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Lighten up with citrus.

WITH BRILLIANT COLORS AND FLAVORS ranging from highly acidic to sweet-tart, the citrus family offers something for everyone.


The ancestor of modern citrus fruit is the inedible primitive citron, which probably originated in India. Arab traders brought mandarins from China to Italy during the Roman Empire. Soldiers under Alexander the Great took lemons from Assyria back to Greece. The British Navy used limes that were cultivated in the West Indies to prevent sailors from developing scurvy.


Climate plays a major role in citrus agriculture. It influences size, shape, flavor, color, texture, juice content, and thickness of the fruits' peel.

Citrus fruit grows well along the Gulf Coast and in California, Florida, and Texas, where the temperature is between 70 and 90 degrees. Heat and humidity produce sweet and juicy varieties, such as the renowned Indian River grapefruit. The sweet flavor, vibrant flesh, and development of lycopene in the Texas grown "Star Ruby" grapefruit is due to the high temperatures experienced while growing.

Citrus grown in cooler areas tends to be less juicy and more acidic. Lemons, for example, are better suited to the cool California coast. Some varieties, such as Satsumas, can withstand temperatures as low as 18 degrees. However, prolonged cold temperatures may take a toll on some citrus fruits, especially the smaller varieties. It may take three hours to damage a grapefruit or an orange at 27 degrees, but only an hour at 29 degrees to injure small lemons.

Citrus harvest occurs at different times during the year because "early" and "later" varieties grow in various locations.


Select citrus fruit heavy for its size. A thick skin and light-weight fruit is a sign of an old citrus without much juice or flavor inside. Avoid citrus with soft or brown spots. Since conventionally-grown citrus fruits are sprayed heavily with pesticides and treated with fumigants for color or ripening, it's worth searching out organic varieties, especially if the peel will be used.

Since citrus fruit ripens on the tree, no further ripening is necessary once you bring them home. Ideally you should store citrus fruit loose in the refrigerator. It will keep for up to three weeks. Citrus stored at room temperature dries out, and the sugars may ferment. The fruit may also pick up off-flavors around it.

Citrus juice can be frozen, and I have found that you can freeze whole lemons and limes. Let them thaw before using. The peel will be too rubbery to use, but the juice is fine.

Varieties and Uses


One of the oldest citrus fruits, the citron's seeds have been found in excavations dating back to 4000 B.C. The inedible flesh, which ranges between sour and slightly sweet, has a diluted lemon flavor. Citron juice can be used like lemon juice. The peel is pressed for oil and used as flavoring, or it may be candied and used in holiday fruit cakes.


Descended from pummelos in Malaysia and hybridized with oranges in the West Indies, grapefruit has been cultivated for the last century. During the 1920s, the first pink grapefruit crops were developed in Texas. Grapefruit has a slightly bitter, yet sweet, taste. It can be used for juice, jam, or marmalade, and in fruit salads and vinaigrettes. It is also good baked, broiled, or grilled with maple syrup drizzled on top.


Originally from China, kumquats tolerate cold weather better than other citrus varieties. In the United States, they are grown mostly in Florida and California. They have a sweet peel, and the flesh is tart. Kumquats are usually eaten raw, but they are sometimes made into marmalade or pureed, with the seeds removed, for use in various dishes. lists a number of recipes, such as sauce, bread, chutney, chips, and even oatmeal cookies, for the curious vegetarian cook.


The lemon is thought to be a citron-lime hybrid that originated in India. During the 4th century, it was cultivated in Greece and Rome. In 1565, lemons were planted in Florida. The most versatile of all citrus fruit, lemons can be used in just about anything--from breakfast to dessert, from sweet to savory. The zest (grated peel) is also widely used.


Originally grown in India, limes also grow well in Egypt and the West Indies. The smallest members of the citrus family, limes have a distinct taste and are an essential ingredient in Southwestern, Asian, Mexican, Latin American, Caribbean, and other cuisines. Put them in marinades, add a little zest to soups or vinaigrettes, or make a lime granita for a decadent-tasting sweet treat.


