I’m convinced that Mother Nature looks out for us. On a brutally hot summer afternoon, she gives us light and juicy watermelons. When we’re hacking our way through winter’s cold season, she sends us vitamin C-rich oranges. I’m not saying you need to have a runny nose to enjoy these delicious citrus fruits, but they’re sure a godsend if you do.
Two of the most popular types of oranges—navel and Valencia—originated in China. Known as sweet oranges, these gorgeous fruits have a sweet pulpy flesh and gentle acidity that works beautifully just as they are or in many dishes. Two of my favorite seasonal specialties, the red cara cara and blood orange, have a tart, almost berry-like flavor and striking pinkish red flesh. Bitter oranges have a more biting flavor. While a bit too sharp to eat alone, the bitter variety is perfect in marmalade and jam (or in liqueurs like Grand Marnier).
Choosing oranges is pretty simple. Look for oranges that are firm and heavy for their size. These will be the juiciest. Smaller oranges and those with thin skins also indicate juicy fruit inside. Keep in mind that the skin doesn’t need to be bright orange; many locally grown, in season oranges will have touches of brown or green. You’ll just want to be sure that there aren’t any soft spots or signs of mold. Oranges can be stored at room temperature in a fruit bowl for about a week, or in the refrigerator, where they’ll last up to 3 weeks.
Oranges are an incredibly versatile ingredient in cooking. You can use the flesh, juice and peel in so many different recipes. Orange peel pairs beautifully with olive oil so consider adding zest when whipping up a salad dressing. Orange juice reduces to a gorgeous glaze for fish. And you can liven up recipes that call for oranges by using a few different varieties.
Ready for a surge of C? Try these Crepes with Orange Caramel and Mascarpone.