Winter is a great time to experiment with fruits like the kumquat, which can be added to a salad for a low-calorie, high-vitamin option. You can also try star fruits, which are great for heart health, or the flu-fighting quince. Certain varieties of tropical and citrus fruits, which are grown in places like Florida and Hawaii, have the highest levels of heart-healthy antioxidants of any fruit, so you can still make your heart happy without having to purchase fruit flown in from another hemisphere.
Some Not So Common Winter Fruits
The tiny little olive-sized citrus fruits are full of disease-fighting antioxidants, which are contained in their sweet, edible skin. A serving of five (which is about five calories) also contains one-fifth of your daily fiber needs, along with a healthy dose of potassium and vitamins A and C. The most commonly found variety is the Nagami, and California and Florida are home to most of our domestic crop, which peaks between November and March.
Slice kumquats and add to a salad or use in place of oranges in your recipes. Diced kumquats and avocado make a great salsa when mixed with red onion, cilantro and lime. At the market, look for firm fruits that are bright orange in color (green ones aren’t ripe), and store kumquats them at room temperature for two or three days or for up to two weeks in the refrigerator.
Carambolas or Star Fruit
Exotic fruits are generally higher in vitamin C, higher in potassium and lower in calories than domestic fruits. Carambolas, or star fruits, are no exception. High in inflammation-lowering polyphenols, they’re also great for your heart and full of fiber. Most of the star fruits you’ll see in stores now come from Hawaii or South Florida. Look for firm, shiny, evenly-colored yellow fruit. Handle with care, as star fruit bruise easily. Ripen them at room temperature for a few days until light brown ribs form and a full, fruity aroma develops, then refrigerate them for up to a week. The carambola’s taste has been described as a cross between citrus, apple and pear, and you can eat them as is, or slice them into fruit salads.
In Hawaii, the decline of the sugarcane plantations has led to a growing specialty fruit industry and antioxidant powerhouses rambutans, lychees and longans are now grown there. The rambutan, also known as hairy lychee or hula berry, is a tropical treat and their season runs from September through March. They might even be better for you than green tea. Rambutans have higher levels of the antioxidants: flavonoids and anthocyanins, both of which are believed to reduce the risk of chronic diseases and cardiovascular problems. They also contain iron and calcium. Look for rambutans in Asian and other specialty markets and handle them with care — they’re fragile and keep only a day or two at room temperature. If you’re not eating them right away, place them in a perforated plastic bag and refrigerate. To enjoy them, simply peel and pop into your mouth or add them to a fruit platter.
A relative of the lychee, longans are native to China but now are grown in Hawaii and in Puerto Rico. Stock up on them this time of year because they are traditionally used to settle upset stomachs and reduce fevers, making them great natural flu remedies. Also known as “dragon’s eye,” it’s easy to see why—the fruits have a black seed centered in translucent white flesh—and they taste similar to a chewy grape. You can find Hawaii-grown longans in Asian markets nearly year-round. Store them in the refrigerator in a perforated plastic bag for a week or two. You can simply rinse, peel and seed longans to eat as snacks or add them to fruit salads and desserts.
A study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that a persimmon a day could be better for your heart than an apple, because they contain significantly higher concentrations of dietary fiber, minerals and phenolic compounds that prevent atherosclerosis, a leading cause of heart disease, heart attacks and stroke. An added bonus: the antioxidants in persimmons can help control diabetes and the cell damage it causes. Their flavor and texture has been compared to plums or apricots, with spicy undertones, and you can use just the pulp or the entire fruit in puddings, pureed in ice creams, breads or cakes. Try them in savory dishes, too, like salsas, stir-fries and salads.
Though their softer Bosc relatives are long gone by now, hard-when-ripe Asian pears are perfect for cold storage and easy to find in farmer’s markets and grocery stores this time of year. Asian pears have significantly more fiber than other pear varieties and are good for your heart. Select the most fragrant, unblemished Asian pears when shopping; a sweet scent is the best indication that the pears are ripe. They can be kept for up to a week at room temperature or up to three months in the refrigerator. Their sweet pear flavor and crunchy texture make Asian pears perfect additions to salads and are delicious grated into slaws. They work well in place of apples in recipes from holiday stuffings to baked dishes. Try sauteing them to serve alongside meat entrees.
Some Common Winter Fruits
In general, look for plump oranges that are free of blemishes or bruises. As the season goes on, you may find different varieties of oranges popping up, such as Cara Cara and blood oranges. Both of these varieties are very sweet and have a darker flesh, ranging from pink in the Cara Cara to dark red in the blood orange.
