Winter fruit? Is that really a thing? Gray skies, cold weather, sweaters, and brown, lots of brown. This is the picture winter paints, unless you live in a place where your yard is blanketed by snow in the winter or happen to live in that evergreen region known as the deep south (even there winter isn’t quite as green as summer). The funny thing to me is that while winter brings minimal color and vibrancy to my garden: cabbages, brussel sprouts, and kale are all similar shades of green, some of the most zesty and bright fruit waits for winter. And in our resurging trend of eating fresh and in-season produce, why not pick up these delicious fruits the coldest season has to offer.
Though some of us may think that winter is a bleak time for fruit, the fact is that winter is citrus season. Grab up those oranges, grapefruits, clementines, lemons, limes, and kumquats. (What is a kumquat? I’ll tell you soon.) Pineapples imported from the Caribbean (not Hawaii) are also in season now, so get tropical! The vitamin C will be flowing through your veins if you take advantage of all the winter season has to offer.
- Oranges- Navel varieties are in season now. They’re perfect for fruit salads and just peeling and eating. (Have a napkin handy)
- Grapefruits- Though I tend to like the sweeter Ruby Red variety, there are plenty of other types out there. Cutting them in half and eating the fruit right from the peel is super convenient but also a bit messy (juice spray!).
- Tangerines/Tangelos- Those cute mandarins you get from the grocery store would fall into this category. These palm sized fruits are easy to enjoy and come in wide varieties. Your kids probably already love the small size, so let them eat up while they’re fresh and in-season.
- Lemons/Limes- Sour and tangy, these little babies were used to prevent scurvy (vitamin C deficiency) on ships back in the day. I can’t imagine eating a lemon, but you have to do what you have to do. Winter lemonade, salad dressing acid, dessert foundation… there are so many uses.
- Kumquats- These small oval shaped fruits are eaten skin and all. You can feel the burst of zest as soon as you bite in. The skin is actually sweeter than the center, so it’s a fun treat, and the kids love them!
Growing Citrus (and other winter fruits)
My parents happen to live in northern Florida, one of the largest citrus growing states. In fact, their lemon tree that almost met its end several years ago (for not producing anything but aggravation) now sits loaded down with lemons. Not the kind you buy from the grocery store. These lemons are the size of grapefruits, with a typical oval shape. When my parents came up for Christmas, in tow was a box of 20 lemons, 30(ish) oranges and tangelos, and a sackful of kumqats, all grown in their yard or friends nearby.
For those who don’t live in the southern United States, it is possible to grow citrus, but it may involve using a container and bringing your plants inside during colder weather months. For anyone below zone 9, the container may be the way to go. You’ll also want to have a place with well-drained soil and be ready to keep them well fed. Here are some great resources for getting started growing citrus:
Using Citrus in the Kitchen
Other than lemonade and eating the fruit as is, we have a few favorite recipes to share if you’re looking for ways to use up some citrus fruit:
Ambrosia salad (Light and Fresh!)
Lemon Curd (Microwaveable and oh so easy!)
Lemon Meringue Pie (Gimmie Some Oven)
Lemon Bars (Ina Garten)
Candied Kumquats (Scrumptious South Africa)
Lemon Butter Chicken (Damn Delicious)
I’d love to know if you’ve had success growing citrus fruit! We may try our first potted kumquat or lemon tree this coming year. Stay warm this winter season and happy gardening!
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