Delicious and nutritious citrus fruits are available year round. You may not be aware of the many ways in which those fruits can be enjoyed. The juice, flesh and peel (zest), are all flavor and nutritional stars that can enhance almost any dish. The citrus family includes: oranges, lemons, limes, kumquats, grapefruit, clementines, mandarins, pomelos and their hybrids.
Citrus fruits offer high levels of vitamin C, as well as potassium, folate, calcium, some of the B vitamins, powerful antioxidants, fiber and more. When having one of the sweet fruits, it is best to consume the juice and the flesh at the same time rather than the juice alone. A glass of orange juice, for example, is extracted from two or more oranges. It therefore contains an extremely high level of fructose (fruit sugar). In the absence of the pulp and fiber to slow down digestion, the sugar-laden juice is then instantaneously absorbed by the body which results in a rapid and detrimental spike in blood glucose.
Citrus zest is the exterior, oily, colored, and fragrant peel (or rind), called for in a wide range of recipes. It adds fabulously delicious flavor to grain dishes, salad dressings, pastry, fruit salads, and seafood. Always zest first, before using the rest of the fruit. Attempting to zest after the fruit has been cut in half will require gymnastics dexterity on your part! Wash and dry the fruit before zesting. To zest, use a hand-held fine grater or the fine-holed panel of a box grater. Rub the fruit in one direction against the small sharp blades just a few times. Turn the fruit often to a fresh grating spot as you go, so you harvest only the zest and not the pith, the white bitter layer underneath the skin. Pre-zested citrus peel is useless.
Instead of enlisting a machine to extract juice for a recipe, simply use an old fashioned hand juicer. It’ll even catch and separate the seeds from the juice for you. When finished using, promptly rinse the juicer — easy and quick! Another option is to reconstitute frozen juice concentrate only in the amount of juice you need, as follows: for 1 cup orange juice, mix 2 tablespoons frozen orange concentrate with 1 cup water; for 1/3 cup juice, mix 2 teaspoons frozen concentrate with 1/3 cup water, etc’. Keep the remainder in a sealed bag in your freezer. Expand your eating-for-health repertoire; use citrus fruit in new, exciting and delicious ways.
Judy E. Buss is a nutritional cooking instructor, blogger for the American Holistic Health Association and speaker.