Tangerines, clementines, or mandarins--call them what you will. These small, easy peelers are native to China. Arab traders later transported them to Italy. Juicy and sweet with no seeds, they're perfect for a sweet treat. They can be used in the same ways that oranges are, and the peels can be zested to flavor just about anything from oatmeal to cobbler.


Native to China, oranges were grown in ancient Greece and later taken to India. They were originally small and bitter with many seeds, but over time, hybridization made them larger and juicier with fewer seeds. Oranges are categorized into two groups, sweet and sour. The sweet varieties include Valencia, navel, and blood oranges. Sour oranges, like Seville or Bigarade, are not eaten raw but made into marmalade or jam. Oranges enhance both sweet and savory dishes. Use the zest as well.


The pummelo, which originated in Malaysia, is the world's largest citrus fruit. It looks like a large green grapefruit, but its flavor is more acidic and bitter. It is also less juicy. Combine it with oranges and dates for a salad, or drizzle a little agave nectar on top and eat it like you would grapefruit.


A hybrid between a mandarin and a grapefruit, mineola tangelos are the most visible variety. These fruits are easy to peel and quite juicy with a little more tartness than mandarins. Tangelos are great in marinades and salad dressings. The juice and zest are good cooked in a rice pilaf or added to a savory black bean soup. Like oranges, tangelos add flavor to quick breads, cookies, and desserts.


Ugli fruit, a native of Jamaica, is a cross between a grapefruit and mandarin. It looks a little like a lumpy, puffy grapefruit, but it is sweeter than grapefruit and almost seedless. Available in specialty markets, enjoy it like you would grapefruit.
(Serves 4)

Buckwheat and orange pair together
like a marriage that was meant to
be. Look for buckwheat groats in
natural foods stores, or get Kasha
(toasted buckwheat) and skip the
toasting instructions. You can use
rice or almond milk to replace
soymilk, if you like. This recipe
is good with or without the ginger,
and it's easy to cut in half to serve
two instead of four.

3/4 cup raw buckwheat groats, rinsed
1/2 cup orange juice
Approximately 1 1/4 cups soymilk, divided
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon finely chopped orange zest
1-3 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
Pinch of sea salt
3 Tablespoons chopped dates
3 Tablespoons toasted chopped pecans

Heat a heavy skillet over medium
heat and add buckwheat. Stir until
fragrant and toasted, about 5 minutes.
Be careful not to let the buckwheat
groats burn.

In a medium saucepan, add
juice, 1/2 cup soymilk, water, zest,
ginger (if desired), salt, and dates.
Stir to blend, then bring to a boil
and add buckwheat. Reduce heat
and simmer for 15 minutes or
until buckwheat is done. Once
the liquid is absorbed, add remaining
soymilk. Add less if you want
a thicker porridge and more if
you favor a thinner blend. Stir
and heat for 5 minutes. Top with
toasted pecans.

Total calories per serving: 208 Fat: 6 grams
Carbohydrates: 36 grams Protein: 7 grams
Sodium: 13 milligrams Fiber: 5 grams

(Serves 6)

Although guacamole is often made
with lemons, lime is a wonderful
choice for this traditionally-inspired

2 ripe avocados
1/4 cup fresh lime juice (from approximately
 1 large or 2 small limes)
1/4 cup minced onion
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
1 teaspoon agave nectar or fruit sweetener
 (available in natural foods stores)
Salt to taste
3 roma tomatoes, chopped
2 Tablespoons chopped cilantro

Cut avocados in half and peel.
Mash avocados with lime juice.
Mix in onions, jalapenos, and
agave nectar. Add salt to taste.
Gently blend in tomatoes and
cilantro. Serve with tortilla chips
or use to top tacos and tostadas.

Total calories per serving: 123 Fat: 10 grams
Carbohydrates: 9 grams Protein: 2 grams
Sodium: 11 milligrams Fiber: 2 grams

(Serves 4)

You could also use leftover squash or
pumpkin in place of the sweet potato
for this easy, almost instant soup.

