Sunday, January 23, 2011

Backyard Citrus

We have recently been enjoying the citrus growing in our yard, one of the benefits of living in Southern California.

Mandarin Orange

We have two mature mandarin orange trees and one that is only a few years old and just starting to provide fruit. 
The mandarins are easy to peel, have few, if any seeds, and are quite sweet. 
We start to get them in late November and we just picked the last of them and have only a few in the house waiting to be eaten. We generally ship some to family members in colder climates and take them as gifts when we go to Utah over the holidays. I am very sad to see the season come to an end. I have particularly enjoyed them this year as I've been trying to lose weight. 
The new Weight Watchers Points Plus program assigns no points to fruit, so mandarins have been part of my guilt-free daily diet.

Blood Orange

We have a small blood orange tree on our back hill that provides only a few fruit. The blood oranges are very difficult to peel, so we generally cut and juice them or cut them into sections. 
I love to juice them because the red juice is so distinctive and it provides a tart juice. 
Blood oranges are one of the foods in my new book 1001 Foods You Must Taste Before You Die. There are three main varieties and I believe our tree is a Moro, which gives the darkest pulp, ranging from scarlet to almost black.
1001 says that blood oranges "are particularly special simply squeezed and served as a drink."

Navel Orange

Navel oranges have a second, underdeveloped, fruit at the apex which protrudes and resembles a human navel.
They are primarily an eating orange as they are not as juicy as other types of oranges, such as the Valencia, and a bitterness is introduced by limonin during processing which makes them less desirable for juice. 
They have a thick skin which makes them easier to peel than most oranges. The mutation which causes the second, undeveloped orange, causing the navel, left the orange seedless and sterile, so the only way it is cultivated is by grafting cuttings onto other varieties of citrus trees. Twelve cuttings from the original tree in Bahia, Brazil were brought to Riverside, California in 1870 and for many years the Inland Empire was the navel orange capital of the world. We have one navel orange in our yard which took quite a few years to grow before it yielded any significant fruit. 
I greatly prefer the mandarins, for taste and ease in peeling (I don't peel the navels, I cut them into sections), but now that we have finished our mandarins, I am devouring our navels. 
They are ripe in the winter, with January being the prime season.

Meyer Lemon

Meyer lemons are native to China and are probably a cross between a true lemon and either a mandarin orange or common orange.
They were introduced to the United States in 1908 and by the mid 1940s were widely grown in California. Their fruit is sweeter and less acidic than regular lemons. 
Judy regularly juices our Meyer lemons and stores the juice in our freezer. 
We regularly use the juice to make wonderful lemonade. Rachael also discovered that squeezed into tonic water it tastes very similar to bitter lemon, an English drink I really enjoy. 


Several years ago Judy planted a lime tree very near our lemon tree. 
The drive for a lime tree was spurred on by our visit to Peru where we had some wonderful limon juice. This year we were able to harvest just a few limes which has whetted our appetite for more. 
I have enjoyed our citrus more this year than any other and look forward to future years of an even more bounteous crop. 

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