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February, 2010

Worth the wait, citrus is a springtime treat

By Mark Mulcahy

So I checked it out. Early springtime citrus like navel oranges, tangerines, and kumquats are loaded with nutrients, including vitamin C
.

(I knew about the C). What I learned, is that they also contain fiber, which can help lower cholesterol and assist with digestion; they provide potassium, which can help lower blood pressure, and they are filled with more than 60 phytonutrients – natural antioxidants that are believed to help the body in its fight against the effects of aging, allergies, infection, cancer, ulcers and heart disease. So I figured I couldn’t go wrong, whichever Melissa’s citrus I chose.

Melissa’s Navel Orange

Then I started thinking it wasn’t so long ago that organic mandarin oranges and tangerines used to be pretty much reserved for the winter table, and now they have a regular place in springtime produce displays. It’s now not uncommon to find Lee mandarins and Page tangerines available through March and Gold Nugget and Dancy tangerines through April. The small but tasty Pixie tangerines are available from March through June, which takes us right into stone fruit season. Page’, Dancys and Pixies are now some of my favorite tangerines and have me looking forward to spring just so I can enjoy their intense orange flesh and delicious flavor.

Melissa’s Honey Tangerines are another little tangerine that has a distinctive flavor that’s great this time of year. All of these tangerines with their unique sweetness and vivid color are the perfect perk up for any organic fruit salad you are trying to make this time of year. These beauties are also great as dessert, with some sliced bananas and a little yogurt. If you are a bit adventurous, you can even make your own delicious sorbet, and I mean delicious! Their sweet flavor also makes a great juice that is a perfect complement to eggs and waffles.

Melissa’s navel oranges are also fantastic right now and would be another great addition to your lunch routine, as they are seedless and so easy to eat. And guess what? One navel orange provides more than a full day's supply of vitamin C! Or how about Melissa’s Minneola tangelos; some of you may also know them as a “honey bell.” These springtime favorites are generally large, bright orange and somewhat bell shaped. You will love them because Minneola tangelos are seedless and have just the right balance of tangy to sweet. They get their unique taste because they are a cross between a Duncan grapefruit and a Dancy tangerine. Amazingly enough, with all these choices there is still other citrus to crow about. This month is when organic kumquats are showing up in the market in good quantities, especially the Meiwas, which are round in shape and are often referred to as “sweet” kumquats. Kumquats are entirely edible, with a thin, sweet skin and a zesty flavored flesh. While commonly used in desserts, my favorite way to eat them is whole.

Want to have a little fun? Here's a fun trick to get the best flavor from these little gold gems of the citrus family. Place the kumquat between the palms of your hands and roll gently until soft and pliable. Then pop them in your mouth. This action releases the essential oils that are in the skin, which makes for a deliciously sweet first bite, and great smelling hands. If you would like to try your hand at cooking with a little citrus, try this Brussels Sprouts with Whole Wheat Orzo, Pine Nuts and Currants recipe. You’ll be surprised just how good whole wheat orzo and Brussels sprouts can taste together when they are blended with a little bit of orange juice!

1 lb. Brussels sprouts
¼ cup olive oil
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. pepper
½ lb. whole-wheat orzo
2 Tbsp. Melissa’s Pine Nuts, toasted
¼ dried dried currants
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. juice of a fresh Melissa’s Navel Orange
3 Tbsp. crumbled feta cheese (optional)

Rinse Brussels sprouts under cold water. Trim ends, remove any damaged outer leaves. Slice lengthwise into quarters. Heat olive oil in medium sauté pan. Add Brussels sprouts, sauté until edges are lightly brown and tender. Add salt and pepper. Cook orzo according to package directions. Drain orzo and toss with cooked Brussels sprouts Add currants, toasted pine nuts, remaining tablespoon olive oil and orange juice. Serve with crumbled feta if desired. Serves 2 as a main course.

So now that you are ready to dig into some Melissa’s citrus, go to your favorite store and ask for a sample of any of the varieties in stock right now. They are sure to have something that will make your taste buds rejoice and the rest of your body happy and healthy.