Oranges are filled with vitamin C (a large orange has more than the daily recommended value), which may help smooth your skin. If you chose a blood orange, you’ll also be getting anthocyanins, a compound that turns the orange’s flesh red and is associated with helping to keep the heart healthy and the brain sharp.
Buy them in bulk (they may be cheaper in a bag than when sold individually) and store them in the refrigerator to extend their life by a couple of weeks.
Though there are hundreds of varieties of bananas, the Cavendish is the variety most familiar to North Americans. Bananas are in season year-round and are different from other fruits because they can be picked while they are still green. If you do buy green bananas, wait until the skin ripens to a yellow and the starches convert to sugars.
Bananas are one of the best sources of potassium, which is associated with healthy blood pressure. Also, a medium banana is an excellent source of cell-building vitamin B6 and is a good source of vitamin C and fiber.
Though bananas are relatively economical–ripening bananas cost about 90¢ per pound–overripe bananas are often on sale for less. Even if banana peels have started to brown, the insides often remain sweet and ripe. Buy a bunch or two and peel the extras before placing them in the freezer. They will keep for several months and are excellent in banana bread and smoothies.
Avoid green pineapples–they are not ripe. A ripe pineapple should smell like a pineapple. There should be a golden color present–starting at the base–and the more yellow a pineapple is, the better it will taste throughout. Some people claim that pulling leaves easily from the top of a pineapple is an indication of ripeness, but this has not been proven. Your best bet is to go with color.
Pineapple is full of vitamin C, delivers a healthy dose of fiber and is an excellent source of manganese, a nutrient involved in bone formation. Though convenient, prepared pineapple chunks in the produce section may cost more per pound than a whole pineapple. Many markets though sell pineapple peeled for the same price as an unpeeled one.
Color is not a good indicator of a ripe pomegranate. Instead, choose a fruit that feels heavy in your hand.
Pomegranate juice is rich in antioxidants, natural compounds found in plants that help protect the body from harmful free radicals. (Free radicals are compounds in the body that damage tissues and may contribute to a variety of chronic conditions, such as heart disease, Alzheimer’s and cancer). Although you don’t get as many antioxidants eating the seeds as drinking the juice, you will get fiber and abundant punicic acid, a polyunsaturated heart-healthy oil.
Pomegranates aren’t the cheapest fruit in the produce bin (about $2.50 each), but the good news is that one fruit goes a long way. Your best bet is to compare prices at competing stores and buy the cheapest you can find.
Like oranges, select fruits that are free of blemishes and bruises. Buying grapefruit can be tricky–the skin color of the fruit is not always a reliable way to tell if the fruit is sweet inside. If the fruit is heavy in your hand, that may be a good indication of its juiciness. Grapefruits are high in vitamin C and are a good source of fiber. Studies have shown that the soluble fiber in grapefruit may even be beneficial in lowering cholesterol. Half a medium grapefruit has only 60 calories.
If you regularly buy organic, you may make an exception for grapefruit. According to the Environmental Working Group (a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization) it is a fruit that is less likely to be contaminated with pesticides.
Recipes Using Winter Fruits
Pears with Blue Cheese and Prosciutto
Makes 4 servings
- 2 pears, each cored and sliced into 8 wedges
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- 3 ounces blue cheese cut into slices
- 6 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto cut in half lengthwise
- 1 cup arugula
Roll up an arugula leaf, a piece of pear (lay on its side)and a piece of cheese in a slice of prosciutto. Repeat with the remaining pear slices.
Sicilian Fennel Salad with Oranges, Arugula, and Black Olives
In Sicily , this salad is traditionally prepared with chicory , a slightly peppery , tender-leafed green. Substitute with arugula if you can’t find chicory .
- 3 navel oranges
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 bunches trimmed arugula or chicory
- 2 cored, halved, trimmed medium fennel bulbs
- 1/4 cup oil-cured black olives
Trim off and discard peel and all of the white pith from oranges, then slice crosswise into thin rounds and set aside. Mix together the extra-virgin olive oil and red wine vinegar in a large salad bowl, then season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Tear arugula into large pieces and arrange in the salad bowl. Slice fennel bulbs into long strips. Toss salad just before serving, adjust seasonings, then arrange orange slices and black olives on top.
Braised Chicken with Kumquats and Green Olives
- 3 lbs. chicken legs or thighs
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion, sliced into ¼ inch half-rounds
- 4 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 1 cup white wine
- 2 bay leaves
- 3 cups chicken broth
- 1 cup kumquats
- 1 cup green olives
- Salt and pepper
- Couscous, cooked according to package directions
Rinse and pat the chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Heat olive oil in a large pan with a cover over medium heat. Add chicken and cook, turning occasionally , for about 15 minutes, or until evenly browned. Transfer chicken to a plate.