2 cups canned refried black beans
1 cup baked sweet potato or 1 can sweet
 potato puree
3 cups water
2 cloves garlic, pressed
Spicy salsa to taste
1 large lime, thinly sliced
1/2 cup baked tortilla chips, crushed

Puree black beans with sweet
potato, water, and garlic, blending
until smooth and creamy. Pour
into a saucepan and heat over
medium heat, stirring occasionally.
Blend in spicy salsa. Serve with
a squeeze of lime and garnish
with crushed tortilla chips.

Total calories per serving: 184 Fat: 2 grams
Carbohydrates: 35 grams Protein: 8 grams
Sodium: 386 milligrams Fiber: 8 grams

(Serves 6)

This is a typical cabbage and carrot
salad with a twist, using tahini
(sesame paste) and citrus instead
of mayonnaise for the dressing.

4 cups shredded cabbage
1 medium carrot, grated
1/4 cup raisins
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 cup grapefruit juice (preferably pink
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup raw tahini (or cashew or almond
1 Tablespoon rice vinegar
1 Tablespoon powdered ginger
A few drops of hot sauce, such as Tabasco
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine cabbage, carrots, raisins,
and lemon juice. Set aside. Blend
grapefruit juice, orange juice, tahini,
rice vinegar, ginger, and hot
sauce. Stir until creamy. Add salt
and pepper to taste. Pour dressing
over cabbage and carrots and mix.
Refrigerate for approximately half
an hour before serving.

Total calories per serving: 108 Fat: 6 grams
Carbohydrates: 14 grams Protein: 3 grams
Sodium: 6 milligrams Fiber: 2 grams

(Serves 5)

I often use this dressing for a raw
salad or to enhance maple-sauteed
apples or pears. For a raw salad,
use apples or pears, dates, kiwi,
and oranges or other seasonal fruit.
Garnish with coconut or chopped

1 1/2 teaspoons orange zest
1/2 cup orange juice
2 Tablespoons almond butter
1/2 ripe banana
Pinch of sea salt

Blend all ingredients with a hand
blender or fork until creamy. Pour
sauce over your favorite fruit salad
or sauteed fruit.

Told calories per serving: 63 Fat: 4 grams
Carbohydrates: 7 grams Protein: 1 gram
Sodium: 1 milligram Fiber: 1 gram

(Serves 4)

You may want to experiment with
different citrus combinations, such
as orange-grapefruit or lemon-lime,
for the marinade. It's always good
to sample the marinade first since
it may need a bit more spice, salt,
or sweetener added.

8 ounces extra firm tofu
1/3 cup grapefruit juice
2 Tablespoons lime juice
1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 Tablespoon spicy mustard, horseradish,
 or wasabi
1/2 teaspoon salt

Drain and press tofu by placing
the 8-ounce block on one dinner
plate, then stacking two or more
additional plates on top of it.
Allow to sit for 30 minutes.
This presses the water out and
prepares the tofu for marinating
and absorbing flavors. Cut into
4 slices when done.

Blend grapefruit and lime
juice, vinegar, mustard, and salt.
Place tofu in a glass dish with
each piece of tofu immersed in
the marinade. Cover and refrigerate
tofu for about 8 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Lay the tofu slices in an oiled
baking dish. Bake for 30 minutes.
Pour the remainder of the marinade
over tofu, if you like.

Total calories per serving: 17 Fat: 4 grams
Carbohydrates: 5 grams Protein: 6 grams
Sodium: 392 milligrams Fiber: <1 gram

(Serves 4)

Lemon enhances greens, especially
hearty greens such as kale and
collards. Agave nectar is a liquid
vegan sweetener from the agave
plant, available in natural foods
stores. Adding it helps balance the
acidity of the lemon. Use maple
syrup if you can't find agave nectar.

1 cup brown Basmati rice
1 3/4 cups water
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 or 2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
Pinch of cayenne
2 Tablespoons water
Zest and juice of 1 lemon (about 1/4 cup)
2 teaspoons agave nectar or maple syrup
4 cups finely chopped kale
Salt to taste
1/4 cup toasted chopped pecans (optional)

Rinse Basmati rice. In a medium
saucepan, bring water to a boil.
Add rice, reduce heat, and simmer
for 45 minutes. Remove from
heat, let stand for 5 minutes, and
fluff with a fork.

