Winter is often considered the season of “less.” Our days have less sunshine and warmth; our bodies desire to do less, preferring to hunker down in a warm place for the colder months; and, if we’re eating seasonally, there’s less to choose from compared to summer’s colorful smorgasbord of fruits and veggies.
But one thing Mother Nature offers in bounty during the winter is citrus. In Santa Cruz County, we are able to choose from dozens of varieties at local farmers’ markets and grocery stores, where boxes overflow with these golden globes. Even the most neglected lemon trees in our backyards decorate themselves with shining, rain-washed fruit, gleaming and defiant against the grey winter skies, edible emblems of the sunshine we all crave.
Although we have the opportunity to enjoy citrus year round, winter is the perfect time to indulge in tangerines, pomelos, Navel oranges, blood oranges, and kumquats. An excellent source of vitamin C, they help guard us against illness. Plus, their acidity cuts through heavy comfort foods: a squeeze of sour orange over braised pork, lemon on cannellini beans, or lime in a coconut curry complement these dishes’ richness and make the flavor come alive.
As always, head to the farmers’ markets to expand your citrus palate. Twin Girls Farms at the downtown market has a wide variety, but many other farms are offering delicious-looking fruit in both popular and boutique varieties. I enjoy indulging in the opportunity to take home as much as I can carry. Plus, a wide bowl of warm-colored fruit makes a beautiful, snackable centerpiece.
Those curious about new, interesting ways to use and preserve citrus might also enjoy the “Citrus Creations” class at Mountain Feed & Farm Supply in Ben Lomond on Sunday, March 24 ($30). Attendees will explore the many sweet, salty, tart, and savory preparations of citrus, “from citrus salts to preserved lemons, orange bitters to lemon cream.”
I, for one, think there’s no better way to rediscover the joys of winter than to find new ways to eat your way through it.