Citrus fruits belong to the ‘rue’ family which are characterized by strong flavors and tangy taste. They are also literally called ‘sour fruits’. Oranges, lemons, grapefruits as well as tangerines come under the category of citrus fruits. Usually, the rind of the fruit is hard but widely used in cooking as well as other purposes. Some citrus fruits, such as oranges and grapefruits, have slices inside the rind; whereas, lemons and limes have juicy pulp inside the rind. Citrus recipes are popular world wide due to tangy flavor. Some of the most popular citrus recipes are marmalades, citrus juice and lemonade.
History of Citrus Fruits
According to historians, citrus fruits were first grown in Southeast Asia. They have been grown there since ancient times. Citrus fruits have also been cultivated at the borders of Northeastern India as well as in some parts of Burma and China. The word ‘citrus’ is a generic name derived from Latin, where ‘citron’ is a plant that is highly popular.
It is also believed that it was Alexander the great, who introduced the citrus fruits to Greece and Turkey in 4th century BC. In ancient European history, Persian citrus is specifically mentioned as a remedy for poisoning. Christopher Columbus is also closely linked with the introduction of this tangy fruit to Haiti in 1493. Many other evidences and facts are related with citrus fruits and all of them are proof to the widespread popularity of citrus fruits since ancient times.
Culinary Uses of Citrus fruits
Most of the fruits that fall under the category of citrus are mainly eaten fresh. Oranges, tangerines as well as grapefruits are some such fruits. Citrus recipes include orange and grapefruit juice which are widely served as breakfast drinks. Lemons and limes are usually not eaten as a whole but fondly used to make beverages such as lemonade and fresh lime soda. Citrus fruits are generally used as a garnish in many cooked dishes. Orange and grapefruits are widely used to make sauces, jams, jellies and marmalades. Even orange-flavored puddings and muffins are highly popular in culinary world.
Among the savory dishes, some of the most popular citrus dishes are lemon chicken, grilled chicken with orange sauce and lemon rice. Lime or lemon juice is an important ingredient in marinades for meat, chicken and seafood. The grated rind is sprinkled over salad or added to various savory dishes. Citrus fruits have varied uses in cooking.
Citrus juice is not only added to beverages but it is also added to several cocktails. Citrus recipes often include only the fruit flavoring rather than using the slices or the zest.
Popular Citrus Recipes
• Key lime pie – It is one of the most popular citrus dishes across the world. It is served in American cuisine as a dessert. Key lime juice, condensed milk and egg are used to make this popular dessert in a pie crust.
• Orange pound cake – Grated orange rind is used to make this tangy-flavored cake.
• Citrus vinaigrette – This zesty vinaigrette is prepared by adding orange concentrate to the mixture of vinegar with other seasonings.
• Grapefruit sorbet – Lemon juice and grapefruit juice are used to make this citrus dessert which is one of the most widely served citrus recipes.
• Zesty citrus chicken – Chicken is seasoned with orange and grapefruit juice and then roasted to make a tangy and zesty roasted chicken.
Cuisines Commonly Making Citrus Recipes
Citrus fruits are very versatile and they get mingled with almost all the ingredients and provide a perfect mélange of sour and tangy flavors. American and European cuisines mostly make citrus dishes that call for citrus sauce. It can be either made with orange juice as well as with grapefruit juice. Citrus juice is widely used to make well-accepted beverages and cocktails. Citrus glazed chicken is extensively popular in western cuisine. Key lime pie is a world famous American dessert that makes good use of key limes. Citrus jams, marmalades and ice creams are fondly served in American as well as European cuisines.
Citrus recipes are quite popular in Asian cuisine as well. In Indian cuisine, a lemon drink called ‘shikanji’ or ‘nimbu pani’ is immensely liked as a refreshing summer drink. It is commonly made in all Indian households and sold by street vendors. Lemon juice is highly used to marinate chicken and fish before roasting and grilling. Zesty lemon chicken and lemon rice have their popularity spread among all Asian cuisines.
Preferred Methods of Cooking Citrus Dishes
Citrus recipes can be prepared with various methods. Some of them are as follows:
• Baked – Citrus pies, cakes, cookies and muffins are made by baking method. This is a dry heat method that allows the liquid mixture of ingredients to turn into a solid form.
• Glazed – Orange or grapefruit sauce is quite often used to glaze the chicken as well as fish.
• Roasted – Often whole chicken is stuffed with orange and grapefruit slices and kept for roasting.
• Grilling – Grilled fish, meat and chicken are sprinkled with lemon juice before serving.
• Marinated – Marinated citrus recipes are quite popular in culinary world. Citrus juice is a very nice ingredient to be included in any marinade.
• Sliced – Sliced citrus fruits are often used as a garnish in salads and other cooked dishes.
Nutritive Value of Citrus Fruits
Citrus fruits are highly nutritive fruits that can be incorporated in many recipes to make healthy citrus recipes. It is a nourishing fruit and some of its healthy and nutritive properties are as follows:
• Citrus is an excellent source of Vitamin C.
• No cholesterol and sodium is present in citrus hence it is considered healthy.
• Citrus has negligible amounts of saturated fat.
• Citrus recipes are high in dietary fibers, calcium, and iron and copper.
Buying and Storing of Citrus Fruits
Firm and heavy fruits are always good to buy. Bruised and wrinkled skin is the sign of aging and they may not be a good ingredient for citrus dishes. While buying oranges and grapefruits, always look for bright and colorful skin. Lemons and lime should be purchased with thick rind. These type of fruits tend to be juicy.
Citrus fruits are highly perishable, hence should be stored in refrigerator for not more than 2 weeks. If citrus fruits are kept at room temperature then it is recommended for consumption within 1 week.
Citrus juice can be frozen and used as and when required. Citrus dishes can also be kept in freezer in order to preserve them for a longer period.
Types of Citrus Fruits
Some of the major citrus fruits are as follows:
• Oranges – This is one of the most commonly used citrus fruits. It has an orange rind with orange pulpy segments inside.
• Grapefruits – It often comes in yellow color with an acidic juicy flesh inside. Like oranges, this is also eaten as a fruit and used in making various citrus recipes.
• Lemon – Though lemons are not eaten as raw due to more tart taste, but these citrus fruit are extensively used in making citrus dishes.
• Lime – This variety is somewhat different from lemons but normally has the same uses. It is a small variety of lemon.
Other citrus fruits are: Satsuma, tangerines, kumquat and pummelo.
Citrus Fruits: Trivia
• Oranges never ripen once they are picked from tree but the process continues with lemons after picking as well.
• Citrus juice is widely used as a skin cleanser.