Heat a heavy skillet over
medium heat. Add oil and onions.
Stir, then place a lid directly over
the onions and sweat until they
are soft. Mix in garlic and cayenne.
Stir and cook for 1 minute. In a
small bowl, combine water, lemon
juice and zest, and agave nectar.
Add lemon juice mixture and kale
to the onions, stir, cover, and cook
until kale is soft. Mix in rice and
season to taste with salt. Serve
garnished with pecans.

Total calories per serving: 261 Fat: 6 grams
Carbohydrates: 51 grams Protein: 7 grams
Sodium: 34 milligrams Fiber: 5 grams

(Serves 8)

A variation on this recipe is an orange-banana
cashew cream. Simply replace
lemon with orange zest and juice) in
this recipe, and add 1 or 2 teaspoons
maple syrup before blending.

3 cups sliced bananas
1 cup raw cashews
1 cup water
2 Tablespoons frozen apple juice concentrate
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (from approximately
 1 lemon)
1/2 Tablespoon lemon zest
Pinch of salt

Place sliced bananas on parchment
paper in a shallow glass pan and
freeze for a few hours or overnight.
Soak cashews in water for a few
hours or overnight in the refrigerator.

Combine cashews, water, concentrate,
lemon juice and zest, and
salt in a blender, and blend until
smooth and creamy. Add bananas
and puree until thick. Serve over
sliced fresh fruit, such as apples,
pears, strawberries, or mangos.

Total calories per serving: 155 Fat: 8 grams
Carbohydrates: 20 grams Protein: 3 grams
Sodium: 5 milligrams Fiber: 2 grams

(Serves 4)

Citrus and coconuts seem to go
together naturally.

12 kumquats, halved and seeded
1 cup regular or lite coconut milk
1/2 cup water
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup agave nectar or maple syrup
3 Tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup finely chopped dates
1 Tablespoon shredded coconut

Puree kumquats in a blender until
smooth. Add coconut milk, water,
cardamom, vanilla, agave nectar,
cornstarch, and salt. Blend until
smooth. Pour into a saucepan and
bring to a boil. Reduce heat and
simmer for about 10 minutes. Stir
in dates, then pour into serving
bowls and garnish with shredded
coconut before serving. Serve warm
or refrigerate and serve cold.

Total calories per serving: 154 Fat: 1 gram
Carbohydrates: 38 grams Protein: 1 gram
Sodium: 180 milligrams Fiber: 5 grams

(Serves 6)

Simple and easy to make, this lime
dessert seems almost decadent because
of the coconut milk. Lightly dust it
with shredded coconut, if you like.

1/2 teaspoon agar (a vegetarian gelling
 agent available in natural foods stores)
1 cup water
1/4 cup agave nectar or maple syrup
1/2 cup lime juice (from approximately
 4 limes)
1 large ripe banana
3/4 cup regular or lite coconut milk
Pinch of salt

Combine agar, water, and agave
nectar in a saucepan. Let agar
soften for a minute, then bring
to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer
for 3 minutes. Remove from
heat and, in a blender, combine
agar-water mixture with lime
juice, banana, coconut milk, and
salt. Blend on medium speed
until smooth and creamy. Pour
into ice cube trays and freeze
until solid.

Remove from trays and process
in a food processor, pulsing
the machine on and off until the
cubes are the consistency of coarse
snow. Then run the machine until
the mixture is creamy but not
runny. Cover and freeze for a few
hours. No need to let this sit out
before serving.

Total calories per serving: 64 Fat: <1 gram
Carbohydrates: 17 grams Protein: <1 gram
Sodium: 17 milligrams Fiber: 1 gram

Debra Daniels-Zeller is a freelance writer and a frequent contributor to Vegetarian Journal.
COPYRIGHT 2005 Vegetarian Resource Group
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2005, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Recipes
Author:Daniels-Zeller, Debra
Publication:Vegetarian Journal
Date:Jan 1, 2005
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Next Article:Annie's Naturals introduces organic mustards, ketchup, and salad dressings.

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