Winter citrus fruits are the jewels in our snow-dusted crowns.
Not to be dramatic, but during the coldest months, when it feels like 10 p.m. as the clock is only striking 5, the kingdom of citrus somehow flourishes (it's called Florida and California, people) and makes our days a touch brighter.
So what's the appeal of those yellow-, orange- and green-skinned gems? The citrus family is a kinky one for starters. Some serious crossbreeding has been happening for years, but in this case, it only makes things more nuanced and delicious. Even the everyday orange is a hybrid, although now you'll find everything from limequats (key lime + kumquat) to rangpur limes (mandarin orange + lemon) and mandarinquats (mandarin + kumquat).
The varieties at the market right now are the most prized of the bunch (see the slideshow). Don't miss dramatic, luscious blood oranges that just beg to be squeezed into cocktails, mocktails and juice blends. Soon you won't be able to pop candy-like kumquats right into your mouth or scoop out the sweet-tart flesh of an in-season pomelo.
And it goes without saying that citrus is a cook's best friend, adding that essential smack of acid to dishes both savory and sweet. A squeeze of juice jolts vinaigrettes into sunnier places. Laying slices atop roasted fish or vegetables nudges them from ordinary into extraordinary territory. And the zest, where most of the flavor is hidden, is a flurry of golden brightness when sprinkled atop pasta, salads or, well, just about anything.
Never let good citrus go to waste: Peel 'em and eat the flesh. Dry and candy the peels. Cook both sections and skins down into marmalade for smearing on toast, or preserve halves and quarters in salt to add a burst of flavor to stews and braises later. Looking for inspiration? Our guide breaks down our favorite types of winter citrus and how to highlight their unique qualities.
Now, orange you glad it's winter? (We'll be here all week; try the limequats.)