From miniscule kumquats to heavy, yellow-green pomelos, the myriad species and hybrids of the genus citrus offer a welcome brightness in the midst of winter. Prized for their fruit, juice, and the aromatic oils contained within the peel, the many varieties run the gamut of flavor, color, texture, and shape. Navel and Valencia oranges offer a juicy sweetness that’s great for eating out of hand, while the sweet-tart flesh of Meyer lemons shines in cakes, tarts, and savory dishes like orzo risotto. The sour bite of grapefruit plays brilliantly against spice, and the juice of a standard lemon or lime perks up just about any dish with its acidity. Less common varieties have plenty of uses, too: Long-fingered Buddha’s Hand citrus provides a delicate perfume that brings brightness and complexity to sauces and vinaigrettes, and while the fruit of the Kaffir lime is generally considered too acidic to eat, the leaves add a floral aroma to everything from Thai curries to gelato. Use the zest from any of them to perfume sugar or make oleo-saccharum, a fragrant syrup that’s essential to many cocktails.
HOW TO BUY
Choose specimens that feel firm and heavy in the hand, with no soft spots or bruises. If zesting or candying the rind, pick fruits with unblemished skin—preferably organic. Bright color can be a good indicator of taste, but certain varieties (such as Key or Bearss limes) may have a naturally paler skin.
HOW TO STORE
Most citrus fruits keep at room temperature for around three to five days. Keeping them in the crisper drawer of the fridge may extend their freshness for a few days, but can dim their flavor.
HOW TO PREPARE
Rinse and scrub the rind, making sure to remove wax if present. When peeling, be sure to remove the pith (the white material between the rind and fruit) as it has an acrid, bitter taste in most varieties. Peel and separate into segments. See how to peel and supreme citrus »