Add onion and garlic to pan and saute over medium heat until transparent. Add wine and bay leaves and reduce over high heat until syrupy . Return the chicken to the saucepan, skin side up and add enough chicken broth to cover 2/3 of the chicken. Tuck the kumquats and olives into the broth, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer, covered, until the sauce is thickened and the chicken is cooked through and tender, about 40 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Spoon over couscous and serve.
Makes 12 servings.
- 4 lbs. (about 10 medium) assorted apples, such as McCoun, MacIntosh, Golden Delicious, Jonathan, Jonagold or HoneyCrisp, peeled, cored and quartered
- 1/3 cup fresh apple cider
- 4 lemon slices, paper-thin, or 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 (3-inch) piece stick cinnamon, or 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, optional
- 2 tablespoons sugar, agave syrup, or honey, optional
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Place apples, cider and lemon slices or juice in large Dutch oven or heavy casserole with a cover. Toss apples to coat them with lemon. If using, add cinnamon stick or sprinkle on cinnamon and sweetener and toss again.
Bake apples, covered, for 60 to 75 minutes, until very soft and moist. Stir to combine soft apples and liquid into applesauce. If mixture is too thin, bake the applesauce, uncovered, for 15 minutes longer. Cool to room temperature before serving. Applesauce thickens as it cools. The applesauce keeps, covered in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Orange-Scented Olive Oil Cake
- 2 oranges
- 2 1/3 cups sugar or 1 cup plus 2 ½ tablespoons sugar alternative, such as Truvia or Domino Light
- Cooking Spray
- 2 1 ⁄2 cups flour, plus more for dusting baking pan
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 4 eggs
- 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 ⁄4 cup fresh orange juice
- 1 ⁄4 cup confectioners’ sugar
- Sugar crystals for garnish, optional
Trim about 1/2″ from the tops and bottoms of the oranges; quarter oranges lengthwise.
Put oranges, 1 cup of the sugar or 1/2 cup of the sugar alternative and 4 cups water into a 4-quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, lower heat and cook, stirring often, until sugar dissolves and orange rind can be easily pierced with a fork, about 30 minutes.
Remove pan from heat and let cool to room temperature.
Heat oven to 350°F. Spray a 10″ round cake pan with cooking spray and dust with flour; line pan bottom with parchment paper cut to fit. Set pan aside.
Whisk together the flour, baking powder and baking soda in a medium bowl and set aside. Remove orange quarters from syrup, remove and discard any seeds, and put oranges into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until oranges form a chunky purée, 10–12 pulses. Add remaining sugar, reserved flour mixture, vanilla, and eggs and process until incorporated, about 2 minutes. Add olive oil; process until combined. Pour batter into prepared pan; bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 40–45 minutes. Let cool for 30 minutes.
In a small bowl, whisk orange juice and confectioners’ sugar to make a thin glaze. Remove cake from the pan and transfer to a cake stand or plate. Using a pastry brush, brush orange glaze over top and sides of cake; let cool completely . Garnish cake with sugar crystals, if desired..
- 9 Funky Fruits You Have to Try (theflyingfugu.com)
- Healthy Breakfast Recipe: Winter Citrus Compote with Yogurt – Recipes from The Kitchn (thekitchn.com)
- Winter Fruit (foodiefriendsfridaydailydish.com)
- Green Smoothies – A Tasty Tempting Mix Of Fruit and Veggies (bestfruitsmoothies.com)
Oranges have been cultivated all over the world for many years. They are native to southeastern Asia and China. The Persian Orange, grown widely in southern Europe after its introduction to Italy in the 11th. century, was bitter. The sweet oranges that were brought to Europe in the 15th. century from India by Portuguese traders quickly displaced the bitter ones and are, now, the most common variety of orange grown around the world. The sweet orange was cultivated in the 16th. century in Eastern Europe and grows to different sizes and colors according to local conditions, most commonly with ten carpels, or segments, inside. In England, they were a sign of wealth and were often used during the holiday season for decorations.
All citrus trees are of the single genus, Citrus, and remain largely inter-breedable; that is, there is only one “superspecies” which includes lemons, limes and oranges. Nevertheless, names have been given to the various members of the citrus family, oranges often being referred to as Citrus sinensis and Citrus aurantium. Fruits of all members of the genus Citrus are considered berries because they have many seeds, are fleshy, soft and derive from a single ovary. An orange seed is sometimes referred to as a pip.
