops and bottom parts of the citrus so they stand well.
  2. Peel the orange using a knife. Cut as much of the white skin as possible.
  3. Dice the citrus into equal thickness disks.
  4. Arrange the various colored citrus disks.
  5. drizzle the dressing on top.
  6. Sprinkle some toasted slivered almonds and enjoy!
This salad is a perfect accompaniment to a heavy meal or a very colorful eye-catching dish to any of your parties! I ate it as dessert actually and very much enjoyed it!


    Sonia said…
    I just had a feeling that you must have posted something new today...and here I m seeing your beautiful salad. :) A very good info too.

    Your salad look gorgeous! Gal you and your blog simply rocks!! :)
    Preeti Kashyap said…
    Now I really wanna visit cal! I am stuck in the middle of a snow storm :(, but your citrus salad just refreshed me. Loved the prelude and I am dying to taste cara-cara oranges/ rose oranges.
    Pari Vasisht said…
    Hi and I must say wow. What an info on the variety of citruses. Lovely.
    Here in N.India we get a citrus called kinnow which is a hybrid of an orange and Mousambi but tastes good and is abundantly available in this season.
    The salad looks so colourful and appetising.
    PJ said…
    Sonia, telepathy it must be :D so glad you liked the post and the info! Thanks for such nice words :)

    Preeti, cara-cara are really my favorites, they look so pretty and taste so sweet! You are welcome to Cal anytime.. this is a perfect time too!

    Pari, I just wiki'ed Kinnow it sounds very much like the cara-cara I mentioned above! So glad you liked reading through the post, thanks!
    Simi Mathew said…
    Just looking at it is giving me such warm cozy feeling....awesome mix of colors
    Unknown said…
    What to saw, gasping at lovely bowl of colors, seriously thinking of moving to Westcoast from this Darn cold North East.
    Hi dear.. simply awesome post and I think I missed ur last 3 post everything was superb. Yah I too love ethiopian cuisines...and After coming to minneapolis, I badly miss the farmers market. In LA it was just 5 minutes walk and I never miss the farmers market every tuesday..Seeing ur pictures sorry to say its making me jealous on u PJ.
    PJ said…
    Simi, thanks and welcome to my blog! I am so glad you enjoyed the post and the photos :)

    A2Z vegetarian cuisine, actually the weather was so good last weekend but other than that for last 2 weeks it has just been such a rainy mess! I am glad you liked the post though :)

    Pavithra, thanks! Don't worry, MN fall and summer is so beautiful, you will surely fall in love with the place! A friend of mine has the most beautiful house there next to a lake, seeing the pictures of which makes me feel so jealous, here, owning a small tiny place can also be so stressful on budget :)
    Sushma Mallya said…
    wow what a gorgeous pics...just so so beautiful...and very lovely post PJ...
    The healthy salad looks so appealing PJ...your info about the citrus fruit is great too...may i know whether this satsumas is the same used during Chinese new year normally imported for the celebration?
    Desisoccermom said…
    Lovely colors of the citrus salad PJ. I too love the plain old naval oranges but haven't really tried any other kind except tangoles which are kind of smaller oranges with thinner skins.
    I have never tried the blood red oranges and now your pics are making me want to try some. :) Did the recent freeze effect the price of oranges in California?
    Deepa G Joshi said…
    wow, what a great citrusy info :)..love the clicks and also the salad.
    Priya Suresh said…
    Such a beautiful and vitamins rich salad, looks marvellous..
    Rachana said…
    Wow!!! what a colourful, tangy and delicious Salad... beautiful presentation too:)
    indosungod said…
    What a pretty salad.
    Lucky you! here we are battling ice and snow and you are having a citrus ball at the farmer's market. But thanks for the visual treat. Harry potterish or no I am refreshed :)
    PJ said…
    Sushma, thanks! I am so glad you liked the post and the pictures :)

    Trick and Treat, I think mandarins oranges are given as gift during chinese new year.. and also those tiny ones that can be eaten unpeeled! I think orange is a symbol of wealth and prosperity in that culture. I'll confirm the orange variety with a friend of mine though!

    Jaya, oh, you should definitely try these 'other' orange varieties! This year the crop is good, the vendors that I talked to didn't see a lot of wreckage due to the the freeze.. keeping my fingers crossed for the rest of the season :)
    PJ said…
    Deepa, thanks! I am so glad you liked the clicks and the info :)

    Priya, I know! So healthy but also looks so colorful..

    Rachana, thanks! I am so glad you liked the presentation and the colors :)

    Indo, I would be happy send some citrus ball over to you :) I was happy we could enjoy some nice farmer's markets this winter; usually an El Nino winter year is a bit unpredictable with a lot of heavy storms over pacific.. they say next storm is coming on Thursday, not very optimistic about coming weekend farmers market :(
    Ushnish Ghosh said…
    Dear PJ
    How are you? I am back after a long time. I am not fond of citrus so I am going to read your blogs that I missed. Will not be able to cook for some time , so will be eating virtually from the blogs :-)
    Have a nice day
    Urmi said…
    Citrus salad looks delicious, gorgeous, colourful and tempting. Wonderful presentation.
    oH U HAVE A sunny citrusy post too...love the colors of the salad ...real real cute....and rocking shots....

