We love reading Ric’s words on what’s in season every week and think you will too! Mat and the Canela Team
It is definitely citrus season. Blood oranges continue to improve in color and flavor. These thick-skinned navel oranges are the common sweet orange of the Mediterranean. When totally ripe, the exterior of the orange can be blushed to deep carmine red and the interior a deep garnet with a delicious raspberry-like flavor. Hopefully, the next harvest of blood oranges will exhibit more of those qualities, as the first harvest was light in color and flavor. So far, Meyer lemons and Satsuma mandarins have been the citrus of choice. Kumquat season has begun. As usual, the early season Nagami variety of kumquats is not nearly as good as the mid-season Meiwa kumquats, which are expected in about 2 weeks. Buddha’s Hand citron, yuzu, sudachi, pomelos, Rio red grapefruit, cocktail grapefruit, kieffer limes, mandarinquats, limequats, calamondin and Cara Cara oranges are versatile complements to the winter menu. Cara Cara red navel oranges are deep red inside, packed with juice and distinctive in flavor as are fabulous yellow-fleshed cocktail grapefruit and tree ripened heirloom navel oranges. We also have super sweet tiny little Kishu tangerines from Cal Citrus. Churchill organic Kishus are running late this year and are expected at the end of January.
Sweet oranges are by far and away the most popular citrus in the United States. When you ask for a navel orange, it is most likely a Washington navel, named after our first president and the capital. It is easily identified by its belly button. Washington navels originated in South East Asia and eventually made their way to Brazil. By 1871, trees were shipped to Florida where they did poorly because of the humidity. By 1902, the last remaining trees were transported to Riverside, California, where they thrived. All of the navel oranges that we eat today are descendents of these trees that nurserymen grafted thousands of times until they filled the orange groves of California and the rest of the world. In the 19th and early part of the 20th century, it was easy to identify a ripe orange–a ripe orange was orange in color and an unripe orange was green. Choosing ripe oranges became much more difficult in the early 1900’s when the citrus industry began the practice of harvesting unripe fruit and ‘de-greening’ skins by adding orange dye. The Supreme Court outlawed this procedure in 1955 when it was determined that the dye was toxic. Today unripe oranges are shipped to warehouses and exposed to ethylene gas, which colors up the skin. This process is similar to the one now used to ripen green tomatoes. The difference is that the ethylene gas does not ripen the flesh of the oranges (as it does with tomatoes) but changes the color of their skins. Heirloom navels and most of our other citrus that we purchase come from small farms that leave the fruit on the trees until it is ripe. You can taste the difference.