The seeds of the plant were often carried to different regions by the explorers. Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch and Middle Eastern sailors planted citrus trees along trade routes to prevent scurvy. On his second voyage in 1493, Christopher Columbus brought the seeds of oranges, lemons and citrons to Haiti and the Caribbean. They were introduced in Florida (along with lemons) in 1513 by the Spanish explorer, Juan Ponce de Leon, and were introduced to Hawaii in 1792.
A single mutation in 1820 in an orchard of sweet oranges planted at a monastery in Brazil led to the navel orange, also known as the Washington, Riverside or Bahia navel. A single cutting of the original was then transplanted to Riverside, California in 1870, creating a new market worldwide. The mutation causes a ‘twin’ fruit, with a smaller orange embedded in the outer fruit opposite the stem. From the outside, the smaller, undeveloped twin leaves a formation at the bottom of the fruit, looking similar to the human navel. Navel oranges are almost always seedless and tend to be larger than other sweet oranges. They are produced, without pollination, through parthenocarpy. Parthenocarpy produces a seedless fruit which cannot reproduce by sexual means but only by asexual or artificial ones.
Brazil is the leading country for orange production, with the state of Florida second to Brazil. California, Texas and Arizona are the only other orange-producing states in the United States. Blood oranges are grown in Italy, Clementines in Morocco and Jaffa oranges in Israel. The United State also imports oranges from Australia, the Dominican Republic and Mexico.
The varieties of orange come sweet, loose skinned or bitter. Some variety names are navel, blood oranges and Valencia.
When selecting oranges, look for skin that does not have blemishes, wrinkles and mold. Oranges are often green before they ripen. Over sized navel oranges are overripe, so smaller ones are better. When Valencia oranges turn ripe on the tree, they turn yellow orange. They have some green on the stem because of the chlorophyll that is redistributed to the skin. This green is not a sign of immaturity or blemishes.
Fresh oranges reach their peak availability in the winter and early spring months. Storing oranges properly, whether from the supermarket or harvested from your own tree, prolongs the life of the fruit by preventing mold and spoilage. Firm, heavy fruits with a pronounced citrus aroma are at peak ripeness and store best. Wrinkled fruits or those with a rough skin are more prone to early spoilage and don’t have the best quality of flavor. Store whole, unpeeled oranges at a temperature between 38 and 48 degrees Fahrenheit.
Oranges in Italy
They’re grown throughout the southern half of the Peninsula, and if you go out for a drive anywhere from Rome south you’ll pass roadside stands piled high with them. While there are a great many varieties; Italian oranges fall into three major groups:
- Bionde are yellow to orange in color and include the Washington Navel.
- Sanguigne are colored red, hence their English name, blood oranges.
- Sanguinelle are oranges with skins are that colored with red.
As one might expect, oranges play an important role in the Italian diet. Bionde generally appear as fruit at the end of the meal, though they can be squeezed or used as a recipe ingredient, while sanguigne and sanguinelle are most often squeezed. During the winter months almost every bar has a juicer and a basket piled high with oranges for those who would rather begin their day with fresh juice rather than a cappuccino.
Orange essence is a vital ingredient in many southern Italian pastries. Orange essence refers to orange oil derived from the orange’s peel that is dissolved in alcohol. Its use is somewhat restricted due to its alcohol base. And the peels of all, including bitter oranges, are candied for use in cakes and other desserts.
Finally, oranges have also long figured in main course dishes, many of which have enjoyed a resurgence in popularity following the rise to prominence of Anatra all’Arancia, the Italian equivalent of the French duck à l’orange.
Cooking With Oranges
Blood Orange Mimosa
4 to 6 servings
- 1 bottle Prosecco, Italian sparkling wine
- 1 1/2 cups fresh squeezed blood orange juice
- 1 tablespoon superfine granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons orange liqueur, such as Grand Marnier
Chill the bottle of Prosecco. Combine fresh blood orange juice with sugar and orange liqueur in a large measuring cup and stir to combine. Cover and refrigerate until chilled. To serve, pour into the bottom of Champagne glasses and slowly top-off with ice-cold Prosecco.
Marinated Olives with Rosemary, Red Chili, Orange and Paprika
- 4 garlic cloves
- 1 large sprig rosemary
- 4 to 5 whole orange slices, peel on
- 1 teaspoon dried red chili flakes
- 1 tablespoon Spanish smoked sweet paprika
- 2 cups extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 quart large green Spanish olives, unpitted
Combine garlic cloves, fresh rosemary, orange slices, red chili flakes, paprika, and extra- virgin olive oil in a saucepan and set over low heat. Slowly warm up to infuse the oil and soften the garlic – do not let it fry or bubble. Once hot, about 5 minutes, pour in olives, turn off heat and steep until cool. Serve at room temperature.