    Siddhi Shirsat said…
    wow pj this citrus salad luks very eyecatching n tasty...nice info abt ypes of citruses, thnx for sharing...nice pics
    PJ said…
    Ushnish, welcome back! Glad to see you back and looking forward to more yummy recipes!

    Babli, thanks! I am so glad you liked the photos and the presentation.

    VanillaStrawberrySpringfields, thanks! I am so glad you liked the post.. happy valentines day to you too!

    Siddhi, thanks, I am so glad you liked the info and the colorful pictures :)
    Namitha said…
    That was a great write up about the citrus family..when you mentioned gene mutation I was taken back to my Molecular Biology classes ..lol...
    What a colorful and yumm salad. I would have them for dessert as well :-)
    Radhika said…
    Beautiful pictures as always! And what a refreshing salad!
    Cham said…
    Actually I got moro and sanguinello from farmers market! Made a citus salad too - I like CA just for citrus!
    PJ said…
    Gulmohar, I eat them for dessert too! I just love citrus salads so much! Molecular biology.... hmm... glad I don't have to study that anymore :D

    Radhika, thanks! I am so glad you liked the salad.

    Cham, +1 to that! Citrus is the best thing about CA winters.. next to above freezing temps and no snow :)
    ruchikacooks said…
    First of all it is very colorful and that is the key to grab this eater to eat :)

    Looks gorgeous PJ. I had a horrible weekend, didnt check mail and slowly coming back to normal self. Popped over here as soon as I could. Hope you wont mind this delayed comment?
    Sayantani said…
    lovely post PJ. very informative and the salad is gorgeous. Am adoring the blood oranges for quite some time now. dont get them here but they look so tempting. love the pictures of these juicy luscious spread.
    PJ said…
    Ruchika, not at-all! I am glad you stopped by.. yes, colors are definitely something that draws me first to a dish too :) We eat with our eyes first and then with our mouth, they say..

    Saynatani, blood oranges are sure lovely... they make a delicious dark red colored marmalade that many people live by! Glad you liked the post and the info.
    Unknown said…
    Wow...nice colorful and tempting recipe there...nicely clicked and presented...Kudos...bookmarked!
    lubnakarim06 said…
    Wow...that's an colorful and delightful salad...
    San!!! said…
    Such a beauty,so refreshing n colorful.This is a wise combo which is an ultimatum,this will even tempt the people who are not very much fond of fruits as well as salads.Kewl work PJ.
    Spice said…
    good info...Who can say no to oranges....though def. miss indian oranges....as pari said kinoo...but hey orange is a orange....vibrant color....sweet & tangy flavor...& best of all refreshing....
    Sarah Naveen said…
    oh wow!!!well presented..looks so refreshing and yummy!!
    PJ said…
    Supriya, thanks! I am so glad you liked the photos and the presentation.

    Kitchen Flavours, thanks! I love this salad because of its colors too :)

    san, I know, the salad is so much closer to the dessert than a salad.. and who doesn't love sweet and refreshing fruits :D

    Spice, I know, I miss the Indian oranges too... the satsumas here are closest to the indian oranges.. do try them if you find it in your local store. I haven't tried kinnow but I sure to want to now :)

    Sarah, thanks! I am so glad you liked the post and the presentation.
    Hayley said…
    Simply the best colourful salad i've seen PJ.. delicious and tempting salad...you know what yesterday i saw these cara-cara oranges in supermarket, i stood there and walked off...first thing 2morrow i heading to shop for my oranges....:))

    first time here.. you have got very colorful and beautiful bog.. amazing pics and interesting recipes.. following you..
    Joanne said…
    What a great post! It is definitely a celebration of some of the season's best fruit. I have tried all of these except for pomelos. I've seen them but didn't know what they tasted like. I'm not the biggest fan of grapefruit either - too bitter for me.

    That salad is gorgeous!
    PJ said…
    Jagruti, thanks! I am so glad you liked the colorful salad. Yeah, I have seen cara-cara in some grocery stores (specially Trader Joes) glad you found them :)

    AdukalaVishesham, welcome to my blog! I am so glad you liked the posts and the recipes. I am off to see yours now.

    Joanne, thanks! Pomelos are okay, as a novelty they are good but tastewise I wasn't a fan, so you didn't miss much :)
    Indhu said…
    I read that article on Bittman's blog and I have been meaning to make that salad.. I love all citrus fruits - grapefruit is my favourite :)
    Faiza Ali said…
    MY MY MY !!! thats a colourful and lovely salad ...and loved reading you post about citrus family.
    Rujuta said…
    Dear PJ,

    I have an award to share with you......Do collect it from my blog...... Heartiest Congratulations dear and Happy Blogging........
    PJ said…
    Indhu, thanks! Wasn't that a very inspirational article?

    Faiza Ali, thanks! I am so glad you liked the post and the salad :) I had a lot of fun writing about various citruses.

    Rujuta, aha, thanks for the award dear.. I'll be on your site in a jiffy to collect it :)
    ? said…
    Just came across your blog and this post; lovely recipe and beautiful snapshot!