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The Beauty of Winter Oranges and Tangerines
Bright and sweet citrus fruits like oranges and tangerines come into season in the warmer climes of North America during the winter months and bring a bit of sunshine, as well as some juicy relief to our winter diets.
Citrus fruits begin to come into season in November and, for the most part, continue until June. Look for oranges and tangerines that feel heavy for their size and have thinner rather than thicker skin for the variety. Store them in a cool but not chilled spot. Most of these varieties are fabulous for eating out of hand but consider cutting them into "supremes" for a more elegant presentation.
Oranges and tangerines are different varieties of the same species. Oranges are larger and tarter, while tangerines are, as a rule, smaller and sweeter. The skins of tangerines tend to be looser, making them easier to peel. Tangerines and clementines are classified as mandarins. Clementines are the smallest member of the mandarin family.
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Navel oranges are the most common variety of orange that is eaten. Navels are sweet, seedless, and perfect for eating out-of-hand; but they are also delicious in salads. Navel oranges are in season from November into June.
Navel oranges have comparatively thick skins and a characteristic navel-looking mark on the non-stem end. Navel oranges are good for juicing, but the juice tends to be so sweet that it ferments easily, so you will need to use the juice within a few hours. Consider using the fruit in a classic orange and coconut ambrosia, a fresh mixture of orange pieces, coconut, confectioner's sugar, and orange juice. Or put together a vanilla citrus fruit salad featuring grapefruit, pineapple, lime juice, and powdered sugar along with the oranges and vanilla.
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Valencia oranges have thin skins, some seeds, and are very juicy, which makes them the perfect (and most common) type of orange used to make orange juice. These oranges are perfectly delicious to eat as fruit as well—you just have to watch out for the seeds.
If you are squeezing a few, consider saving some of the juice to make a Valencia cocktail—a refreshing combination of apricot brandy, fresh orange juice, and orange bitters.
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Blood oranges are famous for their deep red flesh which can vary in the depth of color. From the outside, the fruit may or may not have a bit of red blush on their otherwise orange skins.
This variety is a smaller orange, quite sweet, and is best used as a fruit—rather than for its juice—if only to show off its beautiful color, like in a spinach salad with feta cheese. They are also delicious when part of a dessert, such as a cardamom cake or panna cotta.
Blood oranges are not widely available in North America but can be found at specialty markets during its season from November through March. You also may find them at your local supermarket.Continue to 5 of 12 below.
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Cara Cara Oranges
Cara cara oranges are a wonderfully sweet type of navel orange harvested in California between December and April. The bright orange skin conceals an interior that is juicy and often just a bit pink—making it perfect for citrus fruit salads, as well as a satisfyingly sweet juice. It has low acid and a great zingy bite behind its sweetness and tends to have very few if any, seeds.
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Seville or sour oranges are perfect for making marmalade; their natural sourness works as a nice foil to the large amount of sugar used when making this jelly. Seville orange juice is an excellent acid for cooking. Cocktails and salad dressings, in particular, can benefit from the greater range of flavor you get from sour oranges as compared to lemons or limes. This fruit tends to be small and has a short window of availability starting in December and ending at the start of February.
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Tangerines are smaller than oranges with bright orange skins and slightly looser peels than oranges. These fruits are great for eating out of hand and adding to salads, and you can also juice tangerines for a slightly sweeter and brighter take on classic orange juice—which also makes it great for a cocktail, such as a tangerine margarita. The tangerine season is longer than most other citrus fruits, running from November through May.
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Clementines (some marketed in the U.S. as "Cuties" or "Sweeties") are very small seedless oranges and are much like tangerines in their honey-like sweet flavor. Their small size makes them best eaten out of hand, but they are also delicious when part of a cornmeal cake, or a salad of green beans and bulgur wheat. The tight, shiny orange skins also make them perfect for display and creating casual, edible centerpieces.Continue to 9 of 12 below.
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The smallest of commercially available "oranges" are kumquats. These magical little citrus fruits are a bit sour and have the magical element of edible peels. Eat it as is, just be sure to not make the mistake of trying to peel this fruit; the peels are actually the sweetest part of the fruit. There are many ways to enjoy kumquats, from preserving them to making into marmalade to pureeing and incorporating into a cream pie.
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Mandarins, often called mandarin oranges, are a small and sweet tangerine variety. They do have some seeds, which makes them just the tiniest bit less desirable for snacking than seedless clementines. This fruit has one of the longest seasons from January through May.
You may have had mandarins from a can, as it is a popular canned fruit packed in syrup. But for a real treat, buy some fresh mandarins to taste how mild yet sweet they are. Whip up a mandarin orange vinaigrette or a purple cabbage salad which features this fruit in both the salad itself as well as the dressing.
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Satsumas are tangerines and are considered a variety of small mandarin oranges. They are seedless and their skin is loosely attached to the fruit making them super easy to peel. This citrus fruit does not need to have smooth, tight skin when you buy it, but choose satsumas carefully since the peel's looseness makes bruising difficult to detect.
Like clementines, satsumas are seedless. The two are often marketed and sold interchangeably—although the difference is easy to detect since clementines have tight peels and satsumas have loose peels.
Satsumas are relatively cold-hardy for a citrus fruit. This fruit's growth area has extended around the Gulf Coast in the U.S., although most satsumas come from California. This fruit is in season from November through January. Try replacing canned mandarins in recipes for Chinese chicken salad, Southern mandarin orange cake, and dessert sauce.
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Kishus are teeny, tiny tangerines—they make clementines look giant. When at its best, this fruit is as sweet as candy. Unfortunately, these mini tangerines are hard to come by; they are only grown in California and Florida and available only during the months of February and March. If you are lucky enough to get your hands on some, make sure to enjoy while they are still fresh!