Orange Sage Risotto
- 2 cups orange juice
- 1 cup water
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
- 3/4 cup Arborio rice
- 3/4 cup dry white wine
- 5 fresh sage leaves, julienned, additional leaves for garnish
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- Additional orange segments to stir into the risotto of for a garnish
In a medium saucepan, bring orange juice and water to a boil. Reduce the heat and keep the liquid at a low simmer.
In a small Dutch oven, melt 1 tablespoon of butter. Add the Arborio rice and stir to coat with the butter. Continue toasting the rice, stirring constantly, until it is golden brown in color, about 3 minutes.
Add the white wine and simmer until the wine has almost evaporated.
Add 1/2 cup of the simmering juice and stir until almost completely absorbed by the rice. Continue cooking the rice, adding the juice 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly and allowing each addition of juice to absorb before adding the next. Continue doing this until the rice is tender but still firm to the bite and the mixture is creamy, about 20 minutes total.
Remove from the heat. Gently stir in the sage leaves, salt, and pepper. Add orange segments, if desired.
Finish with the remaining tablespoon of butter and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Garnish each serving with a few orange segments and sage leaves.
Mahi-Mahi with Blood Orange, Avocado, and Red Onion Salsa
Yes, avocados are available in Italy. They are grown in Sicily.
- 1 blood orange or navel orange
- 1/2 cup 1/3-inch cubed avocado
- 1/3 cup chopped red onion
- 2 teaspoons minced red jalapeño or serrano pepper
- 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 2 6-ounce mahi-mahi fillets, or other white fish fillets
- 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
Using small sharp knife, cut peel and white pith from orange. Working over small bowl, cut between membranes to release segments. Add avocado, onion, jalapeño, and lime juice to oranges in bowl; stir gently to blend. Season salsa to taste with salt.
Heat oil in heavy medium skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle fish with oregano, salt and pepper. Add fish to skillet and sauté until brown and cooked through, about 5 minutes per side.
Place 1 fillet on each of 2 plates. Spoon salsa atop fish and serve.
Italian Orange Cake
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 2/3 cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
- 1 cup sugar or sugar alternative
- 1 1/4 cups water
- 1/3 cup olive oil, not extra virgin
- 1/4 cup sweet Marsala, Muscat or sherry dessert wine, or orange juice
- 1 tablespoon grated orange peel
- 3 eggs
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 4 tablespoons powdered sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons grated orange peel
- 1 tablespoon sweet Marsala, Muscat or sherry dessert wine, or orange juice
- 1 tablespoon grated orange peel
Heat oven to 325°F. Generously spray bottom only of 10-inch springform pan with cooking spray and dust with flour.
Note: If a springform pan is unavailable, bake cake in 13 x 9-inch pan at 350°F. 30 to 35 minutes.
Mix sugar, flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl of an electric mixer with paddle attachment until thoroughly mixed.
Add water, olive oil, 1/4 cup wine, 1 tablespoon orange peel and the eggs and beat on low speed 30 seconds, then on medium speed 2 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally. Pour into pan.
Bake 50 to 60 minutes or until toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. (Top of cake may appear dark golden brown and rippled.) Cool completely, about 1 hour.
Carefully run knife around side of pan to loosen; remove side of pan. Transfer cake to serving plate.
Whipped Cream Topping
Chill the bowl and whisk attachment of a stand mixer for 20 min. in the refrigerator or 5 min. in the freezer. Pour the heavy cream into the bowl and whisk on medium-high speed until it just starts to thicken. Slow the speed down to medium and gradually pour in the sugar. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons orange peel and 1 tablespoon wine until well blended. Continue to whisk until soft peaks form.
Frost top and side of cake. Garnish with 1 tablespoon orange peel. Store loosely covered in refrigerator.
- 10 Stuffs about Oranges (tenstuffs.wordpress.com)
- Growing up with Oranges (lloydlofthouse.org)
- Pomegranate Orange Marmalade (nicholscanyonco-op.com)
- Where do Oranges Come From (wanttoknowit.com)
- Citrus Fruit Offers a Natural Solution for Diabetics (naturalremediesblog.net)
- Citrus has long history of being important fruit worldwide (redding.com)
- Lemon Marmalade (spoonfeast.com)