Here’s a list of citrus varieties that you might find in one of our fresh fruit gifts in February and March:
Blood oranges are typically imported from Sicily where they are ideally suited to the climate and are the primary orange grown in Italy. The peak of the season is February, but since blood oranges are also now grown in Texas and California, the growing season has been extended making blood oranges available from December through May. There are three primary types of blood oranges: Moro, Tarocco and Sanguinello or Sanguinelli. They get their name from the intense red-streaked color of the fruit and the deep crimson blush of the skin. Interestingly, the Tarocco variety (also known by the alternative moniker “half blood”) has little to none of the characteristic redness can be mistaken for the common orange. However the flavor of the Tarocco has been described as the best of the blood oranges. On any given week, our gifts can feature different types of blood oranges. This week we also have organic blood oranges available.
The first Clementine was grown in Algeria by Father Clement Rodier. It is a cross between the Mediterranean mandarin and a sour orange. In the US, it is chiefly grown in Florida and California. The growing season is from October through March. Its prize characteristics are that it is easy to peel and has very few or no seeds. The Clementine separates easily in eight to twelve juicy segments. Some people detect the flavor of apricot nectar.
Oro Blanco Grapefruit
The Oro Blanco, meaning “white gold” in Spanish, is the product of cross-pollinating a seedy grapefruit variety and an acidless pomelo variety. The Oro Blanco grapefruit lacks the trademark tartness of most grapefruit varieties. The segmented flesh is devoid of any color beyond its pale yellow tones, it lacks acidity, making it far sweeter than other varieties. Though the Oro Blanco may display a green rind during their early stages of ripening, they are just as sweet as when their peel turns yellow. When ripe, the Oro Blanco has a golden yellow peel with a bitter, thick rind, and pith up to a 1/2 inch deep. Its flesh is tender, juicy, seedless and sweet with a large hollow core.
Grown only in Florida, honey tangerines mature between January and March. These are the sweetest of the tangerines, even sweeter than the Minneola tangelo (also known as the HoneyBell). Somewhat tougher skinned, smaller and typically with more seeds than the Minneola, they can be harder to eat. The peel is shiny with some degree of brown pigmentation or spots, which are naturally occurring. In the fruit trade, honey tangerines are sometimes referred to as “Murcotts” referencing the name of the man believed to have originated this cross between a tangerine and a sweet orange.
Minneolas are often mis-classified as a tangerine, but they are actually a type of tangelo – a hybrid of a tangerine and a grapefruit, specifically the Dancy tangerine and the Bowen grapefruit. The name “Minneola” is derived from one of its primary growing regions: Minneola, Florida (although we have found that this fruit is often misspelled as “Mineola” among fruit distributors). It is one of the more common and popular types of tangelos known for its lovely orange color, sweet taste, loose skin that makes it easier to peel than many oranges or tangerines, and very few seeds which makes it ideal for a ready and healthy snack. One of the Minneola tangelo’s most recognizable characteristics is the bump or top-knot on its stem end which can make the fruit look more bell-shaped than round, hence one of its nicknames, the “HoneyBell”. The peak mature season for the Minneola is December through February.
The adorable oval- or round-shaped kumquats are only slightly larger than an olive making them the tiniest of our winter fruit citrus. Kumquats have the fragrance of orange blossoms and a vibrant orange color. We like using them in our gifts whenever they are available: either huddled together in a little basket or gathered and concealed in brown paper readied for a surprise reveal. Kumquats are native to south and southeastern Asia but today are cultivated around the world. Known for their hardiness in cold winter climes, kumquats are a symbol of good luck in many Asian cultures making them ideal fruits to give to celebrate the Lunar Year. Kumquats are a versatile fruit that can be used in many ways and are especially good candied or as a marmalade. They can be eaten raw, skin and fruit, but while the skin is sweet, the fruit is lip-puckering sour and usually overpowering. Although very popular today in trendy cocktails, liqueurs and desserts, kumquats are still an unconventional citrus.
Ugli Fruit (also known as Uniq Fruit), was so named because its appearance was, well, less than beautiful. Ironically, it is very flavorful and juicy. Its taste is somewhere between a mandarin and a grapefruit, and it is delicious when simply peeled and eaten out of your hand. The Ugli has a thick, baggy, light orange rind and is easy to peel. Its yellow-orange flesh is quite succulent and tender, and relatively free of seeds. It was discovered as an accidental seedling in Jamaica where it was propagated and exported beginning in the 1930’s.
The Sumo Mandarin is so-called be of its size (it is one of the largest mandarins) and its distinctive topknot, reminiscent of the topknot worn by sumo wrestlers. The Sumo is a cross between the mandarin and a California navel orange that took 30 years to develop in Japan, where it is called “Dekopon.” The goal in developing the Sumo was to create an orange that would peel as easy as a Satsuma but be big and juicy like a California Navel oranges. The Sumo orange has a bumpy skin and is easy to peel. The easily segmented oranges are sweet, with good texture and no seeds. The Sumo has most recently become a California crop.