The winter months can often seem like a fruit drought, particularly following the bountiful summer berries and fall pumpkins. But, one delicious fruit group that really shines in the winter is the citrus family. This season, along with our oranges, grapefruits, and lemons, we’re acquainting ourselves with some lesser known varieties, from the weirdly shaped citron to the tiny and fragrant Meyer lemon, and, of course, the intensely colored blood orange. Check out our guide to these more esoteric, tangy fruits, where you can find them, and how you should use them this winter…
This large, round citrus hails from Malaysia, and has more than a passing resemblance to the grapefruit, of which it’s thought to be an ancestor. The pomelo, also known as “shaddock” or Chinese grapefruit, varies both in size and color—the thick skin is often bright green or brownish-yellow while the flesh can be yellowish or bright pink. Similar to grapefruit, the texture inside can be juicy or dry, depending on its ripeness and growing environment, and the flavor can be sparklingly tart or very sweet, but is almost always less sour than a grapefruit. When purchasing a pomelo, make sure to choose a relatively unmarked fruit that feels heavy, and stick to the winter months when they are at their prime. Treat a pomelo as you would a grapefruit: Eat it plain, use it to brighten up a salad, or even throw it on a grill for a caramelized texture and flavor.
Often known by its more exotic name, Buddha’s Hand, this semi-tropical citrus has an utterly unique shape and, unlike most other fruits, is grown for its skin rather than the flesh inside, which is very sour and not appropriate for eating raw. The citron rind is most often candied in and sliced into strips, although its oil is sometimes used to flavor fragrances and liquors.
These adorable mini citruses are one of the few whose skin you’ll actually want to eat! Grape sized and bright orange, they feature tangy, tart flesh and a sweet outer rind. Kumquats are most frequently cultivated in China, Japan, and the United States, and can be used in sweet or savory preparations. We recommend eating them plain, like candy, slicing them thinly in salads or desserts, or making a sweet and sour marmalade-like jam with them! Pro tip: Slice kumquats up for a fun and tasty cocktail garnish.
We love the tangy orange-y flavor and gorgeous dark red hue of this citrus, and use it seasonally whenever we can. The blood orange is usually grown in the Mediterranean or, more recently, in California, and can be eaten plain or used in cooking. We love pairing it with other seasonal produce in grain salads or flavoring dressings and sauces with its tangy juice.
This small, sweet citrus variety is thought to be a crossbreed between a lemon and an orange. Originated in China and imported into the United States in 1908 by F.N. Meyer (after who it is named), Meyer lemons are rounder and smaller than most conventional lemons and are most frequently sold at specialty stores and farmer’s markets. Though you can substitute their juice for lemon juice in recipes, be aware that their juice is much less acidic and tangy. We recommend swapping them in for desserts, cooking them into jam, or even making a beautiful tablescape or display with them—before using them, of course!
Also known as the calamondin, this citrus fruit hails from Southeast Asia, though it is grown in California and Florida as well. Young calamansi can be bright green, orange, or yellowish, with thin skin and size similar to a lime. Their sour taste possesses notes of both lime and lemon flavors. While you’re not likely to come across Calamansi at your local grocery store, they are often sold at Asian and other specialty markets. Calamansi is used widely in Filipino cuisine in dishes both sweet and savory. Treat a calamansi as you would a lemon: Use it to brighten dishes, flavor desserts (make sure to use plenty of sweetness to balance it out), and as a base for lemonade.
In terms of appearance, this bumpy, green, pear-shaped citrus gives the Buddha’s hand a run for its money. Also known as the kaffir lime, it is most often used for its leaves, which are used dried or fresh in Southeast Asian dishes (primarily curries) for their aromatic, floral flavor. The rind is also used in cooking, while the flesh is not generally used in culinary preparations.
The key lime, known best as the key ingredient used to make the beloved creamy pie, is grown domestically in Florida, but is also cultivated throughout the world (and used internationally more than the Persian lime, which is more common in the States). It is even smaller than a regular lime, with a very round shape and yellowish skin. Swap in key lime juice anywhere you might use regular lime juice (the zest is super fragrant)—and, of course, in key lime pie!